The Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN) recently published their annual Responsible Purchasing Trends 2009 report. This report summarizes socially responsible and environmentally sustainable purchasing practices and trends in 2008.
The RPN’s membership of 211 procurement and sustainability professionals was surveyed and 135 responded. Respondents included government agencies, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, religious congregations and corporations. Ninety-five percent of the respondents were from the United States and the remaining five percent were from Canada, Italy, Mexico and Spain.
It is interesting to note that the RPN’s membership more than doubled in 2008, and as result, responsible purchasing is on the rise! From January 2008 to January 2009 their membership grew from 97 to 211 members. Of the $53 billion dollars that is collectively spent annually by the 135 respondents, it is estimated that $4 – 10 billion of this was spent on socially and environmentally preferable goods and services in 2008.
Key Findings of the Responsible Purchasing Trends 2009 Report
The key findings of this survey are summarized in the Executive Summary of this report as follows:
Responsible Purchasing Policy & Criteria
Two out of three respondents have a responsible purchasing policy and two thirds of the rest say they expect to adopt one. Social and environmental concerns (e.g. energy efficiency, recycled content) are considered by many to be nearly as important as conventional procurement considerations such as cost, quality and supply.
Responsible Purchasing in Practice
The majority of respondents say they “actually consider” social and environmental criteria in most of their purchasing. Sustainability standards and certifications (e.g. eco-labels) are widely recognized and used. Many respondents report actually considering social or environmental issues even when they do not have a policy that specifically requires it.
New Members Bring Great Potential
While all but 11 respondents to the 2008 survey already had a formal or informal responsible purchasing policy, 43 of the 2009 respondents reported lacking such a policy – though 28 of those plan to adopt one. This show there is great potential to shift far more spending in a responsible direction.
Measuring & Reporting Impact
Respondents report minimal use of calculators that measure social, environmental or cost benefits related to their responsible purchasing. Similarly, fewer than one in four claim to publish an annual report summarizing their responsible purchasing activities.
Forecasting Future Trends & Opportunities
Nearly all respondents expect to do more responsible purchasing in the next two years. Factors they claim would increase their responsible purchasing include: more competitive pricing and better selection of responsible goods and services, and more training and education in responsible purchasing.
How Does this Compare to our Trend Research?
Reeve Consulting continuously conducts best practices and trends research related to responsible purchasing. The key findings of the RPN Responsible Purchasing Trends 2009 report are very similar to what we are identifying in our research. We agree that responsible purchasing is a rapidly growing trend and has moved to the forefront for many organizations as a strategy to help improve operational efficiency and reduce environmental impacts.
As stated in the RPN report, sustainability standards and certifications (e.g. eco-labels) are widely recognized and used. We have found that many organizations are using eco-logos to overcome the common challenge of identifying “green” products and services. This has lead to a boom in the development of eco-labels across North America, which is presenting a new layer of complexity. With the rapid influx of eco-labels in the marketplace, many purchasers are finding it difficult to sort through them all and identify the more trustworthy labels.
We have also discovered there is significant demand for more training and education in relation to responsible purchasing. Many purchasers would like a formal, accredited training program they could turn to in order to gain the knowledge they need to advance responsible purchasing within their organizations.
The RPN trends report is an important contribution to the field of responsible purchasing and Reeve looks forward to seeing how these trends advance overtime. By identifying and monitoring trends we can better understand how to support and advance responsible purchasing. For example, we see Reeve playing an important role in helping to meet the current demand that exists for training and education across North America.
Download this report: