It’s Not Easy Being Green Pt.2: Tips for Starting a Green Procurement Process

Starting a green or sustainable procurement process at your company is a little like taking care of a newborn. It’s actually pretty simple—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. And like caring for a newborn, moving your company in the direction of sustainability is something that will pay a lot of rewards for your hard work over time. Green companies typically claim to experience better public perception, lowered costs, reduced risk, increased acceptance in global markets, and more.

One step at a time

If you don’t know the answer already, you should start by checking with your superiors to gauge the company’s interest in greener practices. You might even want to share Part One of this post, which offers background and a basic rationale for green procurement practices.

Given today’s business climate, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get a negative reaction from the higher-ups. And once you get the green light to move forward, you can start taking steps immediately. But don’t feel like you need to rush into it, or get it all done at one. Think of going green as a process, not an event—and every move you make will move you closer to your goal.

Here are a few steps and resources to help you get started.

1. Make the commitment

You decide to go green, decide to go all in. Starting out slow is totally fine, but unless you set the eventual goal of fully green procurement, your company won’t reap the maximum benefits. When it comes to green practices, one bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch—or at least reduce their shine.

2. How green are you already?

Ask your current suppliers for copies of their own green policies and standards. If they have them they’ll be more than happy to share them. If they don’t, they’ll be subtly put on notice that your company is moving in the direction of working with green suppliers, which may be enough to motivate them to get started on their own green policies. And if they already have policies and procedures in place, you benefit in two ways. First, you can use them for creating your own policies and procedures. Secondly, you’ll know a lot of your work is already being done by your supplier—and you can check your first success off your list.

3. Write green policies and procedures

This is an area where you want to find great allies within your company who can help you so that you don’t find yourself swamped with extra work because of your transition to green practices. A great place to start is with your company’s Corporate Social Responsibility department, if it has one, or even with your PR or Marketing department. Green procurement is the kind of story marketers love to tell, and by simply asking you might find valuable help from folks with expertise in research, writing, and telling your story company-wide and beyond. Do some research, and don’t be afraid to ask for and borrow from other successful companies’ green policies. It’s one area where imitation (with permission, of course) is the highest form of flattery.

4. Develop Your Green Resources

Use every opportunity you can to let your suppliers know you want to go green, and start researching additional green suppliers. Don’t neglect your professional colleagues in companies that are further down the green road than you are. In most cases, they’ll be happy to share their advice, and even some of their resources (see “policies” above). There are also some great opportunities for professional development and training in Green Purchasing. The American Purchasing Society, for instance, offers a Certified Green Purchasing Professional (CGPP) course

5. Measure and report your success

Once you get your green procurement process up and running, it’s important to share with the company how the policy is affecting the business. Once again, this is an area where you will hopefully find eager and valuable allies in marketing, PR, and corporate social responsibility. IBM says best-in-class supply chain organizations who practice green procurement typically see savings of 6-13 percent in energy, logistics, procurement, and waste management. Those are big numbers, and they could pay some big dividends in terms of your standing within your company.

Tools you can use.

  1. eSourcingWiki has an excellent quick practical guide that lists basics like what to buy, what to think about buying, and how to create the specifications and standards you’ll need to make green procurement fly at your company.
  2. SFTool is a website offered by the US government’s General Services Administration. It’s modern, easy to navigate, and offers many tools to get you started and keep you going strong.
  3. Oakland, California’s Responsible Purchasing Network offers a simple one-page PDF guide to help you get started.
  4. If your business is in California, you can apply for grants for things like beverage container recycling and payment for used motor oil. Check with your own state, province, or municipality for similar programs.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development offers a free guide to Business Strategy for Sustainable Development.

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