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Policy Notes:  Responsible Purchasing

The Procurement Services department is committed to Stanford's service mission to deploy its strengths to benefit our region, country and world. Responsible purchasing is a key component to achieving this mission, and these guidelines are meant to advise, guide and encourage campus consumers and suppliers alike to act responsibly when making purchases on behalf of the University. Procurement Services recognizes the campus community's responsibility to minimize any negative impacts on society, human health and the environment, while also meeting various business requirements. Procurement Services is also committed to supporting Stanford's sustainability goals of Zero Waste by 2030. The following information applies to all Stanford University purchasers and suppliers. For more information, see the Responsible Purchasing Guidelines developed in partnership between Stanford Procurement Services and the Stanford Office of Sustainability.

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Responsible Purchasing is the necessary acquisition of goods and services that meet the business and research needs of the campus consumer while also being environmentally-friendly, socially responsible and ethically-sourced. Consistent with Stanford's sustainability goals, the purpose of these guidelines is to support and facilitate the purchase of products and material that minimize the harmful effects from their production, transportation, use and disposition. It is Stanford's preference to purchase and use environmentally preferable products whenever they perform satisfactorily and can be acquired at similar total value (cost / quality).

Commitment to Responsible Purchasing

Stanford University Procurement Services promotes the use of environmentally preferable products, practices and suppliers by developing and implementing university-wide preferred supplier contracts and product standards.

Specifically, Stanford Procurement Services supports responsible purchasing through:

  • Partnerships:  with the Office of Sustainability and school and unit departments to develop and implement responsible purchasing solutions that fit the needs of the university.
  • Programs:  such as Cardinal Print that focus on high-volume, high-impact solutions to purchasing needs.
  • Processes:  that incorporate sustainable purchasing practices into how the university does business (i.e., through contracts and vendor management).
  • Data Analysis:  across spend categories that informs buying decisions and measures efforts toward the university's goals.
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The Power of Purchasing: Your Role

Each member of the Stanford community has choices when it comes to purchasing that can have meaningful impact on the world. The following are just some of the specific ways Stanford staff can make powerful purchases. Learn more about these common purchasing categories and sustainable purchasing methods in the Responsible Purchasing Guidelines.


All purchases of paper products, including both office and janitorial, should either be made from 100% recycled content or be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. Products made from recycled paper not only prevent trees from being cut down, they require up 30% less energy and 50% less water to produce than non-recycled paper.

Office and Breakroom Supplies

Many office products (e.g. binders, pens, staplers, etc.) are disposed of before reaching the end of their useful life. Therefore, Stanford personnel should first check to see if the need can be fulfilled with reused items. Because office supplies are highly consumable, the most important sustainability aspect is keeping used materials out of the landfill, through the purchase of products that are recyclable and products made with recycled content.

Breakroom supplies include service ware, such as cups, plates and utensils, accounting for a high level of waste and negative impact to the environment. Reusable service ware is the most responsible purchasing option. If disposable service ware is required, compostable items should be purchased. Compostable items turn into soil in 45 days at a commercial composting facility.

Lab Supplies

Reusable options for lab consumables, such as pipette tips and boxes, gloves, media bottles, etc. are becoming more available and are often less expensive. For example, instead of purchasing new pipette tip boxes every time, one can reuse the boxes and purchase refillable tip racks, which are up to 70% cheaper. The Cardinal Green Labs program hosts a lab share event every fall and spring to facilitate reuse between labs. For supplies that cannot be reused, labs should purchase recyclable options where available and arrange for used items to be dropped off for recycling at key locations on campus.


Before purchasing new chemicals, purchasers should check with Stanford's Surplus Chemical Inventory. Through this program, Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) delivers free chemicals to labs within 24 hours. Purchasers and lab managers are encouraged to use Stanford’s Chemical Inventory Management and Tracking System, ChemTracker, which ensures good inventory management practices and can lead to cost savings from avoiding duplicate purchases.

Electronic Equipment

Purchases of electronic equipment should be EPEAT certified. EPEAT is the most comprehensive sustainability certification for IT equipment (E.g. computers, monitors, TVs) evaluating a number of different attributes, including materials sourcing, environmental safety during production, energy consumptions and end of life. A laptop computer that is EPEAT certified uses 42% less energy, contains 25% more recycled content, and contains 89% less toxic metals than a non-EPEAT computer. In the past few years, 100% of Stanford’s electronics purchased through its major suppliers have been EPEAT certified. EPEAT provides model contract language that can be included in RFPs.

Non-IT equipment purchases should be Energy Star certified. Energy Star is the most robust and prevalent sustainability certification for non-IT equipment. The certification is given to the most energy efficient models in each equipment category. Purchasing Energy Star will ensure that the equipment’s energy consumption and carbon footprint is as low as possible.


As furniture is often disposed of before reaching the end of its useful life, when purchasing furniture, Stanford personnel should first check the Stanford Reuse website to see if the need can be fulfilled with reused items.

New furniture sourced for Stanford should not include toxic chemicals. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are over 80,000 chemicals in use today, most are unregulated, and only some have undergone sufficient health testing. Many of these toxic chemicals end up in furniture, specifically: Flame retardants, Polyvinyl Chloride, Volatile Organic Compounds, Fluorinated Chemicals and Antimicrobials. Recent research clearly links these chemicals to adverse health effects including cancer, interference with the hormone system, impairments to neurological development and reproductive harm. The Consumer Product Safety Commission claims that removing flame retardants and other chemicals does not compromise fire safety.

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Checklist and Tools

Procurement Services has partnered with Sustainable Stanford to pilot two search tools to ease finding and purchasing of sustainable products.

  1. Ecomedes – A comprehensive look-up database that houses only the products that meet the Responsible Purchasing Guidelines
  2. Stanford's Amazon for Business iProcurement Shopping Lists – These shopping lists are curated by spend category, and, while they are not comprehensive of all products that meet the guidelines, they make purchasing sustainable products easy since they are integrated into the Amazon for Business platform. Once logged into Amazon for Business via Stanford’s Oracle iProcurement platform, copy and paste the links below into your browser's URL bar:
    • Office equipment:
    • Office supplies:
    • Breakroom supplies:

Additionally, consider these questions when making a purchase:

  • Is the product or service really necessary?
  • Must it be new, or can an existing product be reused / repurposed to fulfill the need?
  • How will it be disposed of? Is it recyclable, reusable, compostable, or biodegradable?
  • Is the product energy efficient compared to competitive products?
  • Are the packaging components recyclable? (At Stanford, cardboard and thin film plastic are recyclable; Styrofoam is not.)

Going a little deeper:

  • What material is the product made of?
  • What negative upstream or downstream effects might this product have?
  • Under what conditions was the product manufactured? For instance, was child or indentured servitude labor used in the manufacturing process or supply chain?
  • How has the product been transported and delivered? How far has it travelled?
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  • Environmentally Preferable Products means products and services that have a lesser negative or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with similar products that serve the same purpose. This comparison may consider raw material content, acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, or disposal of the product.
  • Life Cycle Cost means the amortized annual cost of a product, including capital costs, installation costs, operating costs, maintenance costs, and disposal costs discounted over the useful life of the product.
  • Recycled Material means material and byproducts that have been recovered or diverted from solid waste, and have been utilized in place of raw or virgin material in the manufacturing a product. It is derived from post-consumer recycled material, manufacturing waste, industrial scrap, agricultural waste, and other waste material, but does not include material or byproducts generated from, and commonly reused within, an original manufacturing process.
  • Recycled Product means products manufactured with waste material that has been recovered or diverted from solid waste. Recycled material may be derived from post-consumer waste (material that has served its intended end-use and been discarded by a final consumer), industrial scrap, manufacturing waste, or other waste that would otherwise have been wasted.
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Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) Resources

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