Project Description

Oct. 12, 2017

Procurement: Advancing the Circular Economy Through Buying Power

At the Beanfield Centre in Toronto Recycling Council of Ontario hosted its third and final Knowledge Sessions event for 2017.

The objective of the Knowledge Sessions series was to introduce and expand on the concepts and applications of the circular economy, and make the connections to how this model supports waste reduction and resource efficiency through a series of outcomes:

  • keeping resources in use for as long as possible
  • extracting the maximum value from them while in use
  • recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of each service life to create new value in production

RCO’s role in advancing the circular economy is twofold. First, we want to pursue the most efficient use of resources and eliminate waste, which takes many forms, such as supporting effective policies and developing relevant resources. Second, we want to share information and knowledge amongst stakeholders to support marketplace integration, which was the spirit of our concluding workshop and forum: Procurement: Advancing the Circular Economy Through Buying Power.

It is estimated that OECD countries spend 12 per cent of their GDP on public procurement. In Canada, with a 1.9 trillion dollar GDP, it spends 230 billion dollars on procurement alone. If each of one of those dollars was tied to a circular requirement we could transition the marketplace and grow wealth while simultaneously reducing environmental impacts.

That’s why we organized a gathering of international experts and local professionals that are leveraging procurement opportunities to drive circular economic outcomes.



Mathy Stanislaus
Senior Advisor World Economic Forum
Former Obama Administration Official U.S. EPA, Office of Land and Emergency Management


Dematerializing consumption and production is a key to a circular economy

Five circular economy approaches provide a clear framework for action

  • sharing platforms
  • circular supply chain
  • recovery and recycling
  • product life extension
  • product as a service

The circular economy has the potential to support the global environmental conventions, and can drive economic growth, create employment opportunities, and decrease the risk of resource conflicts in low and middle-income countries

How do we advance resource efficiency/circularity in the supply chain:

  • collaboration and information exchange for resource efficiency innovation across the lifecycle
  • neutral forums for business innovation for collaboration
  • resource efficiency must be a priority when engaging with supply chain networks

Public and private sector procurement practices are an important tool that sends market signals to stimulate innovation in product design, and helps create new markets for environmentally preferable products and services even if requirements can’t be immediately satisfied

Design with the “next life” of materials in mind – end of use is not the end of life

Most industries have unique opportunities to leverage the circular economy, including food and agriculture, fashion and textiles, construction, energy, chemicals, and electronics and high tech

Mervyn Jones
Independent sustainable procurement specialist


A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy and provides resilience through:

  • Sustainable consumption & production
  • Decoupling resources from growth
  • Market driven – creates wealth, jobs and growth
  • Delivers accountability at all levels
  • Meeting future demand

The circular economy offers major opportunities for Europe, and could generate between €300-350 billion in material savings alone, which could also lead to the creation of over 2 million new jobs

To avoid moving the problem along the value chain as so often happens it is important for municipalities to help drive circular outcomes as they stand to benefit substantially from adopting a circular approach

We are becoming more familiar with the concept of circular economy through the championing by organizations such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the implementation programmes like WRAP in the UK and the Rijkswaterstaat in the Netherlands

The transition from traditional linear produce-consume-dispose models potentially has multiple benefits in terms of reducing costs and impacts (environmental & social) from production and consumption

National policy benefits go hand in hand with organizational benefits:

  • reducing commodity price pressures
  • resilience; limiting exposure to price volatility & reducing country/availability risks
  • developing domestic circular industries that reduce dependency on imports

Since 2003 the resource limits and rapid growth in global demand erased the decline in commodity prices achieved over the previous century

Commodity price volatility is now a key economic concern, however, this does not imply that future commodity price increases are inevitable

Exposure to risk and volatility are inevitably more likely for both producers and consumers unless we adopt different strategies for growth


Ed Rubinstein
Ed Rubinstein
Ed Rubinstein from the University Health Network (UHN) covered topics from a Customer Perspective, and shared UHN’s long-term procurement vision: to embed the use of sustainable procurement criteria, triple bottom line evaluation and life-cycle costing within UHN’s procurement, planning, and operations processes. He touched on how his department works cooperatively with other functions within his organization to ensure that CE and sustainability is given equal priorities to other product and service requirements. Ed also expanded on potential barriers to increased circularity, including safety and infection control requirements for health care products – some reprocessing is done, where cost effective and safe to do so, both within and outside of UHN.
Lynn Horricks
Lynn Horricks
DIRTT (Doing it Right the First Time) Environmental Solutions ( is working to create a positive shift in the construction industry by placing as much value on the environment and people as functional design; and uses an innovative technology to create custom prefab customized interiors that virtually eliminate waste, facilitate fast lead times, and offer precise fitting and finishing. From a Design Perspective, Lynn Horricks explained how DIRTT’s digital design process offers an opportunity for users to build or adapt a space that maximizes usability and flexibility to adjust to future needs.
Daniel Reshef
Daniel Reshef
From a Service Provider Perspective, Daniel Reshef of Canada Fibers noted some of the challenges they have seen to incorporate greater circularity: disconnect of objectives and cooperation between environment and procurement departments resulting in competing interests; not enough companies demanding recycled content; and a lack of localized decision making to support local industry. He emphasized the opportunity that the latest materials imports ban from China may afford an opportunity to support more domestic processing and remanufacturing.
Frances Edmonds
Frances Edmonds
From a Suppliers Perspective, we were pleased to host Frances Edmonds, Vice President of Sustainability, HP Canada, who went into detail on how the circular economy is being incorporated into their sustainability strategy: decouple growth from consumption; disrupt industry business models; digitize supply chains and production. Also featured was Rosette’s Story, reinvention story, powered by HP and The First Mile Coalition
Lou Ann Birkett
Lou Ann Birkett
LouAnn Birkett, representing the Supply Chain Management Association of Canada, took the view from a Consortium Perspective, an organization of 7,000 members that helps to establish and promote standards of practice and education. LouAnn explained how the association supports a more streamlined approach, and that consortiums can work together in standardizing definitions, process, enforcement, opportunities, and be drivers of change. Members of co-operatives need to have common understanding of meaning of sustainability. Vendors need to play a role through education, and are the communication link between supply chain and end users.
Chris Ferris
Chris Ferris
Chris Ferris, from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), oversees its Purchasing and Distribution Services (PDS) department, which is responsible for buying and supplying all materials, equipment, and services for the organization. Chris explained TDSB’s procurement policy and outlined several examples of where his department has successfully integrated circular economic requirements into Request for Proposals and contracts, including lighting (through Take Back the Light), photocopiers and digital duplicators, used furniture and equipment, cleaning products, and e-waste. He underscored the importance of stakeholder engagement to a successful outcome in these areas.
Laura Cocuzzi
Laura Cocuzzi
Judy Labelle
Judy Labelle

Judy Labelle, Advisor, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Reporting, and Laura Cocuzzi, Manager, Purchasing Planning and Performance, presented on how the Region of Peel has linked social and economic outcomes with procurement that supports environmental outcomes.

By developing sustainable procurement policy they can align vendor code of conduct and performance programs with their CSR principles. They underscored the challenges of ensuring environmental considerations and requirements are part of all aspects of municipal purchasing, and explained how their unique relationship is the basis for addressing that challenge.