Nanaimo City Hall. (News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo City Hall. (News Bulletin file photo)

City of Nanaimo councillors like new sustainable buying policy

Finance and audit committee recommends council approve new procurement policy

The city hopes a new buying policy will align with sustainability goals while keeping in mind fiscal responsibility.

Nanaimo city councillors, at a finance and audit meeting Wednesday, recommended approval of a new sustainable procurement policy and revisions to the existing procurement policy.

Aspects of the new policy will apply to everything from “low-value” purchases under $5,000 to construction tenders $200,000 and over that go through a request-for-proposals process. The policy will ask staff to consider sustainability impacts, integrate sustainability considerations into bid processes and communicate with vendors about sustainability when possible. Sustainability doesn’t just mean environmentally friendly – the policy is meant “to advance a range of environmental, social and ethical objectives from the city’s strategic plan,” notes a staff report, and even considers the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

“It’s an opportunity to make the shift from online from a big-box, multi-national conglomerate who knows you as nothing but a number to seeing if the product is available locally,” said Jane Rushton, city manager of purchasing and stores, in her presentation to the finance committee. “That change in that process will be pivotal to effecting the change within the city that we so need.”

She commended local vendors for their strength and resiliency and said the city is “continually rewarded” by doing business with local vendors that deliver quality goods, services and construction projects, and do so competitively.

Rushton said she remembers the days when buyers would roll their eyes at having to call on vendors to bring forward initiatives to save energy and reduce packaging, but suggested that has shifted and said her department is excited about sustainable procurement.

“This policy will serve as a signal of the city’s passion and resolve in creating a livable, sustainable city for all…” she said. “It will be the rock from which the ripples of sustainability will form.”

Once the policy is in place, staff will develop standard operating procedures, embed sustainability considerations into RFP documents and try to identify “high-impact procurement opportunities,” seeking “quick wins and big impacts,” the report notes.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo council decides city will be guided by ‘doughnut’ economic model

Council unanimously recommended the policy, with Coun. Erin Hemmens saying she was excited for the work and Coun. Tyler Brown calling staff’s presentation inspiring.

Coun. Ian Thorpe said the policy update is important and timely.

“I was also impressed that one of the first statements I read in the report was an emphasis on responsible fiscal spending…” he said. “That is something that we always need to keep in focus.”

Coun. Ben Geselbracht said local governments contribute 13.3 per cent of GDP and said he’s excited to see the city use its purchasing power to develop a stronger local economy and an environmentally sustainable and socially just future.

“It’s pretty clear that where our dollars go play a big role in the community that we want to see,” he said.

READ ALSO: City of Nanaimo lays out new purchasing policy

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