Professional Services Strategies Introduction

Professional and community services contribute significantly to the climate impact of government agency and higher education institutions’ supply chain. Despite this large climate impact, there is a dearth of proven tools and resources for reducing these emissions. And there are few examples to-date of government organizations taking actions to address these impacts through their procurements.

Despite these challenges, there are signs that change is on the horizon:

  • Awareness of the impacts of professional services is growing. The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council includes professional services within their Guidance for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing.
  • Standards are being developed. Stakeholders are coming together in various settings to develop national environmental standards to help inform and engage professional service providers in reducing impacts of their business operations and service deliverable
  • Actions are being taken. Leading edge government agencies and higher education institutions are implementing a range of strategies to influence the marketplace.

Purchasers have an important role to play in driving change in this marketplace by taking actions to encourage professional service vendors to reduce their climate impacts. Purchasers can implement a variety of contracting strategies to reduce the sources of greenhouse gas emissions that are generated as a result of doing business with their vendors.

This section of the toolkit will focus on strategies that government agencies and higher education institutions can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that result from their procurement of professional services. Each of these strategies will require differing amounts of staff effort, and will have differing emissions reduction results. We encourage organizations to identify the high-impact opportunities in their unique portfolio of services and prioritize efforts where they will matter. For more on prioritization, see Types of Professional Services Commonly Procured. 

Building support for action

Strategies for reducing the climate impact of professional services begin with cultivating organizational support for these efforts. Several leading government institutions have adopted comprehensive policies that enable, and, in some cases, define purchasing action to reduce GHG emissions in professional service procurements. Some examples include:

  • Multnomah County, Oregon Sustainable Purchasing Policy
  • City of Portland, Oregon Sustainable Procurement Policies
  • City of Vancouver, BC, Canada Corporate Ethical Purchasing Procurement Policy

In addition to policy support, Environmental Departments in these and other leading agencies provide proactive training to internal purchasing staff and to their vendors, and maintain ongoing relationships to facilitate implementation. These strategies can also institutionalize practices within the organization, thus expanding the reach of these efforts across a broader range of professional service contracts.

  1. Reducing demand for services
  2. Reducing demand for business travel
  3. Reducing demand or carbon intensity of contract deliverables (paper, packaging and shipping)
  4. Requiring or promoting use of certifications of sustainable business operations
  5. Requiring sustainability plans as part of contract agreement
  6. Require vendors to complete sustainability questionnaires