Turning the Ship – Week 2 – Sustainable Purchasing

Purchasing function of various companies (profit, not-for-profit and government) around the world have a lot of clout. In my current role, I have been trying to develop sustainable purchasing practices to improve the environmental performance of the organization.

The Turning the Ship Online Dialogue last week concentrated on Sustainable Purchasing. About Turning the Ship click here and for Week 1 here.

Michelle Wyman, Executive Director of the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives, USA (ICLEI-USA) writes about the power of local government dollars.

U.S. cites large and small can exercise their significant buying power to have both a direct impact on the market because of the volume of products and services they procure and an indirect impact by spurring similar action across the private sector. They do so while also increasing their bottom line. The growing emphasis on green purchasing presents unprecedented opportunity for the business community.

Think about all the local government facilities in your city: courtrooms, city halls, office buildings, police and fire stations, recreational facilities, parking lots, and libraries. Consider their computers, photocopiers, refrigerators, fax machines and lighting, heating and cooling needs. Cities also deal in landscaping, catering, conferences and meetings as well as vehicle fleets.

Of course, making sustainable purchasing choices also enhances the sheer quality of life in communities. It provides direct health benefits for city employees as well as less global warming and air pollution, all of which makes these cities cleaner and safer places to live, work and raise families.

Arthur B. Weissman, Ph.D., President and CEO, Green Seal, Inc.. The discussion is based on the different ways governments have used tools like environment standards to create a market for green products and services. The Global Ecolabeling Network and Green Seal in the US is examined.

If industry makes green products that perform as well and are price-competitive, is the battle won? Perhaps – if we know for sure which products are green. And that is where we come back to environmental standards, certification, and labeling programs. Independent, credible groups like Green Seal are striving to provide the technical and evaluative framework for the greening of the economy. The time is growing more ripe – and more urgent – for both consumers and institutions to embrace this framework.

Terry Kellogg, Executive Director of 1% For The Planet; discusses the potential effect of companies committing at least one percent of their sales (or the sales from a brand) to a environmental cause every year.

1%FTP is a tool that can help address important barriers that still exist in the LOHAS arena. Because it’s a program that has the potential to be adopted widely (unlike labeling schemes limited to certain sectors) it also has the potential to become recognized and acted on widely. One Percent also reflects the kind of clear and powerful commitment that easily resonates with a wide audience. This helps address the challenge of effectively communicating what can be confusing initiatives that lack relevance to enough people.

Don Millar, President of The Element Agency discuses the area of environmental communications.

With every opportunity, however, comes barriers and this one is no different. The barriers to successful environmental communications include the seeming inability of traditional ad agencies to communicate effectively about meaningful values combined with self-styled green police using blogs to hold companies to account.

The main thing for businesses today is to move quickly, be authentic and then do what we call “greening their brand” – putting an important, values-based message front and center.

Ben Packard, Director of Environmental Affairs, Starbucks Coffee discusses the new approach to purchasing taking the coffee suppliers case.

The Conservation Principles for Coffee Production, a set of multi-stakeholder criteria launched in 2001, became the original platform that Starbucks used to evolve and eventually develop a more holistic set of coffee-buying guidelines that is now known as Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices. These guidelines were designed to ensure the sustainable supply of high-quality coffee; achieve economic accountability; promote social responsibility within the coffee supply chain; and protect the environment.


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