sustainable procurement represented by a person in white coat holding petri dish with plant inside also surrounded by viles with plants in them

With over 400 laboratories across UBC’s Vancouver campus, the University’s research activities require a significant amount of resources. Labs account for 49% of campus energy use, 24% of campus water use, and generate 96% of the campus’ hazardous waste. Given the resource intensity of research labs, a key focus is on engaging lab users to incorporate sustainable purchasing practices into laboratory operations. UBC’s Green Labs Program is a cross-stakeholder collaboration that works to minimize the environmental impact of the University’s research footprint by promoting the adoption of innovative solutions that reduce energy, water, solid and hazardous waste. The initiative is driven by a collaborative effort between UBC Campus and Community Planning, Financial Operations, Risk Management Services, and Energy and Water Services, as well as multiple faculties at UBC, which are linked through their Sustainability Coordinators.

The program provides tools, resources, and training to researchers to advance sustainable laboratory best practices and promote sustainable procurement. Through a series of newsletters, lunch and learn seminars, funding opportunities, Get Involved activities, and prizes, Green Labs engages hundreds of researchers to adopt environmental best practices. To raise the profile of sustainable procurement opportunities in laboratory settings, the Green Labs Committee developed a new series of trainings and materials targeting scientific researchers, launched in 2017. The sustainable procurement theme highlighted recommendations for choosing energy and water efficient equipment and prioritizing products that reduce solid and hazardous waste. Leveraging the Committee’s interdisciplinary expertise of energy management, lab operations, procurement, and behavior change specialists was key to enable success.

The Outcome

In 2017, Green Labs furthered Sustainable Purchasing at UBC through several activities. The Green Labs Committee participated in the development and activation of an updated UBC Sustainable Purchasing Guide, including a new section on Scientific Supplies. Featuring guidelines for 14 commodity areas and an ecolabel glossary, the new resource helps UBC staff and faculty purchase sustainable goods and services, garnering over 3,500 views since launch. Sustainable lab procurement was promoted via various channels, including in the UBC Green Labs quarterly newsletter, educating 3,000 members of UBC’s scientific community on the major factors involved in making sustainable purchasing decisions. The Committee hosted a well-attended sustainable procurement seminar for laboratory personnel, featuring presentations from central procurement and three scientific vendors on the latest scientific product innovations. A key focus was on continuing to strengthen the value proposition of the purchase of energy-efficient ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers, through evaluation of the long-term costs and sustainability impacts of available models. UBC stresses the importance of strategic planning in the success of such an engagement program. Having a plan can help the program to obtain necessary executive support and a commitment to resourcing the program appropriately. A strategic plan also puts the program into context amongst the various initiatives undertaken by Procurement and other departments to further a given sustainability area.

To learn more about UBC’s Green Labs program visit:

Source: The State of Sustainable Public Procurement in Canada, 2017

Readers are cautioned not to rely upon this article as legal advice nor as an exhaustive discussion of the topic or case.  For any particular legal problem, seek advice directly from your lawyer or in-house counsel.  All dates, contact information and website addresses were current at the time of original publication.