The Power of Purchasing: Using University of Michigan Procurement to Promote Social Change

December 2, 2015

The University of Michigan, as a public university, has an inherent responsibility to serve the interests of the community it represents. The institution purchases more than $1 billion of goods and services each year, and how the university chooses to spend that money shapes the structure and values of Ann Arbor and Southeastern Michigan as a whole.

U Michigan has already acknowledged its key role in promoting social change on campus and beyond. Since 1999, it has implemented several strict codes to combat sweatshop conditions in the manufacture of its licensed apparel; strengthened ties to local transportation initiatives by purchasing free bus rides for students and faculty for $1.7 million; and purchased the dairy and agricultural products used in its dining halls from local Michigan farmers.

Fundamentally, U Michigan is public institution that benefits enormously from $300 million in taxes of Michigan residents. As U Michigan President Mark Schlissel said in his inaugural address, “We must seek partnerships that infuse our economy with talent and energy, and build an appreciation for our region’s heritage as a place of past and future innovation.”

In this report, the members of Roosevelt Network @ U Michigan examine the local economic landscape and make a series of recommendations as to how their university could use its procurement power to improve the surrounding community.