format_list_bulleted Topic Overview

Purchasing Policies and Guidelines

The Procurement Services department within Financial Management Services is committed to purchasing practices and policies that are compliant, responsible, and appropriately support the university's goals and mission. Accordingly, those who are making purchases on behalf of or doing business with the university, must follow the applicable purchasing policies and guidelines. Administrative Guide Chapter 5: Purchasing and Payments provides more information about purchasing at Stanford.  The procedures described below, and included throughout this site, are intended to guide the university community toward compliant, effective, and efficient purchasing processes.  

Guiding Principles


Purchasing activity must be compliant with federal, state, local, and university policies. Stanford’s Administrative Guide Memo outlines general policies for the purchase of major and minor construction, equipment, supplies, and services. Key considerations for compliance include the following:

If a purchase is identified as non-compliant, Stanford may consider the acquisition effort null and void and decline to pay any invoice that might be issued. Stanford officers, including the Chief Financial Officer, the Assistant Vice President of Procurement Services, and those to whom the Assistant Vice President of Procurement Services has delegated authority, including operations managers, supervisors, and buyers, may refuse to ratify such transactions. In such a case, the supplier may look to the individual placing the order for payment or reimbursement.

See Business and Travel Expense Policies for a list of some, but not all, expenses that are considered non-permissible expenses. Unless specifically noted, listed items may not be purchased or reimbursed through any method, regardless of the funding source. 


Responsible purchasing is the acquisition of goods and services that meet the business and research needs of the consumer while also being environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and ethically sourced. It is Stanford's preference to purchase and use environmentally preferable products whenever they perform satisfactorily and can be acquired at similar total value. Read Stanford’s Responsible Purchasing policy to learn more.


Deans, department chairs, directors, principal investigators, and other university officials are responsible for appropriate stewardship of university resources. As such, individuals using university resources for business, travel expenses, and/or are purchasing items to be owned by Stanford share the responsibility of ensuring that these resources are used appropriately, support the university mission and comply with university policies, applicable laws, and regulations and sponsor and donor restrictions. This applies to all purchasing activities as well as Business and Travel Expense reimbursement

Personal expenses and purchases that are not made on behalf of the university or for use by the university are not permitted. These may be considered fraudulent transactions. Purchases must be for the use and benefit of Stanford University, regardless of intent to reimburse Stanford. If any Stanford user associated with the purchase commits purposeful fraudulent or other inappropriate behavior regarding the proper use of the requisitioning and purchasing process, it will be considered serious misconduct and will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Refer to Administrative Guide Guides 3.5.1: Financial Irregularities and 5.1.1: Procurement Policies for more information.

Last Updated: May 6, 2024