What is Environmentally Preferable Purchasing?

green procurement-01Environmentally preferable purchasing involves choosing products and services that will have no negative effect on the human body, society and the environment when competing with products and services that serve the same purpose, adding to the traditional parameters of price, quality and functionality.

Purchasing decisions can have significant environmental and social impacts, particularly for the tourism and hospitality sectors so this is what I will be using as an example. They are under constant pressure to impress and live up to guest expectations thus they import large numbers of goods, including food, from distant countries to cater for guests’ demands.  Apparently there is no such thing as a stupid question/demand, however anyone who believes that has clearly never worked in the hotel industry.

To the normal hotel guest the role of procurement in a hotel operation is not of much interest, and why would it be? If I stay in a hotel I could not care less who supplies the ill tempered executive chef with his award winning organic carrots. However, with environmentally preferable purchasing, also known as green procurement, or Responsible Procurement, considerations such as social, ethical and environmental are taken into account when making purchasing decisions.

Why is the role of purchasing in the hotel industry so important?

Nearly all waste that leaves a hotel on a daily basis came in through purchasing. Purchasing departments are a central standard setting point for nearly every product or service used in the hotel. During the procurement process, suppliers are required to reduce the environmental impact of their products by using EPP Resources to know what environmental questions to ask and the specifications to use.   

It considers the following:

  • Is the purchase necessary;
  • Materials the products are made of;
  • The conditions under which they have been made;
  • Distance they have travelled;
  • Product usage/consumption; and
  • The method of disposal.

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Principles:

  • Opt for the highest quality you can afford, whether for furniture, uniforms or appliances; have them repaired or serviced when necessary—it’s generally more cost effective than replacement and reduces waste.
  • Green products are also more environmentally sound with lower water and electricity consumption, green manufacturing processes etc.
  • Avoid products containing toxic substances. Opt for non-harmful alternatives, including non-toxic, water-based, hypoallergenic and biodegradable cleaning products, zero VOC paints and chemical-free amenities.
  • Choose certified organic or fair trade food and drink products, and cotton where possible.
  • Unless they are biodegradable or can be recycled, they add to the accumulation of landfill so choose an alternative with a useful lifespan.
  • Use products with less or recycled packaging. The trend now is to use less impressive, more humble, environmentally friendly packaging.

The benefits of adopting an Environmentally Preferable Purchasing approach are numerous. The receiver of the benefits can be the environment and the purchaser or the supplier.

Benefits to the purchaser can include:

  • Securing best value for money and achieving a more efficient use of public resources.
  • Generating financial savings through greater energy efficiency; reduced waste disposal (including reduced packaging to waste); reduced water use; and reusing materials and products, thereby lowering the cost of a product over its life cycle.
  • Achieving positive publicity associated with the purchase and use of products, services and suppliers with good environmental and social responsibility records. It promotes innovation and encourages suppliers to invest in sustainable products, processes and technologies.

Suppliers can be socially responsible by adopting ethical practices and being compliant with legislative obligations and other actions that benefit society such as equality, diversity, regeneration and integration.

Social impacts that can be taken into consideration across sustainable procurement activities include:

  • Support and promotion of fair trade suppliers and adoption of ethical practices by government.
  • Due consideration of the impacts on human health.
  • Supporting local small businesses.
  • Supporting socially inclusive practices, such as employment and training focused on disadvantaged groups.
  • Assessing the impact of occupational health and safety concerns (both here and abroad).
  • Staying in line with rules and regulations.

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