What It Is
A sustainable purchasing policy outlines an organization’s environmentally and socially- conscious purchasing practices. It shows the organization’s commitment to and support of green, responsible, and local business. Examples of green purchasing practices include buying from local vendors, transporting products via ground instead of air, and choosing products made from recycled materials.
Why It Matters
Adopting a sustainable purchasing policy can help your organization:
- Reduce purchasing and transportation costs
- Create and promote a green image
- Reduce generic waste and hazardous waste
- Forge relationships with other local businesses
- Bolster the local economy
The benefits of green and sustainable purchasing policies can reach beyond your organization and local community too. “Green purchasing policies have the power to [make] large-scale environmental changes,” and “as more companies green their [purchasing] policies, suppliers follow suit, benefiting the earth and business.” In addition, contrary to popular conception, green products are often less expensive than more traditional options.
When developing a sustainable purchasing policy, keep the following tips from GreenYour.com in mind:
- Get the nod from the top.
- Take a team approach.
- Keep it simple, to start.
- Go slow.
Get the nod from the top.
Make sure to get commitment from upper level managers before forging ahead with your green purchasing policy. If they fail to see how it’s important, try “[speaking to their] bottom-line concerns.” Point out that environmentally-friendly products often cost the same as (if not less than) standard products. Products that cost more upfront may save energy, which can save your company money on its utility bill.
Take a team approach.
When you make purchasing a team effort, it will “help instill a sense of ownership of the plan and overcome any resistance to the changes.”
Keep it simple, to start.
Start with a broad policy in the beginning and evaluate it as you go. You can always add more to it later. For help with drafting your policy, check out this guide from the EPA.
Remember that implementing a new purchasing policy takes time. Be open to editing your policy and trying new products.
To enhance your organization’s purchasing policy, you can
- Buy from local vendors.
- Source products from women or minority-owned businesses.
- Choose environmentally-friendly products.
- Use minimal packaging.
- Transport products via ground instead of air.
Buy from local vendors.
Buying from local vendors keeps money in your community, promoting the local economy. It also reduces how far your products need to travel, which reduces pollution and saves you money.
Source products from women or minority-owned businesses.
Buying products from underrepresented populations like women and minorities can help build a more equitable community.
Choose environmentally-friendly products.
When choosing products, consider environmentally-friendly options. For example, if you’re purchasing produce, see if you can buy some that is organic and locally grown. Or if you’re purchasing office supplies, look for recycled paper and soy-based ink. When buying new equipment, look for energy-efficient models on EnergyStar.gov.
If none of the options above apply to your business, try using this database to help you find the green products you need.
Use minimal packaging.
You typically can’t recycle packaging material like Styrofoam and bubble wrap, so try to purchase and use as little of it as possible. Also, ask your vendors if they offer environmentally-friendly packaging materials. For example, some vendors use shredded paper or air-popped popcorn instead of packing peanuts, both of which can be recycled or composted.
Transport products via ground
If you can’t buy locally, ask vendors to ship your products via ground instead of air. When compared to air transportation, ground transportation requires less fuel, conserving energy.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s (PBOT) use of diesel oil posed a threat to human and environmental health. The PBOT, which paves the city’s roads, lubricated its mixers and spreading tools with the oil to prevent asphalt from sticking to the equipment. The oil did the trick but it also released volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can harm people, animals, and the environment.
To green its operations, the PBOT started purchasing a soy-based product instead, which prevents sticking without releasing VOCs. The soy-based release agent costs the agency 50% less than the diesel oil. It also contains renewable materials (soybeans) and reduces the city’s dependence on oil.
Visit this link to learn more about this case and others like it.
Resources for More Information
- Greening Your Small Business by Jennifer Kaplan
- Sustainability 101: A Toolkit for Your Business by Anca Novacovici and Jennifer Woofter
- Why? PAcast
- 3 Ways to Green Your Purchasing Policy, Green Your
- Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, EPA
- Green Procurement Tool Kit for Local Governments, California Sustainability Alliance
- Sample Green Purchasing Policies
A sustainable purchasing policy shows your organization’s commitment to green and sustainable business.Practices like buying local, choosing green products, and minimizing packaging materials support the environment and local economy while fulfilling your organization’s procurement needs.
 “3 Ways to Green Your Purchasing Policy,” Green Your, http://www.greenyour.com/office/office-purchasing/green-purchasing-policy/tips, accessed 8 August 2013.
 “How to Draft an Environmental Purchasing Policy,” Green Your, http://www.greenyour.com/office/office-purchasing/green-purchasing-policy/tips/draft-an-environmental-purchasing-policy?subject=12219, accessed 8 August 2013.
 “How to Draft an Environmental Purchasing Policy.”
 “How to Draft an Environmental Purchasing Policy.”
 “Green Purchasing Case Studies: Soy-based Asphalt Release Agent Hits the Pavement,” City of Portland, June 2011, http://www.portlandonline.com/omf/index.cfm?c=44701&a=157994, accessed 8 August 2013.