The power of purchasing green

The Fairmont Dubai public relations manager - and eco-champion - Alka Patel tells Hotelier Middle East readers about the pros of buying green and the benefits of eco-labelling organizations.
The power of purchasing green
By Administrator
Thu 06 Dec 2007 05:35 PM

An anonymous writer once said environmental stewardship is a journey, not a destination. In this month's green team meeting, we looked at green purchasing policies.

Buying green often finds its way into popular discourse when looking at products that are not environmentally friendly and can deplete scarce resources and pollute the air, water or land when they are manufactured, transported and used, as well as when they are disposed of.

“You should ask very specific questions of suppliers to verify that they meet your standard”

In a 2005 study, blood samples were taken from 14 environmental ministers from 13 European countries. All were found to be contaminated with PCBs, pesticide residues, brominated flame-retardants and perfluorinated chemicals, and most with phthalates and synthetic musk. While many of these chemicals have been banned, many others are still used in everyday products.

Don't ever underestimate the buying power of your hotel. It is significant, as you can exercise a responsible buying strategy that incorporates a green procurement policy. With such a policy, your hotel makes a commitment to buying cost effective products that have a minimum impact on the environment.

Although there are challenges in buying green on a large scale in Dubai, green procurement has the following advantages: it can be cost effective; it's good for your community; buying green reduces pollution; and buying green increases the market for such products.

As you develop a procurement policy, consider the following principals: make environmental considerations a central component of the purchasing decision-making process; integrate these with economic considerations; consider the life cycle cost of all goods - including fees and liabilities from production, use and disposal - rather than initial purchase price; evaluate suppliers' environmental performance; and monitor changes over time. For example, find out how they are eliminating waste at the source.

Any supplier can tell you that their products are environmentally friendly, but you should ask very specific questions of suppliers to verify that they meet your standard. Such questions should include:

• Do you have a corporate policy, vision statement or action plan that applies to your company's environmental and social performance?

• Do you have an environmental management system in place to deal with environmental risks and opportunities?

• Do you regularly review environmental guidelines to ensure that your company is following all applicable laws?

• Have you conducted an environmental audit of your company's operations within the last year, and how often do you audit?

• Do you monitor the environmental impact of your products?

• Is the environment a consideration in your future research and development plans?

ECO-LAB: Setting the standards

Eco-labelling is one of the many ways to make your procurement policy easier. The Global Eco-labelling Network (GEN) is a non-profit association of eco-labelling organisations from around the world. These organisations evaluate products using a life cycle approach, which ensures that all significant environmental impacts of a product are considered, from raw materials extraction through manufacturing to use and disposal.

A product or service may be certified because it is made or offered in a way that improves energy efficiency, reduces hazardous or toxic by-products, reuses recycled materials and prolongs its life or allows it to be reused.

Currently, the members of GEN include 28 eco-labelling organisations from Europe, Asia and North and South America.

At The Fairmont Dubai, our purchasing policy - which is in fact a company-wide policy - is one that embraces eco-lab approved cleaning products used in all housekeeping, kitchen and stewarding operations.

A good eco-label is backed by an independent organisation that will verify that a product meets a set of meaningful and consistent standards for environmental protection and/or social justice. A good eco-label will also keep the label consistent in meaning among different products. It publicly discloses information about organisational structure, funding, board of directors and certification standards, and does not have ties to, or receive any funding from, the sale of certified products or contributions from logo users beyond fees for certifications.

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