Developing a sustainable procurement policy is an important and worthy goal for any organisation or business. It’s not just about buying the eco-friendliest products out there – sustainable procurement means taking the social and economic impacts of purchased goods and services into account, along with their environmental footprint.
Through sustainable procurement, your organisation can build resilience and become future-proofed through increased efficiency and effectiveness. A policy will benefit your bottom line and help you to manage supply chain risk, so it’s a win for your business as well as for the planet and the people on it.
So, where do you start? And – more importantly – how can policymakers know what sustainable or “green” procurement even means?
When you don’t have experience with sustainable purchasing or an understanding of the complex issues surrounding it, it can be challenging to know what criteria to include in a sustainable procurement policy document or which products and services meet all those criteria.
So, we’ve put together this handy guide to help get you started!
1. Decide what matters most to your organisation
When writing your policy, keep your organisation’s top sustainability priorities in mind, making sure these are clearly defined and aligned with your organisation’s core values. Sometimes it may not be feasible to try to meet every possible sustainable goal.
Some businesses may place a higher value on lowering their environmental impact, while others may be drawn to labour practices or human rights issues. Ultimately, every policy should include a requirement for continual improvement towards meeting sustainability goals.
2. Set your core procurement criteria
Once priorities have been set, it’s time to identify the potential environmental, health and social impacts of products and services, as well as the risks. This is where other standards organisations can help.
The ISO 20400 Sustainable Procurement Standard, for instance, was published in 2017. The standard provides a thorough understanding of the sustainability considerations that must be considered across all areas of procurement, from policy to organisation to processes. It will guide you on how these can be implemented on a practical level.
According to the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), the seven key areas to address within sustainable procurement are:
• organisational governance;
• human rights;
• labour practices;
• the environment;
• fair operating practices;
• consumer issues; and
• community involvement and development.
The circular economy is a transformational framework that forces organisations and individuals to rethink how they work and live in this global community and on this planet. Combined with Science-Based Targets and the Sustainable Development Goals, we already have formidable blueprints for good.
3. Choose goods and services that meet your criteria
Independent certification is the only way to make sure you are buying genuinely sustainable products, thanks to the built-in assessment and assurance processes.
Key qualities to look for in an ecolabel are:
• transparency and consistency in its standards; and
• third-party accreditation and verification processes (where the verification and licencing agencies are also independent).
Lifecycle ecolabels like GECA’s can fit perfectly into sustainable procurement policies, considering that certifying bodies have most likely done all the work for you in determining whether a product meets certain sustainability criteria.
GECA’s standards documents, for example, contain detailed criteria for environmental, health and social performance, as well as including criteria that ensure products and services are fit for purpose. Our standards are also free to download in full from our website.
Another useful resource is the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), a non-profit association of leading ecolabelling organisations spread across 57 countries and territories. GECA is proud to be the only Australian member of GEN.
With so many lifecycle ecolabel certified products and services available, there has never been a better time for organisations and businesses to start creating a sustainable procurement policy.
4. Keep records and communicate to your stakeholders
Finally, make sure you keep accurate records of all purchasing decisions for future reference. These are important for measuring progress against your sustainable purchasing goals, managing risk, and informing any ongoing development of your policy document.
It’s also important to communicate your purchasing decisions to stakeholders, establishing your organisation’s reputation for responsible procurement and building trust.
Need help to get started? We work with all those committed to addressing the social and environmental challenges ahead. This includes all levels of government, businesses, our fellow not for profits and indeed all communities seeking to create positive change.
Here are some examples of how we can help you:
• developing sustainable policy, frameworks, guidelines or roadmaps;
• mapping supply chains;
• responsible sourcing of materials, products and services;
• advice on ways to implement sustainable procurement processes; and
• input into your sustainability training programs and resources.
Please feel free to contact us to understand how we can help you.