1. What is a responsible procurement policy?
First of all, it is necessary to make the distinction between a green procurement policy and a responsible procurement policy (RPP). The first focuses on environmental protection only, as it can be seen in the following excerpt from the Policy on Green Procurement of Canada’s Office of Greening Government Operations:
Environmentally preferable goods and services are those that have a lesser or reduced impact on the environment over their life cycle, when compared with competing goods or services serving the same purpose. Environmental performance considerations include, among other things: the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and air contaminants; improved energy efficiency and water resources savings; reduced waste and support reuse and recycling; the use of renewable resources; reduced hazardous waste; and reduced toxic and hazardous substances.2
According to the Guide de mise en place d’une politique d’achat responsable,3 written in partnership by the Centre international de solidarité ouvrière (CISO), the Coalition québécoise contre les ateliers de misère (CQCAM), and the Coalition étudiante Trans- Actions responsables (CÉTAR), a responsible procurement policy is defined as follows:
It is a policy adopted by an organization to govern all the purchases of goods and services made on its behalf. The Responsible Purchasing Policy (RPP) refers directly to fundamental labour rights, human rights and environmental standards. It requires the supplier to be transparent in disclosing the exact production sites of its goods. An RPP also obliges businesses and suppliers to establish an audit mechanism and provides for a procedure in case of non-compliance with the standards. Thus, suppliers who want to sell their products to an organization must comply with its responsible procurement policy.
The RPP, as opposed to the green procurement policy, accounts for human factors in addition to environmental factors. This more exhaustive policy should be preferred as it is a consistent tool for sustainable development policy implementation. By using your purchasing power, you support local business (when possible) and fair trade, contributing to a reduction in negative environmental impact.
Ideally, all your procurement should be governed by such a policy: housekeeping products, products sold in the shops (ban objects made of endangered species, such as ebony or ivory), food, beverages and various supplies (for food, office or maintenance services).
An RPP may result from a sustainable development policy: in such a policy, organizations integrate green and socially responsible procurement criteria. These criteria allow procurement to be consistent with the values endorsed by the policy:
- Reduce environmental impacts by taking the life cycle of good and services into account
- Favour social economy enterprises to foster positive social spinoffs
2 Public Works and Government Services Canada, Policy on Green Procurement, 2006,
3 2007, p6, http://www.ciso.qc.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/guideparweb1.pdf