What Is Green Procurement?
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.
@nony – IBM and some other big guns in the I.T. world have really kicked off some standards and metrics for green supply chain management. I think these kinds of pressures need to be market-driven, not regulated by the EPA or other federal agencies. Consumer watch-dog groups have helped to educate the public, so people aren’t exactly falling for just anything. Look at what happened to Ethanol.
@nony -- I agree. I think the EPA should have some stricter standards about what is truly “green.” In my opinion, unless a company is actually reducing energy consumption—and they have actual numbers to prove it—and is using renewable resources, they shouldn’t be able to claim that they’re running a green business. Customers simply can’t tell the difference either way.
I couldn’t agree more with the part about the “dicey” aspect of a green procurement program. The term “green” has become a catch-all marketing phrase that companies now use to advertise themselves to environmentally-conscious consumers. These customers think that by purchasing a company’s product, they are doing their part to save the planet.
The problem is that the term “green” can mean practically anything you want. There is no way to quantify it or regulate it. Companies slap the label on to their products and claim they’re environmentally friendly. Perhaps only part of what they sell is truly “green,” like pencils made out of recycled papers, or maybe only a fraction of it is. Consumers get sucked in without knowing what they’re buying, and they’re even willing to pay more just because it makes them feel good.
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