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Environmentally Preferable Purchasing


What is Environmental Purchasing?

CFL lightbulbAlthough different organizations (government, nonprofit, or industry) may define environmental purchasing in somewhat different ways, it generally refers to buying products and services with reduced effects on human health and the environment. Also called “Affirmative Procurement,” “Environmentally Preferable Purchasing,” and “Green Purchasing,” this approach means integrating environmental factors into procurement policies, usually using the following tools and/or methods:

  • Pollution Prevention: From the start of a process or procedure, reducing or eliminating toxicity, air, and water emissions.
  • Life-Cycle Perspective: Looking beyond purchase price. Consider costs and environmental impacts over the lifetime of a product or service (manufacturing, packaging, transport, energy consumption, maintenance, disposal).
  • Natural Resource Protection: Giving preference to sustainable, reusable content, and recycled materials over virgin materials, as well as to conserving water and energy.

What Are The Benefits of Environmental Purchasing for Companies?

Just as pollution prevention actions often lead to dollar savings, many companies have reduced costs through environmental purchasing. Companies highlighted in the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, “Private Sector Pioneers: How Companies Are Incorporating Environmentally Preferable Purchasing,” (June 1999, EPA742-R-99-001) have achieved savings that include:

  • Reduced material costs for manufacturers
  • Reduced repair and replacement costs when using more durable and repairable equipment
  • Reduced disposal costs by generating less waste
  • Improved product design and performance of the product(s)
  • Increased employee safety and health at the facility

As noted in the EPA report, many companies adopted environmental purchasing policies for traditional business reasons that include:

  • Recognizing market preferences, and serving customers who have a stated interest in “environmentally friendly” products and practices
  • Distinguishing a company and its products from competitors
  • Avoiding hidden costs and pursuing cost savings
  • Increasing operating efficiency
  • Joining an industry or international market trend

Although these reasons result in intangible benefits, there are specific examples of measurable reduced costs associated with environmentally preferable products. These include a lower purchase price (e.g. remanufactured products), reduced operational costs (e.g. energy efficiency), reduced disposal costs (e.g. more durable products) and reduced hazardous management costs (e.g. less toxic products). In addition, purchasing environmentally preferable products may reduce an organization’s potential future liability, improve the work environment and minimize risks to workers.

EPP Rapid Response Service

Many cities, counties, states and the federal government are in the process of developing their internal procedures to incorporate EPP criteria into their purchasing decisions. This research takes staff time. PPRC is pleased to be able to assist with the process by bringing Rapid Response Service to Pacific Northwest government and businesses.

EPP Programs and Strategies: Integrating Environmental and Social Factors into Procurement Practices

This 98-page report highlights the variety of approaches organizations are using to incorporate environmental and social factors into procurement activities. Based on interviews with representatives from 18 public and private sector organizations, the report describes:

  • how the organizations choose product categories and attributes for EPP initiatives
  • how they integrate EPP into their everyday purchasing decisions
  • what common challenges they face
  • the positive outcomes produced by the organizations’ EPP efforts

Synopses of the participating organizations’ EPP strategies or programs are included in an appendix to the report.

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