Smarter Business: Greening Advisor
An environmentally preferable purchasing policy
In an effort to enhance environmental performance, many companies have instituted purchasing policies that give preference to environmentally intelligent products. In addition to clearly defining your company’s environmental goals, such a policy can also be of value to investors, who are increasingly viewing environmental policies as evidence of long-term planning and responsible risk management.
A company-wide purchasing policy encourages sustainable purchasing practices in the organization and helps ensure that green efforts do not fade with employee turnover. Purchasing policies should be comprehensive and cover a wide range of products and services. Policies can vary widely, and your business should implement a policy that works best for your organization.
Purchasing policies can be as prescriptive (and as aspirational) as your company chooses. In some cases, your company will be able to purchase environmentally preferable products at little or no extra cost. Some companies establish a price preference (a pricing leeway, often 10 to 15 percent) for environmentally preferable purchases. In cases where the price of environmentally superior products exceeds that of products currently used, the increased cost can sometimes be offset by more efficient operations. Recycled paper, for example, sometimes costs more than virgin paper. However, this cost can be offset by double-sided printing, reducing the number of printers in use, and reduced paper use.
Consider implementing your own environmentally preferable purchasing policy based on the sample policy below.
Sample Purchasing Policy
The goal of this policy is to ensure that products and services purchased or contracted for will conform with the goals of our company’s Environmental Policy. We will strive, where feasible, to purchase environmentally preferable products and services that meet the company’s needs.
Where possible, purchasing decisions shall favor:
- Products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or are made with renewable energy
- Products that reduce the use of chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and employee and public health
- Products that contain the highest possible percentage of postconsumer recycled content
- Products that reduce air and water pollution
- Products that reduce waste
- Suppliers who strive to improve their environmental performance and provide environmentally preferable products, and who can document the supply-chain impacts of their efforts
- Reusable products
- Products that serve several functions (e.g., copier/printers, multipurpose cleaners) and reduce the overall number of products purchased
- Products that are recyclable or compostable
Environmentally preferable products and services comparable to their standard counterparts in quality and price should receive purchasing preference. In situations where environmentally preferable products are unavailable or impractical, secondary considerations should include the environmental management practices of suppliers and producers.
The purchase of environmentally preferable products is part of our long-term commitment to the environment. By sending a clear signal to producers and suppliers about this commitment, we hope to support wider adoption of environmentally preferable products and practices.
Purchasing Policy Examples
- National Recycling Coalition: Growing a Buy Recycled Purchasing Program: A Manager’s Guide
- A Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry
- EPA: Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines: Supplier Database
- EPA: Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Database
- Environmental Benefits and Cost Savings Calculator for Purchasers
- American Recycling Markets, Inc.: Recycled Products Guide
In cases where the price of environmentally superior products exceeds that of products currently used, the increased cost can sometimes be offset by more efficient operations.
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