Everything you buy has a story. That story has a profound impact on our planet and community. Imagine, if you will for a moment, the butterfly effect. A pop-culture reference suggesting that a butterfly can flap its wings in Rio de Janeiro, causing a tornado in Kansas. Now apply this effect to a plastic water bottle. The bottle, seemingly harmless, acts as a vehicle for your water. Once its purpose is served, you throw the bottle in the garbage (or recycling bin) without much of a thought. But did you know before you even bought that bottle of cold, refreshing H20, it affected your surroundings? “The production of plastic water bottles requires up to 17 million barrels of oil each year. This amount of oil has the ability to maintain up to one million cars fueled for an entire year.” [i] Now, I’m not here to prevent you from buying bottled water or tell you to stop throwing away plastic bottles (although you should recycle them). I want to emphasize the importance that everything you buy has an incredible impact on our environment. More so, the purchasing power that states possess has a great impact on not only the environment, but economy and community as well.
NASPO offers several Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) resources that can assist states at all levels of a sustainability program, from implementation to measuring the success of a program. NASPO, along with some help from HP and our partners at the Green Electronics Council (GEC), aims to recommend some general principles of sustainability, to “ensure procurement activities are fair, socially and environmentally sound, and economically viable.” [ii]
Check the Guide
NASPO’s Green Purchasing Guide generally defines EPP as purchasing a product that has a lesser or reduced negative effect or increased positive effect on human health and the environment, when compared with competing products that serve the same purpose. Incorporating EPP in the procurement process considers[iii]:
Raw materials acquisition
Disposal of the product
It makes sense to leverage the purchasing power of your state(s) to advance social and environmental goals of our society, right?
Contract & Commodity Lifecycle
Take a solution-based approach beginning with a “what is meant to be achieved” mind set, rather than looking at a specific problem.[iv] The procurement criteria should be fair and equitable and should consider sustainability aspects throughout the life cycles of different product options.[v] Include a solution-based category in your contract, whether you are bidding on a new product or service, or simply re-bidding with a familiar supplier. The supplier may also offer take-back or disposal options for particular IT devices. It’s just as important to know who you’re buying form, as it is what you are buying.
Reach Out and Involve Stakeholders
Knowing and involving several different stakeholders, from a variety of agencies is key to maximizing the success of any states EPP program. The more competition the market experiences, the more pricing will become competitive for its buyers. Suppliers, manufactures, and contractors pay close attention to what you are buying. It won’t take them long to receive the message as states begin to include EPP in the RFP process, greening solicitations. Requiring EPP in a contract incentives companies to reformulate their current product and meet specific standers in order to be labeled “environmentally preferable.”
Check the Label
Labeling also plays a very important part in sustainable purchasing. Eco-labels are a form of sustainability measurement intended to make it easy to take environmental and/or social concerns into account when making procurement decisions. Some labels quantify pollution or energy consumption by way of index scores or units of measurement, while others assert compliance with a set of practices or minimum requirements for sustainability or reduction of harm to the environment. In 2018, GEC recognized NASPO ValuePoint with its Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) award for its prominent IT portfolios. EPEAT is the leading Type-1 ecolabel across the globe and aids purchasers in both the private and public sectors evaluate, compare, and select IT products based on a variety of environmental & social attributes. In 2018 alone, more than 640,000 unique EPEAT products were purchased through NASPO ValuePoint contracts, resulting in the avoidance of more than 121,941 metric tons of CO2 equivalents, 59,670 metric tons of avoided waste, and $20.7M in cost savings.[vi]
According to NASPO’s Practical Guide State and local governments that mandate the purchase of sustainable commodities and services have determined that doing so provides environmental, social, and economic benefits. [vii] That determination also recognizes that sustainability programs protect human health and the environment over the course of the commodity or service life cycle, ranging from extraction of raw materials to end-of-life disposal of a commodity. A sustainable service or commodity has a lesser or reduced negative effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing commodities or services.
So the next time you buy a bottled water (or $20 Million worth of computer equipment) think about our friend the butterfly, and how every change you can make can make a better tomorrow.