The opportunities are five-fold:
- Changing consumer behaviour and expectations – the increasing emphasis on buying green and ethical and is changing consumer behaviour and expectations, not just for individual purchases but also for organizational purchases. Purchasers increasingly recognize that without due diligence on ethical and environmental considerations, their supply relationships can come under media scrutiny.
- Increasing supplier interest and willingness to engage – the interest in sustainable purchasing is high and suppliers are increasingly willing to engage with purchasers and support them in meeting their policy and program goals. There are also an increasing number of models, resources, tools and techniques to ensure more streamlined program development.
- Proliferation of credible standards and certification – over the past decade, considerable efforts have been devoted to standardized certification and labeling systems to foster the development of the sustainability marketplace. Certification systems with prominent brands make it much simpler for organizations to make good decisions and work with credible organizations. These systems are scientific, specifications-oriented, and typically verified by an independent third-party agency.
- Supply availability and affordability – the growing environmental and social consciousness in North America, if not the world, has led to an increase in the availability and affordability of sustainable products. The market for innovative products that consider environmental and social factors is growing steadily, with sustainable products sometimes costing less than their less-sustainable counterparts.
- Institutional support and collaboration – numerous resources are available from institutions, think-tanks and not-for-profit organizations to guide organizations along the path of sustainability purchasing program and policy development.
With innovation comes challenges and pioneers in green and ethical purchasing have encountered. The City's development of the Sustainable Environmental and Ethical Procurement Policy (SEEPP) was careful to pay particular attention to these areas including:
- the potential scope of the policy and/or program;
- possible price premiums associated with certain 'preferred' goods and services;
- participation and ownership of the policy by internal stakeholders during policy phase-in; and
- securing adequate resources to implement policies.
Many municipalities are approaching sustainable purchasing by starting with a small number of commodities to demonstrate success to the organization and internally build a culture of support and participation in the program or policy.
The University of Toronto is also conducting research on the development of a standardized program to verify suppliers and determine compliance on codes of conduct.
More SEEPP information is available on Sustainable Environmental & Ethical Procurement Policy(SEEPP).