[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.
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.
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
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.