Smarter Business: Greening Advisor
Office-Wide purchasing policy
In an effort to enhance environmental performance, many companies have instituted purchasing policies that give preference to environmentally intelligent products. A company-wide purchasing policy will encourage more sustainable purchasing practices in the organization and help ensure that green efforts do not fade with employee turnover. Purchasing policies should be comprehensive and cover a wide range of products and services. In some cases, environmentally preferable products can be purchased at little or no extra cost. And in those 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 paper made with virgin wood. However, this cost can be offset by double-sided printing and reduced paper use. Your policy can specify that green products will be purchased given comparable price and quantity, or you can establish a price preference (a pricing leeway, often 10–15 percent) for environmentally preferable purchases. Policies can vary widely, and your company should implement a policy that works best for your organization.
Consider implementing your own environmentally preferable purchasing policy based on the sample below.
For databases of environmentally preferable products, visit the following pages:
- EPA: Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines
- EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Database
- Oikos Green Product Database
- American Recycling Markets, Inc.: Recycled Products Guide (subscription required)
- Co-op America: National Green Pages
- California Integrated Waste Management Board: Recycled-Content Product Directory (many products listed are available nationwide)
- Building Green: GreenSpec Product Database
- American Chemistry Council: Recycled Plastics Product Directory
- NRDC’s Shopper’s Guide to Home Tissue Products
Sample Purchasing Policy
The goal of this policy is to ensure that products and services purchased or contracted for conform with the goals of our company’s environmental policy. We will strive, where feasible, to purchase environmentally preferable products and services to meet the company’s office and operational needs.
Wherever possible, purchasing decisions shall favor:
- Products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or are made with renewable energy
- Products that reduce the use of toxins 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
Environmentally preferable products and services that are comparable in quality and price to their standard counterparts should receive a purchasing preference. In situations where the most environmentally preferable product is unavailable or impractical, secondary considerations should include production methods and the environmentally and socially responsible 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 produces and suppliers about this commitment, we hope to support wider adoption of environmentally preferable products and practices.
Corporate Purchasing Policy Examples
- National Recycling Coalition: Growing a Buy Recycled Program: A Manager’s Guide
- A Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry
- EPA: Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines: Supplier Database
- Environmental Benefits and Cost Savings Calculator for Purchasers
- American Recycling Markets, Inc.: Recycled Products Guide
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