The Greening of Procurement Revisited (Part 2)

Posted on June 12, 2008


As a follow-up to my post from earlier this week, I am pleased to present Part 2 of the 2 part Greening of Procurement Series: It’s Not Easy Being Green!

For those of you who would like to delve even deeper into the factors that are shaping both public and private sector sustainability strategies, including case studies on companies such as Kodak and Ford, you can purchase ($20) my white paper titled The Greening of Procurement: How Social Consciousness is Re-Shaping Procurement Practices ( 

You will also find my seminar, Sustainability Facts and Fiction: Linking Green Idealism and Practical Business Application, to be quite beneficial in mapping out a strategy for your own organization.  Contact your regional or national purchasing association for details, or contact me directly at 


The Greening of Procurement (Part 2) – Reprinted from July 26, 2007


Are environmental considerations truly the central element of recently emerging green programs, or are they an advantageous, politically correct by-product of an existing strategy that is linked to more “traditional” motives?

While the EcoMarkets 2007 Survey adroitly provided us with an unbiased look into the mindset of the purchaser, the attitude (and actions) of vendors requires equal consideration to accurately answer the “motive” question.

Green Snake Oil?

In his July 24th article titled Green IT: Marketing ploy or new tech? (to obtain a copy of the article send me an e-mail at with “Green IT” in the subject line), Bruce Hoard introduces us to the term “Greenwashing.”

Referencing comments from a Greg Schulz interview (Schulz is the founder and senior analyst at the Stillwater, Minnesota-based StorageIO Group), Hoard reports Schulz’s assertion that the “green” behind recent green IT efforts has less to do with the environment and more to do with a vendor’s bank roll.

One example Schulz gave was Hewlett-Packard’s announcement of its Adaptive Infrastructure offering in June.  While the manufacturer claims that this new, green storage technology can cut data center power and cooling costs by 50%, Schulz believes that this is “simply a shift to another technology,” that HP is touting as being part of a green initiative.

While Schulz does believe that “virtualization can help reduce the number of servers,” he questions whether the reduction actually translates into any meaningful, bottom line savings?  This is a good question, and one for which I do not have an immediate answer.  Perhaps this is the real issue with going green . . . the absence of tangible and verifiable data.  Although, even if these numbers were available, would it really matter at this stage?

But it’s good for you Mikey!

Like a movie that the critics applaud as being an artistic triumph, but the buying public won’t go and see, green procurement has numerous hurdles to overcome before actual conservation numbers become truly relevant.

Referring to the Province of Ontario’s highly successful energy efficient lighting program (see Part 1 of this posting), one has to ask the question, “would the high level of adoption by the business community have been the same without the substantial subsidy from the government? ”It is an important question given that the savings associated with energy efficient lighting would not have been realized if the same majority of businesses that had opted into the program had refused to make the change from their traditional lighting fixtures.

Even with products that have long been associated with green programs such as paper and cleaning supplies, traction has and continues to be an issue.  For example, the EcoMarkets 2007 Survey found that while “88% of American and 90% of Canadian organizations have a paper re-use and/or recycling program,” the existence of paper purchasing programs are still uncommon.

This is undoubtedly the reason why recent articles such as Bruce Hoard’s are introduced under the heading “for now, going environmental often means going alone.”   Or the findings of a recent BrainNet study which concluded that despite the growing awareness of “procurement’s environmental impact . . . few companies are incorporating green purchasing” into their overall procurement strategy.

So as I had concluded in Part 1 of this posting, just being green won’t be enough to win customers.  A clear demonstration of direct (and immediate) savings such as Ontario’s generous lighting subsidy or that Province’s suspension of sales tax must be established before the indirect or green savings can come to fruition.


To purchase a copy of the white paper The Greening of Procurement: How Social Consciousness is Re-Shaping Procurement Practices on-line, simply use the following URL Link and select the paper with the heading The Greening of Procurement: