What is Green Procurement?

Green Procurement refers to the acquisition of environmentally preferable products and services, which provide the same or improved function and performance, but are less harmful to human health and the environment than the next best alternative.  Practicing green procurement involves looking at what products are made of, where they come from, how they were made, how they are used and how they will be disposed. For services it involves looking at the how the services are supplied and what options are available to reduce the environmental impact of the service. It is part of a growing movement within industry, government and civil society toward more sustainable forms of production and consumption.

What are Environmentally Preferable Products and Services (EPPs)?

EPPs offer the same or improved function and performance as other comparable products and services, but are less harmful to human health and the environment. EPPs have a number of beneficial characteristics that include, but are not limited to:

  • making efficient use of energy, water and/or resources;
  • reducing waste and optimizes the use of consumables;
  • reducing pollution and emissions;
  • reducing the use and/or content of hazardous/toxic substances;
  • being reusable or containing reusable parts;
  • being recyclable (in whole or in part) and/or containing recycled materials;
  • incorporating optimal packaging and/or packaging take-back;
  • incorporating responsible end-of-life handling, decommissioning and/or take-back;
  • having a long service life and/or being able to be repaired, refurbished or upgraded economically; and
  • complying with the latest environmental legislation, if applicable.

What is an Eco-label?

An Eco-label is a mark/logo that gives assurance to the buyer – either public or corporate – that the products and services bearing the logo meet a set of environmental standards or specifications. Typically, Eco-labels are administered by organizations independent of manufacturers or suppliers. The environmental standards/specifications are developed based on the life cycle of the product or service through a stakeholder consultation process that includes industry. Many Eco-label administrators belong to the Global EcoLabelling Network (GEN), an association of third-party environmental performance labelling organizations dedicated to improving and promoting the eco-labelling of products and services. (Note: Although eco-labelling is voluntary [i.e. not mandatory by law], both public and corporate purchasers cite the underlying specifications when developing request for proposals (RFPs)/tenders in key product categories.)

What does the term “life cycle” mean?

Each product the TTC buys has a life cycle. The main stages in the life cycle are raw materials acquisition, manufacturing, transportation, use, maintenance and end-of-life (e.g. recycling, disposal to landfill, incineration).

Life cycle thinking refers to the consideration of the materials, energy, and other inputs and environmental releases (e.g. waste, emissions) involved in all of these stages and to determining ways to reduce environmental impacts and costs. The Life Cycle Diagram provides an overview of a typical product life cycle.

Are other organizations implementing green procurement practices?

Private and public sector organizations across the world are embracing environmentally responsible procurement practices. They are doing this in response to the demands of their key stakeholders (communities, consumers, employees, investors), but also to demonstrate leadership on environmental issues. Green and sustainable procurement networks and coalitions are being established in many cities as organizations recognize the benefits of combining their purchasing power. In addition to saving money, green procurement allows them to avoid risks, contribute to local economic development, improve employee morale and enhance their reputation with stakeholders.

How will the TTC’s new Green Procurement Policy stimulate innovation and market demand?

Since the TTC is a major purchaser of goods and services, this new policy will offer a wide range of vendors the opportunity to supply environmentally preferable products and services (EPPs). By aligning its purchasing power toward these types of products and services, the TTC will contribute to the demand for EPPs. Over time, this will spur innovation in the area of environmental technologies, products and services.