Procurement Campaigns in the United States
In the U.S., consumer advocates and environmental organizations have developed several campaigns to hold governments and corporations accountable to better procurement practices. Education has been key in establishing environmental performance guidelines for various product categories.
Each of the campaigns/NGO-led programs listed below highlights some of the key priorities that need to be taken into account when developing environmentally friendly procurement programs. Several of the programs also offer product recommendations based on established criteria.
INFORM’s PBT-Free Procurement Program
INFORM, a research organization based in New York City, has found that more than 90 percent of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals (PBTs) such as mercury, lead, and dioxins are leaving factories not as waste but in consumer and industrial products. PBTs are extremely harmful materials that have been connected with various types of cancer, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Many products used everyday, such as electronic goods, furniture, clothing, and cleaning products, contain PBTs, which we are exposed to during the production, use, and disposal of the product’s lifecycle. INFORM has been working with state and local governments to develop environmentally friendly procurement practices whereby governments prioritize PBT-free products. INFORM has developed product information for the following categories:
- Art departments
- Building construction and maintenance departments
- Public works departments and vehicle maintenance facilities
- Mercury-containing products and alternatives
- Mercury-containing products and alternatives for healthcare facilities
Please visit INFORM’s website for more information on their procurement program as well as for PBT-free recommended products.
Washington Toxics Coalition (WTC)
Washington Toxics Coalition has helped Washington State become a leader in phasing out the use of PBTs. Washington has enacted an Executive Order that mandates the phase-out of some of the most dangerous PBTs, such dioxin, lead, and mercury. Following suit, the City of Seattle adopted a resolution to reduce the use of PBTs through their purchasing program. Initially the procurement programs will focus on chlorine-free paper, polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-free building materials and office supplies, and nonmercury auto switches. This program will encourage other cities and governments to adopt similar purchasing guidelines which will send strong market signals that businesses need to find safer alternatives to PBTs for all product categories. Visit WTC’s website for more information on their PBT programs.
Health Care Without Harm (HCWH)
HCWH has been working with major medical suppliers, hospitals, and state and local governments to phase out the use of mercury and PVC-added medical products. The campaign has had great success with significantly reducing the use of these products by shifting market demand to cleaner products. Four major group purchasing organizations (Broadlane, Consorta Inc., Premier Inc., and Novation) that buy supplies for more than 70 percent of healthcare facilities in the United States, have committed to reducing the use of medical products containing mercury, polyvinyl chloride, and the chemical plasticizer DEHP. The buying power of these four corporations will send ripples through the marketplace, making it very difficult to justify using harmful materials.
For more information on HCWH, please visit their website.
Green Seal is an independent, nonprofit organization that helps governments identify cleaner products and services that cause less toxic pollution and waste, conserve resources and habitats, and minimize global warming and ozone depletion through an ecolabeling program. Green Seal conducts a lifecycle evaluation of the product category analyzing the major environmental impacts in each lifecycle stage including resource extraction, production, distribution, use, and eventual disposal or recycling. The purpose of this evaluation is to ensure that the environmental criteria selected will not lead to the transfer of impacts from one stage of the lifecycle to another or from one medium (air, water, land) to another without a net gain in environmental benefit. The development of this product information has helped governments and other institutions meet the goals of their environmentally preferable purchasing programs.