The Importance of a Green Procurement Policy

Besides a solid sustainability policy, there is one other policy that anyone interested in Green AV needs to know about. Plus, it is actually an integral part of the sustainability policy. This is a procurement policy, which outlines an organization’s formal procedures and considerations for purchasing goods and services. Companies that implement formal, strategic procurement policies demonstrate a focus on long-term cost savings, risk management and internal efficiency.

Besides the benefits to the company, there is possibly no other business practice with as much potential to lower the environmental footprint of a company than the conscientious management of a greener supply chain. As we know from basic economic theory, demand drives supply. When a customer requests that goods and services be designed, manufactured and delivered in a more responsible manner, we see the vendors begin changing their practices, which then forces them to make the same requests of their suppliers, and so on. There is also an improvement in the ability to manage the life cycle of products. Rather than focusing on just how to handle the end life of a product (i.e., policies on recycling), responsible procurement allows for taking a step back to take into account how the product was made. Procurement asks questions such as, “Is it made from recyclable materials?” or, “Does the manufacturer preserve labor rights and have a diversity program for hiring?”

So what does this look like for an AV company? Here is a quick outline of suggested steps and considerations:
1.    Plan: Be sure that you have a sound sustainability policy and the right people in place. Do initial research on what is available in the market for products and services. Take a one-step-at-a-time approach, and focus on one or two areas where you determine you can have the most impact. For instance, will it be energy efficiency and/or waste management?

You might want to include social considerations as well. Look at the human/labor rights policies of vendors; buy local (and produce an environmental benefit as well); think about diversity in terms of gender and the empowerment of women or other underrepresented groups.

2.    Implement: To make the implementation as easy as possible, from one department to the next, devise some standard processes and language. Perhaps you include wording that can be used for any product purchase, such as saying preference will be given to suppliers who:

  • Show 50 percent electricity is generated from renewable sources at manufacturing plants
  • Have an EMS such as ISO 14001
  • Have a written sustainability policy
  • Demonstrate experience with environmental projects
  • Have certified their products with a verifiable eco-label

Begin to include these clauses in your purchase orders. Make sure your specifications clearly focus on the desired outcomes, and communicate to vendors why you are requesting such specs. When there are no environmental data available, ask why. Begin the process of asking to help catalyze industry change.

3.    Continuity: I know you’re so sick of hearing me say it that you’ll bat me over the head next time you see me, but measurement and reporting, year after year, are instrumental to determining the success of a plan. Measure the impact you’ve had as an organization by implementing such a plan. And make sure this is distributed both internally and externally, where all stakeholders can see, from potential vendors, to investors, to employees.

When I first began asking our suppliers to provide environmental data on their products and services, they most often would look at me blankly (and, usually, with understandable annoyance). However, here we are just five years later and I can now pinpoint about 40 percent of our suppliers who can provide some type of sustainability information. And, that my friends, is precisely how this girl planned it.

Midori Connolly is CEO and Chief AVGirl of Pulse Staging & Events, Inc. in Escondido, California. She wrote the first-ever set of Sustainable Staging guidelines after discovering none existed. She is the vice-chair of the AV committee for the U.S. EPA’s Green Meetings Standards and regularly speaks and writes about corporate social responsibility and green practices in live events and meeting planning. Reach her at