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A Look at Sustainable Procurement

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greenglasses.jpgBY SAMANTHA STEINBRING

On February 21, the NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise hosted its first in a new series of engagement webinars aimed at exploring in depth one of the many research initiatives NorthStar is currently working on. This first webinar, "Procurement in Sustainability: from Buying Green Products to Creating Green Solutions," discussed sustainable procurement and the issues that arise as government entities and companies try to stimulate "greener" products and supply chains. The webinar evoked stimulating discussion by the three guest speakers - Tim Smith, Nancy Gillis, and Kevin Dooley. It was a successful first webinar, with over 100 registrants and 70 attendees!

The dialogue focused on a two-part hypothesis as to why innovating greener products and supply chains has been met with such difficulty. One reason pertains to the high cost of research and development that goes into creating a greener product; the other alludes to the value of the investment for the cooperating company or institution. The fundamental question the discussion boils down to is: Is it worth the effort to look for greener products?
Kevin Dooley called attention to the lack of demand for green products in the marketplace.

Currently, "green purchasing" is not a strong consumer value because the impacts of that purchasing behavior are neither highly observable nor testable. Thus, it is difficult to measure the impacts and see the visible benefits of green purchasing. Nancy Gillis proposed that other barriers in the way of greener product procurement are factors such as cost, timeliness and quality. Sustainable procurement demands high investment on the parts of both the consumer and the procurer. How can we validate this investment and bring greener products to the marketplace?

A full recording of the webinar is available on the NorthStar Initiative website. You are encouraged to continue the dialogue, ask questions, and leave feedback on our blog. Join us for our second webinar April 17, where we will be exploring "The Energy Efficiency Supply Chain: Disaggregating and Reaggregating a Saved Kilowatt Hour."
  
Photo by Nadar, used under Creative Commons license

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