Sustainability in procurement involves greening of the purchasing processes and policies. There is a misconception that green purchasing is in conflict with traditional purchasing, but sustainable business actually uses resources more efficiently. The immediate financial value of using green office products is easy to quantify, with sustainability practices extending into longer-term savings. Sustainable purchasing is more than just being green — it is also a consideration of the lifecycle of a product, how it is used and how it is recycled at the end of its life. While there may be a larger initial investment to buy a recycled product, the overall cost savings to the buyer manifest over time.

Sustainable procurement, therefore, looks at the "triple bottom line": environmental impact, social implication and, of course, financial impact/cost. The issue of ethics and profitability is critical in this area, and many have found that "doing the right thing" can be great for business. As institutions go green in terms of procurement, they are approaching cost with the belief that they can operate in an environmentally sustainable manner and still be financially successful.

Procurement of recycled, reusable and biodegradable products — as well as products designed to have minimal impact on the environment, such as energy-efficient computers and copiers — will enhance sustainable practices at CUNY. The university's significant collective purchasing power can be used to influence the nature and number of green products available in the marketplace, and a lifecycle costing approach can be adopted to better compare upfront cost with the relative duration and sustainability of a product.

Brooklyn College is addressing these issues by:

  • making a strong effort to purchase recycled or reusable products, including:
    • copy and computer paper;
    • paper towels, tissue paper and toilet paper;
    • toner cartridges;
    • cardboard boxes and other packaging supplies; and
    • janitorial and cleaning accessories, such as buckets, pails and mops.
  • asking the campus community to reduce waste by purchasing items that do not come in or with extra packaging, and requesting no extra packaging whenever possible; and
  • compiling a directory of green vendors, suppliers and contractors, and encouraging the campus community to use them whenever possible.