Published by the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center
But How Do
Tips for Buying
Times are changing in the purchasing trade. Increasingly, purchasing and supply chain management are being integrated into broad business strategies for retaining competitive advantage. This approach is creating openings for "green procurement"
practices that incorporate environmental objectives into broader
business concerns: cost savings, value creation, quality
management, and customer satisfaction.
Driver: Customer SatisfactionCustomer satisfaction can be a powerful motivator for green purchasing. The EPA report said: "Almost every company interviewed for this report referenced anecdotal evidence of increasing customer interest in the environmental performance of companies and their products." An example is electricity. Surveys have turned up evidence of strong customer preferences for power generated from renewable resources or saved through energy efficiency projects, according to a Bonneville Power Administration paper published this year. Customer satisfaction is one of the foundations of Hewlett-Packard’s product stewardship program, which aims to reduce the impacts of products throughout their life cycles. H-P’s procurement staff work together with product stewards to develop environmental criteria suppliers are expected to meet.
Starbucks recently adopted an environmental purchasing policy that the company and its suppliers are expected to abide by. The purchasing policy is an outgrowth of the company’s overall environmental commitment. Maximizing purchase of post-consumer and unbleached fiber, and sourcing virgin pulp from sustainably managed forests are among the requirements in supplier guidelines.
"We’ve set out a high bar. We’ve raised expectations and we do hear from our customers. The commitment is there," said Ben Packard, Starbucks’ environmental affairs manager.
Instituting green buying as a customer satisfaction strategy can be done by small companies too. Scott Mafune, who runs a chain of Midas auto repair shops in Seattle, has replaced hazardous vehicle fluids and cleaners with less hazardous substitutes. Additionally, the stores buy paper products, such as customer invoices, with recycled content. "We do, from time to time, get customers who chose us precisely because we are members of (business recognition programs) Green Works and EnviroStars. That was their deciding factor," Mafune said.
Todd Best of Omega Pest Management, which operates in Kitsap and four other western Washington counties, has tied the company’s integrated pest management approach to a customer service ethic that he believes distinguishes Omega in the pest control market. The key to making that work is to spend a little more time educating customers. Also essential is alternative product research. "We do extensive research on our products. A lot of companies won’t test these new products. We’re more willing to take chances."
Driver: Reducing CostsAnother powerful driver is cost reductions, the EPA and CAPS reports said. "Companies that pursue resource-wasting methods or forego environmental standards are likely to lose competitiveness in the global economy," the CAPS report said. The Port of Seattle, for example, cleaned up procurement procedures for aviation maintenance materials by eliminating products without Material Safety Data Sheets and dropping redundant chemicals. As a result, dangerous waste disposal costs were cut 90 percent in two years.
Cautionary NotesGreen procurement can come up against barriers. One is information. Purchasers may not be familiar with tools to fully evaluate costs and benefits, according to a 1997 article published in the International Journal of Purchasing and Materials Management. The King County Commission on Marketing Recyclable Materials recently explored use of recycled materials in manufacturing. The top three reasons businesses gave for not using recycled materials were difficulty obtaining them, concerns about impacts on product quality, and incompatibility with specifications.
In developing a printer made from recycled plastics, Hewlett-Packard had a number of technical issues to work through. The first and most daunting was that recycled resins were not commercially available in sufficient quantities. More than two years were spent sourcing the resins, evaluating them, developing specifications, testing the molded parts to ensure they performed as well as parts made from virgin resins, and getting the colors to come out right. Nevertheless, H-P made the project work, and the printer, the DeskJet 850, was in production from 1995 to 1996.
Sourcing green products through complex supply chains can be difficult. "By the time we get our cup, we’re six steps from the forest," Packard said.
In the public sector, openness to innovation can be variable, as the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance found in a study. Energy efficiency attributes of products receive only spotty consideration in purchasing decisions, the study found.
Making It WorkYet green procurement can be made to work. After studying the life cycle of fibers used in its clothing lines, Patagonia focused on changing procurement in areas where there was the most likelihood of instituting a successful change. The company switched to 100 percent organic cotton for manufacturing cotton garments, after an extensive process of sourcing the material, educating employees, and working extensively with suppliers and distribution channels. There have been problems – poor color fastness, for example – but nevertheless, the garments have been well received in the marketplace.
To find out how one organization, King County, makes green procurement work, see the next story. See below for a basic green buying resource guide.
How to Make Green Buying Programs Work
What is environmental purchasing? Why do it? How do you do it? And after you start the program, then what? This article will attempt to answer those questions, based on our experiences in the King County Environmental Purchasing Program.
Karen Hamilton is an environmental purchasing analyst
with King County’s Procurement Services Division. Contact her
at 206-296-4317 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green Buying Tip:
Cut Waste in the First Place
|So What Is a Green Product Anyway?
OK, management has decided that (your company or agency’s name here) is going to buy "green." Great. But what is a green product?
‘In surfing, you reach a point on a wave where you either ride it or you get hammered by it. There is now a wave of environmental consumer awareness and demand that is only beginning to crest. We should ride it, because if we don’t we’ll be crushed by it.’
|On the Ground: NW Green Buying Stories
MANAGING GREEN PURCHASING
MINIMIZING REGULATORY BURDEN
RESPONDING TO CUSTOMERS
|New Resources on Line for Metal Sectors|
METAL WORKING SECTORS:
PPRC has added two sector buttons of interest to metal working industries – machining and finishing. Machine shops and finishers are important sectors in the region’s economy. In-house and job shop facilities are suppliers to transportation equipment manufacturing sectors, including aerospace, heavy trucks and shipbuilding. Details are below:
Metal Machining: The sector button includes a "living document," and links to clearinghouses with P2 resources for the machining sector, trade journals and trade associations, and relevant projects in PPRC’s Research Projects Database.
The living document, entitled "Northwest Pollution Prevention and Regulatory Perspectives," will be updated regularly. The document contains information on regulatory issues such as worker safety, and describes P2 opportunities in eight operational areas, including fluid maintenance. Vendors, case studies and industry expertise directories also are included.
Check it out at http://www.pprc.org/pprc/sbap/machine.html.
Metal Finishing: The sector button includes a report on an industrial roundtable PPRC held in 1995, a total cost accounting case study, and a fact sheet for chromium electroplaters. The roundtable report details P2 opportunities for this sector, including alternatives to vapor degreasing, and alternatives to cyanide for copper plating and stripping. Other resources include links to clearinghouses with P2 resources for finishers, trade journals and trade associations, and relevant projects in PPRC’s Research Projects Database.
Check it out at http://www.pprc.org/pprc/sbap/metalfin.html.
For more information on either of these buttons, contact Chris Wiley at email@example.com.
PAINTING TECHNOLOGY BRIEFS:
Idaho GEMStars Launched
Oregon Success Stories on Line
Watershed Program Honored
Vision 2020 Awards Deadline
Builders Stormwater Education
Reduce Unwanted Mail
Urban Sprawl Reports
Arctic Fuel Cell Research
Seattle Reuse Directory
Oregon Small Business Resource
Local Government Waste Prevention
Washington Environmental Excellence Award
Green Computer Manufacturers
Sustainability on a CD-ROM
Transportation Environmental Resource Center
POLLUTION PREVENTION Northwest
Editor & Designer: Jim DiPesoPollution Prevention Northwestis published bimonthly by the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center. To receive a free electronic subscription, link to the newsletter order form or contact the PPRC, 1326 Fifth Ave.,
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Web Version Format: Crispin Stutzman
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Articles from this newsletter may be printed or distributed electronically only in their entirety with written permission from the PPRC. Please credit the author (if any), followed by "Pollution Prevention Northwest, Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center."
About the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center
The Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC) is a nonprofit organization that is the region's leading source of high quality, unbiased pollution prevention information. PPRC works collaboratively with business, government and other sectors to promote environmental protection through pollution prevention. PPRC serves Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and also takes part in projects with benefits beyond the Northwest.
Financial support for PPRC is broad-based, with contributions from organizations such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Northwest states, The Boeing Company, Intel Corporation and others. The PPRC accepts environmental settlement moneys to further its work on pollution prevention.
Significant in-kind support has been provided by organizations such as: Hewlett-Packard Company, Battelle/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Battelle Seattle Research Center, Microsoft Corporation, Ross & Associates Environmental Consulting, Ltd. and The Fluke Corporation.
Staff: Madeline M. Sten, Executive Director; Catherine Dickerson, Technical Lead; Chris Wiley, Industry Outreach Lead; Jim DiPeso, Communications Director; Crispin Stutzman, Research Associate; Cathy Buller, Research Associate; Mark Sten, Project Manager - Northwest Business Survey; Scott Allison, Chief Financial Officer; Allison Greenberg, Administrative Assistant
Board of Directors: Richard Bach, President, Stoel Rives, Portland, Ore.; Joan Cloonan, Vice President, J.R. Simplot Company, Boise, Idaho; Kirk Thomson, Vice President, The Boeing Company, Seattle, Wash.; Dana Rasmussen, Secretary, Seattle, Wash.; William June, Treasurer, On Point Communications Strategists, Portland, Ore.; Rodney Brown, Marten & Brown, LLP, Seattle, Wash.; Charles Findley, U.S. EPA Region 10, Seattle, Wash; Scott Forrest, Forrest Paint Co., Eugene, Ore; Tom Korpalski, Hewlett-Packard, Boise, Idaho; Langdon Marsh, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Portland, Ore; Alan Schuyler, ARCO Alaska, Anchorage, Alaska; Jeff Allen, Oregon Environmental Council, Portland, Ore.
© 1999, Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center
phone: 206-352-2050, web: www.pprc.org