Green procurement is an approach to procurement in which environmental impacts play an important role in purchasing decisions, with procurement officers concerned about more than just price and quality. Companies which pride themselves on environmental stewardship and thoughtful care of the environment may use this method of procurement, among many other tactics, to ensure that they do business in an environmentally responsible way. A number of aspects of the procurement process may be adjusted to meet a mission of environmental sustainability.
Within a procurement office, green procurement can involve changes in office procedure which are designed to benefit the environment. For example, rather than having people submit purchase orders and requests on paper, the procurement office might switch to electronic methods of communication so that paper is not wasted. The office might also engage in environmentally friendly activities like reducing energy usage, keeping plants around the office to improve air quality, or buying carbon offsets to compensate for office energy usage.
During the procurement process, this type of procurement involves seeking out products which are manufactured sustainably. On a simple level, green procurement can push companies to seek out office supplies made from environmental products, or products made by companies which are committed to environmental stewardship. The office might also demand minimal packaging on the products it orders, look for products moved with biodiesel, seek out manufacturing facilities which bear environmental certifications, or indicate to potential vendors that it would prefer products from companies which are committed to minimizing waste and benefiting the environment.
Buying products which are environmentally responsible can be a dicey occupation. Labeling and certification requirements vary, so a procurement officer may think that he or she is doing the right thing by purchasing a product which bears a “green” label and later learn that the product isn't more environmentally responsible than that of a competitor, even though it's more expensive. Good procurement officers will investigate their sources with care, taking the time to confirm that the claims made by a company are accurate and comparing data from different sources to see which vendor is the best.
Companies which engage in green procurement processes may be eligible for environmental certification, formal recognition from the government, and other perks. Projecting a sustainable image can also be a valuable marketing tool which a company may use to get an edge on the competition. Environmental advocates also point out that as more and more companies demand green procurement, the market for environmentally sustainable products expands, making them cheaper and easier to obtain. These advocates hope to see green procurement becoming the norm, rather than an unusual event.