While the economy and healthcare are receiving the most airtime during this Canadian federal election, polls show that the environment remains a top election issue. However, meaningful discussion of environmental concerns has been seriously lacking within the overall debate.
After reviewing the environmental and sustainability components of the main parties’ election platforms (Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Green Party) we were sadly disappointed to see little mention of sustainable purchasing as a key component of their strategy (we did find a short section at the end of the Green Party’s Vision Green – section 6.4 to be exact)
Not surprisingly, all the parties have environmental promises in the area of action against climate change and supporting cleaner forms of energy. While support for a green economy varies across the parties, all show favour for employment in the environmental sector, whether it’s through investment in renewable energy, clean technologies, energy efficiency or related research and development.
Missed opportunity: ethical and sustainable purchasing investment
The Canadian Government spends over $20 billion per year on goods and services on behalf of Canadians – a huge opportunity to contribute directly to a green economy.
Beyond supporting environmental protection, purchasing decisions that consider labour conditions and support a local economy would round out a purchasing program to its fullest triple-bottom line potential. Among the advantages of an effective ethical and sustainable purchasing program are enhancing the image of the national government as a sustainability leader, mitigating legal and brand risks, reducing costs by selecting products with less waste, energy consumption and product related health concerns.
While the government of Canada currently has a green purchasing policy, Reeve Consulting knows from our experience working with the public sector across Canada that policy alone does not necessarily equate to significant impact and benefits. What’s needed is a clear plan for implementation, and perhaps most importantly, training and staff capacity to ensure success. Basically, a level of investment that would fit well in the environment section of an election platform.
Large investment for even larger returns
While we fully acknowledge it takes resources to achieve an effective ethical and sustainable purchasing program, the potential results are huge.
Few other programs can directly contribute to multiple sustainability agendas around climate leadership, energy efficiency, waste reduction, local economic development, strategic sourcing and government employee engagement.
Moving in the right direction
We realize that transitioning $20 billion in spending to responsible and sustainable procurement program takes time. However we can’t help but notice the lucrative opportunities to support green products and technologies that continue to pass the government by, including low hanging fruit in the form of the G20 dignitary gifts, and more complex, but full of potential, stimulus spending in Canada’s Economic Action Plan.
Adoption of the Government of Canada’s green purchasing policy is a good first step and suggests Ottawa is on the right track, but we’d like to see far more – from both the current Conservative Government (oops! Harper Government) as well as those that would like to assume a leadership position within parliament.
Be sure to get out and vote on May 2 and next time you run into your MP raise the issue of responsible purchasing and sustainable supply chains