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Project Name:

Purchasing Sustainable Furniture at Yale

Organization Name:

Yale University Procurement Department

Preceptor Name(s) and Contact Information:

  • Joe Mastracchio, Strategic Sourcing Manager, Yale Procurement Department (
  • TBD, Yale Change Management Department

Brief Description of Organization:

Yale University Procurement supports the research, teaching and practice missions of the university by leveraging the overall purchasing power of the institution, reducing the overall cost of goods and services, and facilitating the acquisition of all necessary goods and services.
Other areas where Procurement adds value include:

  • Negotiating University-wide agreements for common goods and services
  • Sourcing and negotiating the terms and pricing for specialized goods and services agreements
  • Working with departments to evaluate and negotiate consulting agreements
  • Supporting the university’s Sustainability goals and aspirations
  • Collaborating with departments to get the best terms and pricing on high-dollar purchases
  • How to Do Business with Yale
  • Consultants or Professional Service Agreements
  • Office and Lab Equipment Maintenance
  • Purchasing Code of Ethics
  • Purchase Order Terms and Conditions
  • Vendor Guide to Invoice Requirements

Project Description:

At Yale University, furniture is purchased through the central Procurement Department but purchasing decisions are made at the Departmental level. The Procurement Department provides standards and recommends suppliers, but does not mandate either. Each department is responsible for its purchasing decisions, and Central Procurement serves as a resource. Types of furniture purchased by Yale include chairs, desks, stand-up desks, modular furniture that includes desks attached to modular walls and storage bins, chair pads, file cabinets, bookcases, credenzas, and task lighting.

Currently, decisions about furniture purchases are based on function and form, as well as cost, without consideration for environmental and health effects and sustainability. However, furniture can contain toxic chemicals, including flame retardants, formaldehyde, other volatile organic compounds, fluorinated chemicals, antimicrobials, and polyvinyl chloride. These chemicals can be emitted into indoor air either as gases or dust, often accumulating in high concentrations. Furthermore, furniture can vary in sustainability according to type of wood used; degree to which recycled materials are used; greenhouse gas emissions (which depend on materials used, the manufacturing process, and mode of distribution [i.e., local versus long-distance]); and other factors.

The project will have the following aims:

Aim 1: Perform a comprehensive review of the peer-reviewed and grey literature related to furniture sustainability

Aim 2: Develop a furniture sustainability rating scale that would summarize the sustainability of an item of furniture across multiple domains, including (but not limited to) content of various classes of toxic chemicals, type of wood, recycled content, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Aim 3: To establish a baseline, apply the rating scale to furniture purchased by Yale over the past five years

Aim 4: Work with Yale’s Change Management Department to develop a strategy and educational materials for changing furniture buying behavior toward more sustainable furniture and begin strategy implementation. Educational materials could include a written guide, a video, an online learning tool, a PowerPoint presentation, and/or other materials. Strategy development should be informed by empirical data obtained through qualitative interviews and/or a survey.

Aim 5 (to be performed by the Procurement Department following course completion) Using the furniture sustainability rating scale, track furniture buying patterns against the baseline patterns to monitor changes in buying behavior.

Expected Work-Product and Deliverables:

The deliverables for this project will include the following:

  • A user-friendly furniture sustainability rating scale
  • A protocol for qualitative interview and/or survey data collection, including target population, eligibility criteria, sampling scheme, recruitment method, and interview guide and/or survey instrument
  • A final “academic” report focused on the literature review; development and implementation of the furniture sustainability rating scale; and the strategy for changing furniture buying behavior toward more sustainable furniture, including executive summary, background and significance of the project, methods, results, discussion, recommendations, references, and appendices
  • Educational materials (e.g., written guide, video, online learning tool, PowerPoint presentation, and/or other materials) developed for changing furniture buying behavior
  • Initial implementation of the strategy