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sustainable procurement

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Sustainable procurement is the meeting of business needs for materials, goods, utilities and services in an environmentally-friendly, responsible and ethical way.

Companies dedicated to sustainable procurement try to make economical and effective long-term decisions that benefit the company, customers, society and the environment. For example, beyond initial costs of a product, the cost of the product lifecycle are assessed. This assessment includes the product’s cost of acquisition and maintenance as well as costs associated with the end of service time, such as disposal. Once these product considerations are met, a buyer would also avoid products produced by exploitative labor or environmentally-irresponsible producers and would favor fair trade companies. Supply chain sustainability is integral to sustainable procurement.

Economic irresponsibility has always had the capacity to destroy a company. Increasingly, customers also strongly disapprove of irresponsibility to the environment and society -- customers who, in the age of social media, are likely to find about transgressions. Easier access to information and communication also helps consumers respond to corporate malfeasance, sharing information, for example, and organizing boycotts. This consumer pressure and the desire for good public relations helps drive corporate initiatives like sustainable procurement and promotes corporate accountability and transparency.

This was last updated in June 2016

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