format_list_bulleted Topic Overview

Purchase Goods

There are multiple, authorized methods of buying and paying for goods in support of the university's goals and mission. This page features common types of goods, any special considerations and the recommended purchasing method. The Categories of Purchases page covers a broader view of types of purchases, including subawards, business and travel expenses, employee gifts, gift cards and leases. Some purchases require additional approvers or supporting documentation to support the university’s ability to meet compliance requirements. 

The Purchasing and Payment Methods page provides an overview of the various purchasing processes and resources to support using them. To drill down by expenditure type, visit the Buy & Pay Guide, which contains commonly purchased goods and services, best purchasing methods and related expenditure types organized from A to Z. 

Stanford’s Responsible Purchasing policy requires acquisition of goods that meet its business and research needs to also be environmentally-friendly, socially responsible and ethically-sourced. That page contains purchasing  considerations as well as guidance by category including paper, office and break room supplies, lab supplies, chemicals, electronic equipment and furniture.

Capital Equipment is stand-alone equipment, costing over $5,000, with a useful life longer than one year. The complete definition, and what is included in its acquisition cost, can be found in the Property Management Manual. It does not include real property, (land), software costing less than $1 million or library holdings. 

Purchasing capital equipment is typically through SmartMart Catalog Suppliers, or through a Non-Catalog Requisition by selecting the Standard Capital Equipment requisition type for equipment not available through SmartMart Catalog Suppliers. The use of a Purchasing Card (PCard) or expense reimbursement is not allowed for capital equipment purchase. See the Categories of Purchases page for information on leases.

Additional approvals are required from the Department Property Administrator (DPA) and the Property Management Office (PMO). More information on Capital Equipment and the role of the PMO is provided by the Office of the Dean of Research.

Capital equipment must be received in order for the vendor to be paid and it must be tracked in Sunflower to ensure control over the asset. See Manage Capital Equipment for more information.

Equipment Fabrications

An equipment fabrication is a unique individual piece of equipment or scientific instrument built by Stanford personnel not by a vendor or subcontractor. The completed fabricated product must meet the criteria listed for capital equipment and the fabrication criteria listed in the Property Management Manual 2.6 Fabrication.

Each fabrication requires a unique PTA to track the costs. The preferred purchasing method is through iProcurement (SmartMart Catalog Suppliers or a non-catalog requisition). A PCard cannot be used for a sponsor-owned fabrication, but if PMO is notified ahead of time it may be used for a Stanford-owned fabrication.  Reimbursement or Petty Cash cannot be used for costs of fabrications.

Capital Projects

Capital projects for construction are typically managed by Land, Buildings & Real Estate (LBRE), Residential & Dining Enterprises (RD&E) or the School of Medicine. Capital projects for IT systems and software are managed by University Information Technology (UIT). All capital projects receive accounting oversight by Capital Accounting. For more information see the Topic Overview: Capital Projects.

Stanford University’s Ergonomics Program promotes employee health by limiting ergonomic risk factors. The program provides training, evaluations and product guidance to reduce risk. Employees are expected to complete the required and appropriate office ergonomic training and self-assessments to support ergonomic health whether working at a Stanford location or from their home or other location. 

Equipment For Use at a Stanford Location

Equipment costing in excess of $5,000 is considered capital equipment. Needs for non-capital equipment (less than $5,000) and furnishings should be coordinated with the department’s facilities manager. Employees are encouraged to review Environmental Health & Safety’s Computer Workstation Ergonomic Matching Fund Program for information on funding available to reduce the department’s cost of ergonomic equipment. The site also provides information on ergonomic items including task chairs, sit-to-stand solutions, etc. The EH&S  Pre-Approved Computer Ergonomics Product List, found on the Office Ergonomics page, explains how to request a quote for a chair, desk or sit-to-stand solution. 

Non-ergonomic related accessories, such as external hard drives, power cords/adapters, chargers, wires and network equipment are typically purchased through Amazon Business. Refer to UIT’s Equipment Recommendations page for docking stations, power adaptors, monitors, standard keyboards and mice, laptop locks and other workstation accessories.

Equipment For Use in a Home Office

Employees should consult with their manager or local Human Resources for specific procedures for home office equipment. Guidelines for home office equipment for employees with hybrid or remote work arrangements are outlined on Cardinal at Work.  Guidelines include:

  • Hybrid Work Arrangements:  Reimbursement program of up to $250 for basic necessary ergonomic equipment for their telecommuting/home worksite only to the extent that such equipment is recommended by Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) following an ergonomic assessment.
  • Remote Work Arrangements:  A one-time taxable payment of $750, included as part of the employee’s paycheck, for them to purchase basic home office equipment to ensure a productive and safe home work environment.  Such personal purchases may not be made through Stanford systems.

In support of Stanford’s Responsible Purchasing policy, departments should first check the Stanford Reuse website to see if the department’s need can be fulfilled with reused items. Refer to Policy: Responsible Purchasing for additional guidance about sustainable purchasing.

Office supplies are typically ordered through Amazon Business but are also available through SmartMart Catalog Suppliers. Stanford stationery and business cards can be printed directly or ordered from recommended vendors as explained at the Stanford Identity Guide. As noted in Research Policy Handbook Section 15.4, office supplies may not normally be charged to sponsored projects. 

Desktop Computers and Laptops

Some schools and units use UIT’s Stanford University Hardware Program to purchase and manage work computers and accessories. To ask general questions about this program, submit a UIT support request. For other schools and units, Stanford UIT provides hardware configuration recommendations and links to order through SmartMart Catalog Suppliers, which provides Stanford-negotiated prices and terms. Schools and units should consult with their local IT group to determine which option is being used and the procedures for ordering such items.  Refer to UIT’s Hardware Recommendations for more information. UIT recommends purchasing all computers and laptops through SmartMart Catalog Suppliers to take advantage of Stanford-negotiated prices and ensure our preferred configurations and security features. The purchase of computers on the PCard is not permissible.

Laptops and other personal computers must be protected, tracked, and managed due to their value and potentially sensitive data they may contain and to support business continuity. Schools and units are encouraged to record and track them in Sunflower Assets. It records the custodian (the person to whom the equipment is assigned) and purchase date, which can help determine replacement needs. See more information in the Property Management Manual

The University established a requirement to verifiably encrypt all Windows and Mac computers, as well as Apple and Android mobile devices that are used by employees on the campus network.  Refer to UIT’s Encryption at Stanford page for Information about device compliance.


UIT offers the Cardinal Print program to modernize technology, achieve long-term sustainability goals, improve workflow efficiency, enhance security, and reduce costs. It allows those with a SUNet ID to print, copy, or scan from any Cardinal Print device. The program site includes links to the device catalog or to request an assessment. This program does not include Copy Centers, standalone special-purpose scanners, or specialty printing devices such as plotters, high resolution/publication printers, handheld printers, or other devices requiring non-standard supplies and servicing. Such printers should be purchased using iProcurement Non-catalog Requests

As defined in the Stanford University Print Policy, personal printers are discouraged and may not be connected to the Stanford network. Where special accommodations are necessary, and a personal print device is warranted, any department or individual user who needs to purchase and use a directly-attached, non-networked personal print device must have approval from a Senior Associate Dean, Dean, or Vice Provost/President. After obtaining the appropriate approval, a personal print device may be ordered via SmartMart Catalog Suppliers or Amazon Business.

Mobile Devices

Depending on school, unit, or department policy, Stanford employees who qualify may be able to obtain a mobile phone or tablet, or hotspot device for business use. UIT has negotiated rates for hardware and related service through the three major cell carriers. Administrative Guide Policy 8.1.3 outlines the policy and process for these expenses in further detail and UIT maintains the process for selecting approved mobile equipment. Please refer to their Mobile Services page. Devices must be purchased through UIT if a Stanford service plan will be used.

There are many lab and research supplies used at Stanford, many available through SmartMart’s Catalog Suppliers, which includes hosted catalogs and a punch-out to the supplier website to customize an item or shop for other supplies. In many cases, SmartMart Catalog Suppliers will have a larger selection of these types of research supplies than Amazon Business. 


The Veterinary Service Center (VSC) at Stanford University provides live laboratory animals and care for approved studies. The purchase of animals is managed through AnimalTrax. It provides real-time validation of protocols and PTA accounts as well as online views of monthly invoices. Only the VSC may order animals; charges are allocated via a monthly charge.

Chemicals and Controlled Substances

Chemicals must be purchased through SmartMart Catalog Suppliers or a purchase order via a Non-Catalog Requisition. Linde Gas & Equipment Inc. (formerly known as Praxair) is the recommended vendor for compressed gases. Chemicals cannot be purchased with a Purchasing Card or with personal funds. Refer to EH&S Chemical Safety or Controlled Substances Program pages for more information.

Lab and Life Sciences Materials

Several vendors in SmartMart Catalog Suppliers provide lab and life sciences items used in Stanford research. These range from laboratory consumables like gloves or pipette tips to biological products like antibodies and custom DNA oligos. Through SmartMart, users may search across catalog suppliers or, if items needed are not found or require customization, a punch-out to a supplier is available.


A Controlled Radiation Authorization (CRA) number is required to purchase radioactive products. All radioactive products must be delivered to the Health Physics Inspection Station. Health Physics tracks purchases and will deliver the product after recording the physical receipt. Radioactive goods cannot be ordered or paid for via PCard. Most radioactive products are available in SmartMart Catalog Suppliers. When they are not available, departments must create a Standard Radioactive Non-Catalog Requisition.

Research Alcohol

Research Alcohol must be purchased via SmartMart Catalog Suppliers through Gold Shield Distributors. There must be an approver on the order who is authorized to buy research alcohol. If the department needs to appoint an alcohol approver, complete the Alcohol Purchase Authorization Form, obtain the approval of the Department Chair and submit it per form instructions.  

The university encourages the use of Stanford-branded merchandise for employee service or recognition gifts. It may also be appropriate for promotional efforts. The Stanford Trademark Licensing office provides details in the Stanford Identity Guide on how to get Stanford-branded Swag produced, including a list of licensed vendors. Schools and departments may also have branding guidelines that must be considered before ordering items.

Last Updated: Dec 14, 2023