Policy on Green Procurement - Questions and Answers

Questions

  1. What is green procurement?
  2. What is the Policy on Green Procurement?
  3. What is life cycle assessment?
  4. Which federal government organizations or agencies are required to implement the Policy on Green Procurement (PGP)?
  5. What types of purchases are affected by the Policy on Green Procurement?
  6. How is the Policy on Green Procurement being implemented?
  7. What is PWGSC's role in implementing the Policy on Green Procurement?
  8. What other departments have a specific role in green procurement?
  9. What roles do departments and agencies have in the implementation of the Policy on Green Procurement?
  10. What can I do to implement the Policy on Green Procurement?
  11. What is an environmentally preferable (i.e. green) good?
  12. What is an environmental preferable (i.e. green) service?
  13. What are environmental performance considerations?
  14. How will you know that companies are accurately representing the environmental attributes of their goods and services?
  15. Will green procurement cost more?
  16. What progress has been made to implement green procurement?
  17. Where can I find more information on commodity management and green procurement plans?
  18. What are some examples of goods and services being "greened" or environmental performance considerations in procurement instruments or standing offers?
  19. How is the government greening paper purchases?
  20. Can industry accommodate the federal government's green specifications? Is there an impact on Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs)?
  21. How does the Government of Canada Policy on Green Procurement compare to those in other jurisdictions?
  22. How is the Federal Government tracking and reporting on green procurement results?
  23. What information and tools are available to help departments and agencies implement the Policy on Green Procurement?
  24. Is there training available? And who will pay?
  25. To whom can I direct my questions in relation to green procurement?

Answers

Q1. What is green procurement?

Green procurement is the integration of environmental performance considerations into the procurement process. Goods and services are considered green when they have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment than competing goods or services that serve the same purpose.

Q2. What is the Policy on Green Procurement?

The Government of Canada Policy on Green Procurement came into effect April 1, 2006. The Policy strives to enable the government to procure, operate and dispose of its assets in a manner that protects the environment and supports sustainable development objectives. Given the federal government's significant annual purchasing volumes, we can have a positive impact in expanding the market for environmentally sound goods and services.

This policy applies to the procurement of goods, services and construction across all stages of the procurement process, from planning and acquisition through use, maintenance and disposal. It is set within the context of total value for money and life cycle assessment.

Q3. What is life cycle assessment?

Life cycle assessment means considering the environmental impacts of goods and services, from ‘cradle to grave' or from raw materials extraction to final disposal.

In the federal government context, the environmental impacts and relevant financial costs that occur throughout the planning, acquisition, use, operation and maintenance, and disposal of the good or service in question are identified. Those impacts and costs are then mitigated and reduced through integrating requirements in the solicitation process.

Q4. Which federal government organizations or agencies are required to implement the Policy on Green Procurement (PGP)?

The PGP applies to all departments and agencies as defined within the meaning of Section 2 of the Financial Administration Act. All other departments and agencies have the authority to establish their own policies and procedures on green procurement within the context of their governance framework.

Q5. What types of purchases are affected by the Policy on Green Procurement?

The PGP applies to all federal government procurement activities (goods, services and construction). The PGP requires that environmental performance considerations be embedded into the procurement decision-making process in the same manner as cost, performance, quality and availability. The objective is to integrate consideration for the environment into the federal government's normal business practices.

Q6. How is the Policy on Green Procurement being implemented?

The implementation strategy for the Policy on Green Procurement was established with the following principles:

  • Integration of environmental performance considerations in existing procurement processes, policies, procedures, tools and instruments;
  • Monitoring and reporting (e.g. through Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports) to support continuous improvement in the integration of environmental performance in procurement, including through the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy;
  • A coordinated government-wide approach to optimize information-sharing, consistency of approach and performance measurement.

Implementation activities are focussed in three key areas:

  • Inclusion of environmental specifications and evaluation criteria in centrally managed procurement administered by Public Works and Government Services Canada;
  • Development and sharing of green procurement information and tools such as guidelines and training to support all departments and agencies;
  • Systemic integration of environmental performance in procurement decision-making processes of all departments, including establishing departmental green procurement targets that are aligned with government priorities.

Q7. What is PWGSC's role in implementing the Policy on Green Procurement?

PWGSC provides information and tools to support the government-wide implementation of green procurement.

The Office of Greening Government Operations

The Office of Greening Government Operations works closely with Acquisitions Branch, Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada, to lead the overall management and support of government-wide implementation of the Policy on Green Procurement. It develops green procurement guidance and participates in ongoing monitoring and short-term evaluation of the policy implementation.

The Office of Greening Government Operations also leads the development and implementation of the government-wide Greening Government Operations table of the Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports. The Greening Government Operations table applies to departments and agencies bound by the Federal Sustainable Development Act, the Policy on Green Procurement, or the Policy Framework for Offsetting Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Major International Events and replaces the former Green Procurement table. The Office of Greening Government Operations provides support in setting and reporting against targets. To access related guidelines or for more information, see the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy information on the Office of Greening Government Operations website or contact the Office of Greening Government Operations at ecologisation.greening@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca.

Acquisitions Branch

As a common service provider of procurement services, PWGSC's Acquisitions Branch develops consolidated procurement instruments (e.g. standing offers, supply arrangements and contracts). This centralized approach provides an excellent opportunity for the government to green its purchasing and achieve value for money. The instruments support federal departments and agencies in meeting their green procurement targets by including environmental considerations, thus enabling the purchase of more environmentally preferable goods and services. Suppliers are actively engaged in this approach, through routine consultations with industry, via surveys and Requests for Information.

Acquisitions Branch develops commodity specific Green Procurement Plans, maintains the Green Language Repertoire (containing wording that was used in previous solicitation for evaluations criteria, clauses, requests for information, etc.) and a Green Goods and Services List.

Q8. What other departments have a specific role in green procurement?

Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada provide scientific, technical and environmental expertise. They support the development of guidelines, tools, core training and communication materials related to green procurement. They also assist with the evaluation of the PGP's effectiveness in achieving its objectives.

Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) issues guidelines to departments on planning and reporting against measures in their annual Report on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports, including green procurement commitments. TBS also ensures that the Core Competency Learning Curriculum for the procurement, materiel management and real property community incorporates green procurement.

Q9. What roles do departments and agencies have in the implementation of the Policy on Green Procurement?

All departments and agencies have a role to play in implementing the Policy on Green Procurement. Deputy Heads are accountable for incorporating environmental performance considerations in their procurement decision-making processes and establishing and reporting against green procurement targets based on their mandates, buying patterns and risks, as appropriate. Green procurement targets must be reported in the departmental Greening Government Operations table of the Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports. For more information, see the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy GuidelinesPubliservice Site - accessible to government employees only or contact the Office of Greening Government Operations at ecologisation.greening@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca.

Q10. What can I do to implement the Policy on Green Procurement?

Making informed choices about the goods and services we buy can make a real difference to the environment and improve the Government of Canada's resource efficiency. Green procurement is no longer limited to recycled paper! Today it covers all areas of business activity including furniture, IT equipment, office supplies and contracts for services, to name a few.

The Federal Policy on Green Procurement (PGP), launched in April 2006, is about achieving value for money. The Policy requires government employees to take into account environmental performance while continuing to consider other procurement decision-making factors such as cost, performance, availability and quality.

Here's what you can do to help implement the PGP:

Become Familiar with Green Procurement

The Canada School of Public Service offers a free online course on Green Procurement (C215). The Office of Greening Government Operations website offers a range of tools to increase awareness of green procurement.

Reduce Use

The greenest procurement is no procurement at all. Purchase only what is necessary and reuse as much as possible.

Use Standing Offers Wherever Possible

Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) is continually renewing standing offers for the most commonly procured goods and services and incrementally increasing the integration of environmental considerations.

Look for Environmental Certifications

There are now numerous reliable environmental labels and standards widely adopted by industry, including EcoLogoM, Green Seal, ENERGY STAR® and Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT®), which make it easy to identify environmentally preferable goods.

Include Environmental Considerations in Solicitation Documents

Environmental considerations can be reflected through specifications in the statement of work, evaluation criteria, bidding instructions and clauses and conditions. For ideas on environmental considerations that can be included in services contracts, look to PWGSC's Guideline for Greening Services Procurement. Check out PWGSC's Green Procurement Plans to learn about environmental considerations associated with specific goods and services. There is also guidance on developing green procurement specifications on the PWGSC website. Having difficulty with wording your environmental considerations? Consult PWGSC's Green Language Repertoire. Need more support? Contact the Office of Greening Government Operations at ecologisation.greening@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca or Acquisitions Branch's Green Procurement Team at Achatsecologiques.greenprocurement@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca.

Q11. What is an environmentally preferable (i.e. green) good?

An environmentally preferred good is one that is less harmful to the environment and human health when compared with competing goods that serve the same purpose. The good should have a reduced environmental impact over its entire life cycle.

Examples of environmental attributes include:

  • Reusable, contain reusable parts, are reused or refurbished;
  • Recyclable; local facilities exist capable of recycling the good at the end of its useful life;
  • Contain recycled material;
  • Produce fewer pollutants; produce fewer polluting by-products, such as greenhouse gas emissions and air contaminants, during manufacture, use or disposal;
  • Have a long service life and/or can be economically and effectively repaired or upgraded;
  • Reduce waste and make efficient use of resources, including water and energy;
  • Reduce the use of toxins and hazardous substances;
  • Use renewable resources; and
  • Use forest goods from sustainably managed forests.

Q12. What is an environmental preferable (i.e. green) service?

Green services are services that are environmentally preferable, having at least one attribute from at least one of the following three categories of environmental considerations for services;

  1. Supplier attributes

    This could include the implementation of standardized environmental policies and practices within the supplier's organization or certifications covering the supplier's general operations (e.g. ISO 14000). These must nevertheless be relevant to the services being delivered.

  2. Supplier operations when delivering a service

    This could include minimizing travel, administrative practices that reduce paper use and/or green service delivery certification (e.g. EcoLogoM).

  3. Goods and services used in service delivery

    Services can be green if the service provider uses equipment, consumables and/or other services that are environmentally preferable.

For more information consult the Guideline for Greening Services Procurement.

Q13. What are environmental performance considerations?

"Environmental performance considerations" refer to features or characteristics of the goods and services procured or could refer to supplier activities during the delivery of goods and services. These elements are reflected in the procurement process to identify goods or services that are environmentally preferable. They can be in the form of specifications in the statement of work, evaluation criteria, bidding instructions and clauses and conditions.

Features or characteristics of goods and services that reduce environmental impact include, for example, durability; reusability; reconditioned or remanufactured; bio-based; energy and water efficiency; resource efficiency (non-renewable and renewable); recycled content; and potential for good to be disassembled to allow component reuse. More information on these and more can be found in the Green Procurement Checklist. Other features to consider are those that result in reduction of: emissions of greenhouse gases or other air pollutants; bio-accumulative chemicals; ozone depleting substances; volatile organic compounds and particulate matter; pollutants released to water; and hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste. Find details under Key Environmental Issues and Green Procurement.

Environmentally responsible management by suppliers is also an environmental performance consideration. For example, vendors can demonstrate their environmental performance by maintaining an environmental management system based upon recognized standards such as International Organization for Standards (ISO) 14001 or Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).

For more ideas on environmental performance considerations related to the supplier, refer to the Guideline for Greening Services Procurement.

Q14. How will you know that companies are accurately representing the environmental attributes of their goods and services?

Suppliers are required to provide evidence that they meet the environmental performance considerations included in solicitations. This could take several forms including third party certification by an internationally recognized organization, environmental management systems, or demonstration of specific features, knowledge or experience. Normally, solicitations require that bidders acknowledge that the government relies upon its representation in order to evaluate bids and to enter into any resulting contract. Such representation and warranty is subject to verification in any manner the contracting authority may reasonably require. Should verification disclose a breach, the government may treat the contract as being in default, just as for any other contractual requirement.

Q15. Will green procurement cost more?

No. In fact, a 2009 European Union study (PDF Version - 1.66 MB) found that when taking into account life cycle costing and the total amount spent on all green commodities, green public procurement contributed to slight overall decreases in cost.

Furthermore, using a life cycle approach to examine costs associated with a commodity will allow us to consider not just the purchase price but also those costs associated with operating, maintaining and disposing of the good. Applying the life cycle approach and purchasing environmentally preferable goods and services can save money over the life of the good or service. The life cycle approach may also reduce risks associated with environmental impacts.

The Policy on Green Procurement is founded on the principle of value for money and requires the integration of environmental performance considerations into the life-cycle costs of goods, services and construction, as opposed to focusing only on the up-front acquisition costs. Many factors will be taken into consideration when assessing "value" and making procurement decisions, for example, quality, performance, price, environmental performance and availability.

Q16. What progress has been made to implement green procurement?

Significant progress has been made in implementing the Policy on Green Procurement.

Fundamental policy machinery is in place, including:

The Government of Canada establishes government-wide standing offers for commonly procured goods and services. Departments purchase from these standing offers. The standing offers are continually being renewed and government officials seek to include increasingly stringent environmental performance considerations in each renewal. For examples, see the Green Goods and Services List.

Where no standing offer exists, the environmental considerations used for standing offers of similar goods and services can be used in other procurement activity. The guidance and tools found on the Office of Greening Government Operations website and the Acquisitions Branch Green Procurement website should also be consulted.

Q17. Where can I find more information on commodity management and green procurement plans?

Consult the Green Procurement Team of PWGSC's Acquisitions Branch at AchatsEcologiques.GreenProcurement@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca for more information or visit the following sites on Procurement Advice and Support, commodity management and green procurement plans.

Q18. What are some examples of goods and services being "greened" or environmental performance considerations in procurement instruments or standing offers?

Consult the Green Goods and Services List, Supply Arrangements and Contracts, where you will find the instruments currently available and their associated environmental specifications and criteria.

Q19. How is the government greening paper purchases?

The Government of Canada establishes government-wide standing offers for commonly procured goods and services, including paper. As per the Supply Manual, Departments are required to purchase paper from the standing offer issued by PWGSC. Some of the environmental attributes include:

  • Certified paper from sustainably managed forests (CSA, FSC, SFI or equivalents) and/or by EcoLogoM;
  • Minimum 30% recycled content paper

For a detailed list of attributes visit Green Procurement Plan - Scorecard for Photocopy Paper (multi-purpose).

Q20. Can industry accommodate the federal government's green specifications? Is there an impact on Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs)?

Environmental requirements for federal government procurement are aligned with the capacities of suppliers, including small and medium enterprises. Extensive market analysis, such as industry consultations and requests for information (RFIs), are regularly conducted to ensure the procurement process remains fair and competitive. The environmental performance specifications included in procurements are based on what is attainable by a significant portion of the industry. New standards are introduced incrementally and along well-laid timeframes, ensuring industries of all sizes can respond and react strategically. The goal is not to limit competition, but rather to communicate that the Government of Canada seeks to encourage industry practices related to environmental performance. In many cases, SMEs are quicker to innovate and lead in the greening of goods and services.

Furthermore, Canada's environmental technology industry is largely composed of SMEs. The implementation of the Policy on Green Procurement is expected to foster innovation and help stimulate the growth of the industry and demand for environmentally preferred goods and services.

Q21. How does the Government of Canada Policy on Green Procurement compare to those in other jurisdictions?

The Policy is aligned with current international trends; for example, the U.K. and Australia are also using a life cycle approach for federal procurement. In most other jurisdictions, the decision to include environmental criteria in procurement is carried out on a transactional basis by individual procurement agents. The Canadian government is somewhat unique in its centrally managed commodity management activities: PWGSC systematically embeds environmental considerations into goods and services procurement instruments used by all departments and agencies.

Q22. How is the Federal Government tracking and reporting on green procurement results?

In accordance with the Policy on Green Procurement, all departments and agencies are required to report their forecasted and actual progress on green procurement annually through the Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP) and Departmental Performance Report (DPR), respectively. Beginning in 2008/09 TBS Guidance provided specific instructions to all departments and agencies on how to report their progress on green procurement in their annual RPP and DPRPubliservice Site - accessible to government employees only.

Beginning with departmental Reports on Plans and Priorities 2011-2012, departmental green procurement commitments will be captured in the Greening Government Operations Table. For more information, see the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy GuidelinesPubliservice Site - accessible to government employees only or contact the Office of Greening Government Operations at ecologisation.greening@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca.

Q23. What information and tools are available to help departments and agencies implement the Policy on Green Procurement?

In addition to interdepartmental Green Procurement Forums and information sessions, primary green procurement information, tools and guidelines have been developed to create awareness and understanding of how the PGP can be implemented and how green procurement targets can be established and reported. These tools are accessible on the Green Procurement Tool Kit and Acquisitions Branch Green Procurement web sites.

Q24. Is there training available? And who will pay?

The government-wide online green procurement course (Green Procurement (C215)) was launched in April 2007 on the Canada School of Public Service e-learning tool. The half-day course is free to most government departments and agencies and is a mandatory e-learning course in the Professional Development and Certification Program for the Procurement and Materiel Management Community.

Q25. To whom can I direct my questions in relation to green procurement?

For more information, please contact Public Works and Government Services Canada – Office of Greening Government Operations: ecologisation.greening@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca.

For information on specific consolidated procurement instruments that integrate environmental considerations, contact Acquisitions Branch's Green Procurement Team: achatsecologiques-greenprocurement@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca.