With 12 academic Schools and as the third largest employer in Massachusetts, Harvard is a major consumer of goods and services.

Harvard is committed to developing University-wide standards for environmentally preferred products and requiring all major vendors to comply and report on progress in meeting specified standards. VIEW OUR PLAN


Together with Harvard Strategic Procurement, the Harvard Office for Sustainability created a Sustainable Purchasing Guide as a reference to help people who have influence over departmental purchases make informed choices that will contribute to a more sustainable future. This guide is just one component of Harvard University's strategy for sustainable purchasing.

Harvard Strategic Procurement serves the University as procurement experts, and the central point of contact for procurement activities. The team negotiates with vendors for University-wide terms and competitive pricing, and regularly assesses these relationships to ensure that preferred vendors align with University goals and values, including our commitment to reduce our environmental impact and meet our Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goal. 

Recognizing that there are needs for goods and services that are not provided by the University’s preferred vendors, Strategic Procurement regularly works with Schools and units to identify quality vendors and products, and to negotiate contracts and pricing on their behalf.

In collaboration with the Office for Sustainability, Procurement has developed a set of Sustainable Purchasing Guidelines (PDF) to help Schools and units navigate their options, and make informed purchasing decisions that can help reduce Harvard’s impact on the environment, both locally and globally.

Sustainable Purchasing Guidelines

The Guidelines outline ways Schools and units can become “greener” in the following areas:

  • Energy consumption and efficiency
  • Water
  • Toxins and pollutants
  • Bio-based products
  • Forest conservation
  • Recycling
  • Packaging and transportation
  • Green building 

In addition, the Green Office program provides a wide range of resources to help employees make sustainable decisions when purchasing products, including an overview of common green purchases and green kitchen supplies available from preferred vendors.


Green Cleaning

The Office for Sustainability is currently in the process of developing University-wide Green Cleaning Standards. Currently, green cleaning is implemented on 14 million square feet of campus.

In March of 2011, Campus Services Custodial Services became Green Seal™ (GS-42) certified. Green Seal™ is a non-profit organization that certifies products and services which meet rigorous environmental safety standards. As part of the certification process inspectors came to Cambridge to conduct detailed reviews of operations and staff performance. Staff was also required to complete 24 hours of specialized training in product selection and use, as well as cleaning techniques with new equipment.

Green Seal Certification

Key components of the Green Seal certification include:

  • Each building must have a customized cleaning program to meet its specific environmental needs.
  • Products must be registered as "environmentally preferable" by Green Seal.
  • Procedures must be designed around the environment and health of building occupants.
  • Procedures must comply with strict environmental safety regulations.

“Green Seal™ certification is very difficult to achieve,” said Associate Director for Custodial Services Jason Luke.  “This was a multi-year process that required our group to adjust our cleaning products and procedures as well as invest in new equipment.  It really required us to change the way we approach our daily cleaning assignments.”