Advancing the Circular Economy in Canada: Sustainable IT Procurement in the Public Sector

For Canada to meet its net-zero emissions target by 2050, we need to make significant shifts in how we do business. 62% of global greenhouse gas emissions are released during the extraction, processing, and manufacturing of goods to serve society’s needs; 38% are emitted in the delivery and use of products and services. Creating a circular economy — one that eliminates waste and pollution, keeps products and materials in use, and regenerates natural systems — will be crucial to realizing our net-zero goal.

Changing how we buy and what we buy is critical for Canada’s transition to a circular economy. Purchases made by Canadian public sector organizations account for 13% of Canada’s GDP. This represents a mostly untapped opportunity for these organizations to lead our country toward a circular economy and drive global reductions in GHG emissions, in support of our Paris Agreement targets and the Sustainable Development Goals.

To simplify the process of assessing current practices and setting a path towards sustainable procurement, Green Economy Canada and HP Canada are leading a two-part Sustainable IT Procurement pilot project with public sector organizations across the country. 

Part 1: Sustainable IT Procurement & Action Planning

The first part of the pilot focused on developing participants’ awareness of the impact of sustainable procurement and how IT procurement practices could be leveraged to achieve sustainability goals. The first cohort of participants included the City of Ottawa, City of Peterborough, York University, University of Waterloo, University of Alberta, Waterloo Catholic District School Board, and Edmonton Public Library. 

Through the use of a self-assessment tool, participants evaluated their current sustainable IT and procurement practices and identified opportunities for advancement. Participants were then provided with tools to conduct market research on vendor readiness to meet sustainability criteria, and to incorporate and score meaningful sustainability criteria in the purchasing process. Lastly, participants were guided to create an action plan, and many have started to take action to green their IT practices, including one participant who incorporated sustainability criteria into a recent RFP, and another who is looking at how to influence group-buying mandates.

“The pilot has demonstrated how keen public sector employees are to bring sustainable impact into their day-to-day procurement practices. I am delighted by the feedback from participants and their hard work, especially during this difficult pandemic year. We have been able to help them turn their ideas into concrete actions that are backed with technical IT and sustainable procurement expertise.”
Frances Edmonds, Head of Sustainable Impact, HP Canada

Part 2: Sustainable IT Procurement & Total Cost of Ownership

The second part of the pilot will focus on implementing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) in public sector IT procurement. A common misconception of sustainable services and products is that they cost more. In the public sector where post-pandemic finances are tight, the ability to demonstrate purchasing decisions are made with the best value in mind will be vital. The TCO pilot, which kicked off in April 2021, will educate our participants on the true costs (financial and environmental) of IT products over their lifetime so they can make procurement decisions aligned with their sustainability goals.

The TCO participants include BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada), City of Brampton, City of Kitchener, City of Moncton, City of Ottawa, City of Peterborough, City of Richmond, Edmonton Public Library, Seneca College, St. Lawrence College, Waterloo Catholic District School Board, and Wilfrid Laurier University.

Share the Opportunity or Get Involved

If you want to learn more about the project, please email Emma Murphy at The final project case studies and report will be publicly launched in Summer 2021. We look forward to sharing the successes of the individual participants and our collective learnings to advance the circular economy in Canada.

The Sustainable IT Procurement Pilot project is generously supported by HP Canada.

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