Green purchasing report: policy needs to state premium

Posted on December 19, 2007


As a precursor to the Green Purchasing Summit last month, EyeForProcurement conducted a survey of environmentally preferable purchasing. The report hides behind a registration wall here.

Unfortunately the report does not give enough detail of methodology for many of the statistics to be very useful. Figures such as the percentages employing (or not) green purchasing policies are rendered invalid by a lack of information about how the survey was distributed, respondent bias etc. It is not surprising, therefore, that almost all respondents think green purchasing will expand (98%).

Some interesting information is not so affected. The majority of respondents give corporate policy as the key driver for green purchasing, followed by customer expectations. The key barrier to implementing green purchasing is cost, followed by supplier awareness and insufficient green purchasing knowledge.


What can we take from this:

1. Policies and vision matter

2. Customer expectations matter. Implementing green purchasing is one of the most important things that lifts an organisation above greenwash.

3. It is vital that for organisational policies to have effect, clear direction is needed as to any premium we are prepared to pay for environmentally preferable purchasing. While we might debate the difference between price and true cost, without clear guidance the purchasing officer will default to the cheaper option.

4. Part of the decision to require “green supply” is the responsibility to accept some education and awareness within the wider community/industry.

5. Even when the corporate direction is clear, buying green is not easy. Sustainability experts are often not prepared to give clear preferences, instead describe complex systems and value chains (see, for example the excellent paper purchasing guide). Despite corporate direction this puts the onus of decision making on the individual. I believe this reinforces the “every graduate” approach we are taking.