The following list provides examples of green purchasing actions you can implement on a limited basis. Consider it a list of the "Top Ten" things you can do to have immediate impact and results.
Now consider what it would take to develop a successful green purchasing program. Here are eight keys to success in building a green product purchasing program.
Once your program is in place, consider the following issues:
Look beyond purchase price when making purchasing decisions. Consider the costs of operations and maintenance, worker exposure and waste disposal. These extended costs are often hidden, and can reveal previously unrecognized savings.
Service agreements with no written environmental performance standards allow the contractor flexibility to operate under their own environmental management systems. Contract agreements provide a strong leverage point for requiring improved environmental performance standards. Purchasing professionals have tremendous buying power. Suppliers in a competitive relationship with other suppliers, and suppliers seeking to gain a preferred position have a motivation to respond to your customer needs.
Evaluate whether a piece of equipment or consumable you are currently buying can be more cost effective if the supplier "leases" or provides a "service". Under a leasing system, actual ownership of the product remains with the manufacturer. Customers pay for the use and maintenance of a product. At the end of the product's useful life, the manufacturer is responsible for disposal. The lessee can obtain use of high quality equipment that is regularly upgraded. In addition, the lessee can avoid disposal costs. The lessee also can retain high value equipment that delivers more revenue over its life.
There are a tremendous amount of office products available that are made from recycled content and are energy efficient. Buying these products helps conserve natural resources.
If you have a fragmented purchasing system (each department responsible for purchasing their own materials) then develop a coordinated purchasing system. This allows for purchasers to apply standard criteria for evaluating and purchasing products. Coordinated purchases can better leverage volume with a supplier. This system also provides better inventory control so products are not "over purchased", which causes many products to expire on the shelf. Once expired, these products then need to be disposed of properly.
Restructuring of the electric utility industry has allowed purchasing departments to choose among power supplies. Renewable sources of energy can now be purchased instead of power from coal or other fossil fuels.
"Demo" products used for testing purposes become a waste once the tests are complete. Often these waste products need to be disposed of as a hazardous waste. Do not accept products for trial runs if the manufacturer or manufacturer's representative will not take back the product or provide you with disposal options.
Are suppliers manufacturing their products in the most environmentally responsible way? Do they have formal energy conservation programs? Do they have formal water conservation programs? Do they design their products for ease of recycling or take-back after the product's useful life? Do they have special requirements from you?
A product designed around a single attribute such as recycled content, energy efficiency, or bio-based materials may not "make the grade" as a green purchase. To do so, an evaluation based on multiple, diverse attributes such as chemical composition, toxicity, and biodegradability needs to occur. Third party certifiers, such as Green Seal or Scientific Certification Systems can make your purchasing decisions easier because of their work on verifying environmental performance.
Really! Several programs have been implemented to evaluate and identify green products. These provide information resources you don't have to reinvent. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency has established a ranking of often purchased product types that have reduced environmental impact.