What is Green Purchasing?
We may not associate many of our choices, like buying a cup of coffee or choosing a hotel, with pollution or environmental problems, but there are environmental impacts connected to the things we buy and use each day. "Green" purchasing is a way of using our power as consumers to benefit the environment-buying products that have lesser environmental impacts.
And just like individuals, governments, companies, universities, hospitals and other institutions make purchasing decisions daily. Large organizations like these can make a major contribution to improved human health and environment when they put in place a Green Procurement policy, mandating the purchasing of more "eco-friendly" products and services.
Why Green Purchasing? The Business Case
The North American Green Purchasing Initiative of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC NAGPI) recently researched Green Procurement in North America and found that both public and private institutions are identifying and measuring the benefits of their Green Procurement programs.
Governments and companies are buying green because it results in a number of benefits-not just because they think it's the right thing to do. Government organizations find that Green Procurement policies reduce overall costs, offer significant opportunity to use materials, resources and energy more effectively, improve employee health and stimulate markets for innovative new products and services.
Private businesses-in the face of continued competition, regulations and market pressures-measure a financial payback from purchasing products and services with lower environmental impacts and from selecting suppliers that are committed to improving their own environmental, health and safety performance.
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For governments, Green Procurement can help to:
- Reduce any negative and unintended impacts on the environment (like pollution of the Great Lakes or deterioration of local air quality);
- Support companies that provide products and services that have fewer environmental impacts and stimulate "green," innovative product development and business development;
- Save the amount of money spent on cleaning up pollution, by preventing it in the first place;
- Send a message to manufacturers and service providers that consumers will recognize their environmental efforts;
- Create a scale effect, thus reducing production costs by the sheer scale of demand for green products; and
- Fulfill OECD agreements to take greater account of environmental considerations in public procurement of products and services (OECD member countries are to demonstrate their progress by 2005).
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For private companies, Green Procurement can help to:
- Avoid costs by eliminating or lowering fees for waste management or hazardous material management (like special training, handling and storage), reducing time and costs for reporting and receiving fewer fines;
- Save money by conserving energy, water, fuel and other resources;
- Simplify compliance with environmental regulations;
- Demonstrate due diligence;
- Reduce risk of accidents, reduce liability and lower health and safety costs;
- Improve image, brand and goodwill;
- Improve health of employees and communities, through cleaner air and water, less hazardous wastes to handle and dispose; and
- Increase shareholder value.
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The North American Green Purchasing Initiative (NAGPI)
Steering Committee is made up of major groups and agencies working with green purchasing in North America. NAGPI is housed at the CEC and plays a coordinating role to:
- Compile and maintain a list of ongoing green purchasing activities to avoid unintended duplication of effort;
- Create a unified voice to engage manufacturers, purchasers, politicians, the media and the general public;
- Develop and maintain a database of supporting tools and procurement policies used across North America;
- Identify research needs (such as the need to better quantify environmental benefits of green purchasing);
- Seek funding to address those needs;
- Facilitate development of common marketing language beneficial to all; and
- Launch coordinated campaigns to improve the performance of specific commodity areas.
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For More Information
To find out more about Green Procurement and the CEC's NAGPI, contact the CEC's Environment, Economy and Trade Program at (514) 350-4328.