Below is a blog post by Marcia Deegler, Director of Environmental Purchasing for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in preparation for the PSI Networking Conference Call, “Procurement: What role can it play in driving greater product stewardship?,” on Wednesday, Dec. 8th (2:00-3:30 p.m. EST). This blog discusses the importance of environmentally preferable products (EPPs), and the implementation of Executive Order 515, which directs all state agencies in Massachusetts to take human and environmental health into account when purchasing products. We will continue this discussion on our networking call. Please join us for the dialogue.
Governor Deval Patrick signed an Executive Order in October, 2009 that Establishes an Environmental Purchasing Policy for the Commonwealth and directs all state agencies to procure goods and services that conserve natural resources, reduce waste, protect public health and the environment, and promote the use of clean technologies, recycled materials, and less toxic products. By purchasing Environmentally Preferable Products, Commonwealth agencies will reduce the environmental impact of state operations and use the state’s purchasing power to encourage manufacturers and service providers to adopt high environmental standards into their products and operations.
The Commonwealth purchases an estimated $600 million of goods and non-construction services per year, which result in environmental and public health impacts related to the production, transport, use, and disposal of these products and services. This new policy requires all Commonwealth Executive Departments to reduce their impact on the environment and enhance public health by procuring Environmentally Preferable Products and services (EPPs) whenever such products and services are readily available, perform to satisfactory standards, and represent best value to the Commonwealth. EPPs include products and services that: contain recycled materials; conserve energy or water; minimize waste; are less toxic and hazardous; reduce the generation, release, or disposal of toxic substances; protect open space; and/or otherwise lessen the impact of such products or services on public health and the environment. The consumption of EPPs as a result of this policy should also serve to lower life-cycle costs, promote local economic development of these industries, encourage product stewardship and serve as a model for businesses, institutions, and individual residents.
The Commonwealth’s central procurement office, the Operational Services Division, and its Environmentally Preferable Products Procurement Program (EPP Program) have already made progress in integrating environmental and sustainability considerations into the many statewide contracts used by Commonwealth agencies, cities, towns, schools and others to procure the majority of their products and services. The EPP Program conducts activities in partnership with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and endeavors to green the purchasing practices of the state in recognition of the fact that procurement is an effective strategy for addressing environmental concerns and protecting public health. Acknowledging their high rate of success over the years, the Executive Order specifically tasks the EPP Program with working with agencies to implement the directives and places a particularly strong focus on identifying purchasing opportunities for reducing the use of toxic substances and materials.
This new policy actually came on the heels of a Massachusetts-lead multi-state contract for Green Cleaning Products and Programs, the largest public cooperative undertaking to date to expand the use of environmentally preferable cleaning products in public facilities across several New England states. The contract offers Massachusetts public entities competitive pricing by aggregating the purchasing volume from the participating states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York, while reaching out to local distributors and manufacturers of all sizes throughout the region in an effort to stimulate local economic growth.
While implementing the use of green cleaning products and practices promises to save money for the Commonwealth, equally important is the fact that the contract specifically requires virtually all chemicals offered under the contract (with the exception of disinfectants and sanitizers) to be third-party certified by either Green Seal or EcoLogo. The purpose of this requirement is to provide purchasers with the assurance that all green product claims – as well as a high level of product cleaning performance – have been verified by independent lab testing. In order to be awarded a contract, vendors also were required to offer training programs and tools to effect and monitor the department’s transition to green products and offer only supplies containing recycled content or other environmental attributes.
Third-party certifications and standards (e.g. Green Seal, EcoLogo, and Underwriters Laboratories), independent registration systems (e.g. EPEAT, WEEE) and other independent testing methods are increasingly becoming an important component in specifying products and services within the state contracting process. In lieu of an organization or company “claiming” to comply with industry standards, obtaining a third-party certification means they have made a commitment to invite an external third party to verify that their product or service does indeed comply with a particular standard. Third-party certification is a scientific process by which a product, process or service is reviewed by a reputable and unbiased third party to verify that a set of criteria, claims or standards are being met. Such certifications may also incorporate extended producer responsibility requirements within the criteria of the standard.
The advantages of requiring third-party certifications in contract bids and purchasing decisions are shared by the purchasers as well as the manufacturers and suppliers. For purchasers, a third-party certification provides a measure of conformity; it reduces the time, expense and technical expertise needed to analyze product claims for green and/or for performance and provides purchasers with independent laboratory tests backed up by a written assurance that the product meets the standard. Equally as important, using such certifications and standards sends a clear message to industry as to what a government or organization is looking for in the way of a green, high performing product.
For manufacturers and suppliers, the use of third-party certifications and standards in bids and contracts limits supplier risks and eliminates the need and expense of continually repeating tests to verify compliance with individual specifications. Third-party certifications and consensus-based standards can also eliminate the need for government to create bureaucratic laws and regulations that may restrict market access and delay the introduction of new technologies by innovative companies.
OSD now offers thousands of EPPs on literally dozens of statewide contracts. As these contracts are renewed and re-bid, the use of third-party certifications and industry standards are increasingly being used as required criteria in order to be awarded a contract. The purchases of EPPs have grown from about $5 million in 1995 to over $250 million for FY2009. The cost savings calculated as a result of these purchases amounts to over $1.5 million annually.