Four key steps to writing a sustainable procurement policy

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 business 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.

Getting started can feel daunting, especially when you don’t have experience with sustainable purchasing or an understanding of the complex issues surrounding it.

Knowing what sort of criteria to include in your policy document, and how to find products and services which meet all those criteria, can also be challenging. So, GECA has 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.

As the cleaning and hospitality sectors have been identified as modern slavery hotspots in Australia, human rights issues are particularly relevant.

With the introduction of the Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act 2018, certain large businesses and other entities will be required to publish annual Modern Slavery Statements. The Australian Government has recently released a guidance document for reporting entities, which is an excellent resource.

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 the International Organisation for Standardisation’s ISO 20400 Sustainable Procurement Standard can help.

This international standard provides practical guidance to ensure that the procurement policies of organisations, both big and small, are robust and address key sustainable supply chain issues.

3 Choose goods and services that meet criteria

Independent certification is the only way to make sure your business is genuinely buying sustainable products and services, thanks to the built-in assurance processes.

A Type 1 ecolabel is the most stringent form of ‘voluntary label’ because it tests the product on not one, but multiple criteria to make sure that it is the best at protecting your health and health of the planet.

A Type 1 ecolabel demonstrates the overall sustainability of a product within a product category based on life cycle considerations. A Type I ecolabel also means that the product or service has been tested by an independent third-party.

Ecolabels like GECA can fit perfectly into sustainable procurement policies, as they’ve done the hard work for you in determining whether a product meets certain sustainability criteria.

GECA’s standards, 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.

Another useful resource is the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), which is 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 certified products 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 for 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.

Kendall Benton-Collins is strategic communications manager at GECA

This was first published in the November/December issue of INCLEAN magazine 

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