Dispelling the Green Procurement Myth

[Greener Museums Newsletter] Dispelling the Green Procurement Myth

Sent Tuesday, September 20, 2011


As summer is now officially over (though I wonder whether it was

ever really here in the UK!) it’s a great opportunity to network

with colleagues and find out what they are doing on sustainability.

Fall is typically conference season, and opportunities abound to

learn about the best practices and innovations. Those of you in the

UK have an opportunity to learn about some of the best practices

I’ve helped PLB Limited to develop with respect to sustainable

exhibition design. You can read more about that below. And this

month’s feature article dispels the myths around green procurement.





Going Green Through Sustainable Design

Come join me at the Museums Association Annual Conference in

Brighton! I’ve worked with PLB Limited to develop an initiative for

green design in exhibitions. Our participatory seminar introduces

the Green Design Initiative, developed by PLB and Greener Museums,

which aims to embed sustainability within the exhibition design

process. Delegates will be challenged to identify the ways in which

sustainability can be considered. Pilot project Southend Museums

will also explain how it is “going green”. Visit the Museums

Association website to register.


Dispelling the Green Procurement Myth


Green procurement is an often misunderstood phrase. But in plain

terms it is simply a policy to purchase wherever possible, products

and services that minimise environmental impacts, products that are

more sustainable environmentally, economically and socially.


While it is far from an easy fix, it is not as complicated as some

might believe. But regardless to how easily green procurement can

be implemented; the main barrier is often the misconception that

the green option is the more expensive option.

To dispel this myth, let’s consider the rationale behind greening

your supply chain, and understand the benefits that can be achieved

with green procurement.


Lifetime Cost

Green procurement is more often a cost reduction exercise. The

trouble is people rarely compare apples for apples when sourcing

new equipment. When deciding which product to buy, and which the

greener option is, it is vital to consider the full cost of the

item, across its whole life. This includes the upfront purchasing

costs, as well as the usage costs for its whole lifetime and

disposal costs at the end of its life, and indeed how long its

life-span actually is. These factors are especially important when

the usage costs are by far the main bulk of the total costs, so

things like IT equipment, and lighting.



For example, an energy efficient printer may cost more money up

front, but if you are able to save 75% on energy consumption over a

5 year lifetime, then it actually becomes by far the cheaper option

in the long run.


Price parity

Day to day items such as paper and other stationary are often

thought to be more expensive. But the reality is that these

products are the same price, or more often than not, cheaper than

the non-sustainable alternative. So if your current supplier is

charging more for recycled paper, it’s time to look around for one

that isn’t!



For a museum, nothing is more valuable than your reputation, and

green procurement helps this in two ways. Firstly it protects your

existing reputation. By ensuring you have a sustainable supply

chain, you are ensuring there are no nasty surprises that could

damage your reputation if discovered. Consider the damage the

reputations of Nike or Nestle suffered as a result of problems

discovered in their supply chain. Each company has spent many

millions of dollars simply fire fighting, in order to win their

reputations back. And it is not that easy, many would argue that

their reputations will be damaged for a very long time, if not

forever. I realise that this is a slightly different scale to many

of you, but it serves to prove a point; your reputations are

valuable, and if you damage it, then fixing it is an expensive, and

often impossible task. So look after it.


As well as protecting your reputation, a sustainable policy can

enhance it. The green consumer is no longer a niche market. Over

75% of people actively consider the environmental impact of the

products and services they consume at least some of the time, and

this number is increasing at a rate. Tap in to this market and

shout about your green purchasing policies to them. Let people know

what you are doing to be green and your reputation will quickly

benefit from this.

A green supply chain is no longer the luxury of the cash rich

organisation. Far from being a financial burden, if done properly

it will reduce your costs both in the short term and in the long

term, as well as protecting and enhancing your valuable reputation.