Sustainability plans are a tool that purchasers can use to engage vendors in defining continuous improvement goals across multiple impact areas. To implement this tool, the purchaser clearly defines within the bid solicitation the process and timeline for developing a plan, and identifies the sustainability elements that shall be included. The plan is developed by the vendor, in coordination with the purchaser, as part of the contract deliverables. The vendor and purchaser work together early in the contract period to define reasonable goals, milestones and metrics for measuring progress. Annually, these goals are reassessed to ensure continuous improvement. In addition, the vendor and the contractor meet regularly over the life of the contract to assess progress towards goals, and to address any barriers that may developed along the way.
Sustainability plans developed in this way can be an effective tool for contracts where there is little transparency into the vendor’s operational practices, or where the cost impact of sustainability requirements is unknown. However, purchasers must invest considerable staff time in order to ensure meaningful progress in vendor sustainability, so this tool is best used on a limited basis for contracts with significant opportunities for sustainability improvements.
Case Study: Alameda County’s use of sustainability action plans
In 2015, Alameda County, CA included requirements for the development of a Sustainable Food Service Action Plan as part its largest food service contract at its County jail. The contract required the winning vendor to develop a plan to address a broad range of impact areas including vendor operations, transportation, and food sustainability, within 60 days of contract start. Once approved by the County, the vendor is required to track and report progress on specific metrics at quarterly contract meetings. Annually, the vendor in coordination with the County, will assess progress and set new targets as necessary. To see more information about how Alameda County structured this bid solicitation, visit their website.