More and more organizations are looking at their supply chain to demonstrate environmental and social commitments in order to monitor and report on their performance. This is because governments, consumers and non-governmental organization are expecting companies to take more responsibility for where their products come from. Green procurement (GP) can help meet these expectations, it can help reduce the risk of brand/ reputation damage from potentially non-conforming suppliers and can also become a competitive advantage.

The Various Paths to Green Procurement

The approaches to Green Procurement (GP) have taken various shapes; with organizations developing their own internal standards and performance tools to assess supply chains; as well as public bodies such as the European Union and the UK government providing guidance and policy on their own public procurement.

Green procurement essentially refers to any environmental tool or criteria that an organization uses to interact with and assess its supply chain. Organizations have tended to take one of two approaches to the idea of GP, or a combined approach.

One common method is a product based approach where an organization concentrates on one or more of its products or services and assesses their environmental credentials and thus the credentials of suppliers for those product or services (i.e. the raw material supply). This path is used when an organization wants to better understand a specific product or product range for marketing or strategical purposes. It can also help to thoroughly evaluate a particular supplier’s processes.

A second common method involves evaluating the management practices and legal conformance of a
supplier to see whether an organization is at risk from its suppliers (risk posed to the brand or its environmental claims/credentials). An organization may wish to know that a supplier has the correct procedures or polices in place to perform to that organizations standard or to the legal minimum requirements in another (more stringent) market. This method helps profile suppliers and is useful when exploring large numbers and complex supply chains.

When selecting one of these methods it is important to know what it is you are aiming to achieve and just what it is green procurement means to your organization. You need to know what criteria are the most important to you and your customers.

Tools to Support your GP Strategy

There is no one approach right to Green Procurement, but there are different tools available to help assess your most important suppliers, be it to improve performance or to measure risks. These tools include: carbon footprinting, life cycle assessments of a product/ service from cradle to grave, following a product down the supply chain, systems certification and suppliers’ trainings to meet external standards (e.g. ISO14001), and other tools as shown in Figure 1.

Without a proper understanding of the key areas and criteria for your business to focus on and without a careful selection of the appropriate tools, you may not obtain the Green Procurement results you wanted.

Get the Best Support Available

SGS experts can help define a local procurement strategy and develop training and awareness programs for buyers and suppliers. Our sustainability experts can assist organizations at every step throughout their supply chains by assessing the most significant impacts through analysis of product life cycles and/or supply chain impacts.

For more info on SGS can support your Green Procurement initiative, take a look at our SGS Sustainability Services

Ian Allard
Sustainability Consultant

t: + 44 0203 008 7860


SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 67,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,250 offices and laboratories around the world.