HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsElements of an environmental buying policy

Elements of an environmental buying policy

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A policy is only effective if it is on blueprint and communicated to all. A policy must clearly define the objectives that need to be achieved and what measures will be taken in the event of a breach of such.

Purchasing policy needs to be decisive on the attitude towards suppliers in relation to environmental issues. This involves the treatment of existing suppliers whose products are injurious to the environment or have the potential to spoil the environment.

The criteria shall also be used with respect to the selection of new suppliers. Finally, the policy would need to set out guidelines of how suppliers will be monitored for compliance.

The first element of an environmental policy needs not be controversial. Buyers must commit to avoiding buying products damaging to the environment if safe alternative products are available within the same price ranges and quality limits.

In the past, the major challenge that faced buyers was that green product prices tended to be higher in price than non-green equivalence. This was the case with fuel in Zimbabwe when unleaded, the green product, was slightly higher in price than the petrol with a high carbon footprint.

With technological development moves towards green production, green product prices are significantly and competitive compared to non-green products. The savings from green procurement are actually visible in an organisations trading accounts.

There are cases where alternatives are not available or not easily accessible creating a situation in the sources of supply.

In such cases, the option would be consulting with suppliers with a view of reducing the environmental impact of the products. Internal consultations with the technical team can also be explored to determine if the product can be dispensed with.

An environmental policy will not be effective if the upstream industry is not engaged. Co-operation from suppliers is required for the policies to be effective.

Birds of a further flock together, so they say; suppliers should adopt green policies similar to those of their buyers so that the good practice eventually permeates the supply chain.

Where the supplier has no capacity to develop such policy on his own, it will be prudent for the buying organisation to offer technical assistance in order to achieve the environmental goal. The help can come free or at a cost depending with the nature of the buyer-supplier relationship.

A decision on the level of assistance required is upon the information at hand. A common step in gathering information from a supplier is by sending questionnaires enquiring about their environmental issues.

Their responses will give the buyer an understanding of the suppliers strength or shortcomings if constructively analysed.
ISO 14000 certification is prima facie evidence that an organisation has built into their system necessary measures to manage the environment.

The trend of management of environment, quality and costs has moved a step further to incorporate safety issues.

This is mainly because the main element in the business equation, the human being, is also part of the environment, and buying injurious products puts the risk on both the consumer and his surroundings including workers in a manufacturing plant that produces the dangerous product.

Mining organisations in Zimbabwe need to be commended for taking the lead in observing safety, health and environmental issues.

The challenge however remains, who will monitor hazardous substances and products that are not easy to distinguish?

Is our regulatory system seriously concerned about disposal of dangerous waste in the country to compel adoption of green procurement in organisations?

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