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Benefits of Environmental Purchasing

EPP is “preventive medicine” that promotes the heath of the environment – reducing negative environmental or health effects related to products before they occur.

Downstream corrections of environmental or occupational health issues are almost always more costly – in terms of dollars, labor, technical complexity, and adverse publicity – than prevention. By carefully selecting goods and services, hospitals can:

  • significantly reduce their overall impact on the environment;
  • reduce costs with lower purchase prices or changes that eliminate some disposal or reduce the need for worker safety measures and hazardous waste disposal;
  • provide a healthier environment for patients, workers and employees through reduced exposure to hazardous substances in such products as cleaners, solvents and paints;
  • create opportunities for positive publicity and promotion.

In addition, EPP is a tool that can be used not only to generally improve facilities’ environmental performance, but to address existing issues with wastes, worker safety or patient comfort. For example, if you have had staff injuries from cleaning chemicals, adopting greener cleaning supplies may help reduce injury rates; if your hazardous waste costs are higher than you want, you may be able to reduce waste significantly by purchasing alternative chemicals or installing solvent recovery systems; you may be able to address staff and patient indoor air quality complaints through changing building materials such as carpet, furniture or wall coverings.

Why is the purchasing stage so important?

Nearly every waste that leaves a hospital came in through purchasing. Purchasing departments (or Group Purchasing Organizations) are the central standard-setting point for nearly every product or service used in the hospital.

During the procurement process, vendors compete to meet an institution’s specifications in order to win a contract, so it is a very effective point to request or require that vendors reduce the environmental impact of their products and services.

Environmental specifications can address numerous aspects of a product or service.

  • Product specifications can address chemical content, recycled content, less-toxic materials, user training, packaging, shipping, and end of life collection and recycling services.
  • Service specifications can require notification, worker training, data collection, audit trails, and other accountability measures to ensure high performance.

Ask your suppliers to track your purchases of environmentally preferable products so you can share your organization’s success and calculate environmental benefits. (See Get Your Suppliers to Help You Go Green: Five Easy Ways)

With proper planning, good communication, help from your Group Purchasing Organization, participation of affected staff and staged implementation of your initiatives, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing can become a valuable part of your overall environmental improvement efforts, and can increase the efficiency and safety of your operations in the process.

For more on how to implement an EPP program, return to Getting Started with EPP.

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