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General Procurement Sustainability Guidelines

Various sustainability principles and guidelines should be applied to the procurement operation in general.  Examples of these include:

  • Procurement of environmentally-friendly materials, components, and packaging
  • Utilization of reuse and recycle programs
  • Appropriate disposition of scrap and obsolete materials
  • Incorporating sustainability concerns into procurement decisions
  • Incorporating sustainable goals into departmental and personnel objectives
  • Allocating more procurement to minority, women-owned, and small businesses
  • Keeping up to date with environmental regulatory changes, including recycled material, proper disposal of hazardous waste, and the reduction of ozone-depleting substances
  • Knowing regulations in countries within the supply chain regarding human labor policies
  • Reporting on supplier performance against sustainability targets
  • Ensuring distributors, suppliers and, contractors adhere to the company’s supply chain standards for ethics, environment, health and safety, human rights, child and forced labor, security, anti-trust compliance, emergency response, and other sustainability issues
  • Placing a greater emphasis on aspects such as supplier performance in sustainability, rather than price only

Product and Process Design / Specifications

It should be standard criteria to apply a responsible sustainable approach into new or existing specifications for procurement requirements, sometimes referred to as “green design.”

For example, collaborating with suppliers and other supply chain partners when developing material specifications for new products can lead to more efficient uses of natural resources, less raw material consumption, and reduced waste.
Several techniques can be applied to ensure sustainable design and criteria are part of the design process.   In general, it requires an understanding of the economic, social and environmental impact of materials and processes used in the design, as well as applying a reduce, reuse and recycle mentality when selecting materials.
Examples of methods for designing sustainability into products include:

  • Reduce weight from products to reduce transportation costs
  • Use recycled or recyclable materials whenever possible
  • Maximize the useful life of products or materials through reuse or recycling
  • Reduce or eliminate hazardous or toxic materials and processes
  • Perform responsible testing to eliminate adverse effects on the environment, animal or human welfare
  • Confirm products and processes used are as energy efficient as possible
  • Utilize simplification and standardization to facilitate easier disassembly
  • Use renewable energy sources during the process
  • Minimize air and water pollution during processing
  • Use sustainably-sourced materials

It addresses the concepts of designing for:

  • Processing and manufacturing: minimizing waste and pollution
  • Packaging: elimination of unnecessary packaging, or the use of recyclable materials
  • Disposal or reuse: planning for the disposal of or reuse of a product at the end of its life
  • Energy efficiency: reducing overall energy consumption

One approach is to add a sustainability characteristic section to existing specifications, with an emphasis on how sustainability has been applied, such as the introduction of alternative materials, packaging redesign, reductions in waste, etc.

Obviously, not every specification can be made sustainable, due to certain materials and processes that are necessary to achieve it. Some sustainability design aspects may change the overall dimensions or appearance, have an impact on cost, or change the number of available suppliers. Supplier performance criteria may also need to be altered.

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