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Turning clean into green

11 December 2015

Nigel Crunden, business specialist at Office Depot, provides advice on promoting sustainability in the procurement process

Reducing the environmental impact of everyday activities and striving towards increased sustainability remain a priority for many businesses. For facilities managers, and those involved in the procurement of cleaning supplies, small changes to the decision making process and procurement protocol can drive huge benefits. While cost and quality have long been key drivers for buyers, the selection of green products must also be a focus, including the regular review of products and a push for continuous positive improvement.

Examine current impact

Before any changes are made, it is essential that businesses evaluate the current carbon footprint of their organisation. A full inventory of products, deliveries and cost should be collated and used as a tool to benchmark future progress. This knowledge is also instrumental in the consolidation process, allowing buyers to ensure that all operational needs are addressed when approaching potential suppliers.

Order consolidation

The frequency of deliveries and the number of individual suppliers involved in the procurement of products is a good place to start when examining how to increase efficiencies. Even small deliveries which arrive at a nominal cost can be incorporated into a larger order, and, where possible, the number of suppliers should also be reduced. Each individual order requires packaging, sorting and transportation, so consolidating this into one weekly or monthly order through one supplier can reduce the amount of packaging required, the number of vehicles on the road and lead to significant cost savings.

When deciding upon a preferred supplier, businesses should aim to form a strategic partnership with a firm that is able to provide consultation and advice on how to increase sustainability, as well as boasting a wide product range. Experienced sales reps should be encouraged to suggest greener alternatives to the business during the ordering process, as well as keeping buyers up to date with new or improved products.

Replace the traditional with the eco-friendly

There is a misconception within the procurement industry that the selection of green alternatives may require businesses to compromise in price or product quality. While this may have been true in the infancy of the green cleaning movement 20 or so years ago, this is no longer the case. Eco-friendly solutions have been developed to incorporate increased quality, ease of use and are subject to stringent testing procedures before market release.

One simple way to reduce the environmental impact of the procurement process is to replace ready-made solutions with concentrated products. Just 1.4 litres of super-concentrated solution can be used to make 350 trigger spray bottles of cleaning product when diluted via a controlled dosing system. This significantly reduces the amount of packaging and deliveries required, as well as driving savings. Crucially, the end product will only be effective if dosing is carefully monitored, therefore health and safety managers must be sure to provide staff with the correct training.

Similarly, waste reduction and increased efficiencies can also be enjoyed by introducing the use of multi-purpose cleaners. Adopting one product to do a number of jobs, rather than using four or five individual solutions, can drive cost savings and simplify the buying process.

Ensure end-user engagement

Any changes to cleaning products, deliveries or ordering protocol should be clearly communicated to staff, and, if required, training provided to ensure new products are used correctly. Employees should be encouraged to provide feedback on the efficacy of new solutions to ensure that cleaning standards remain high. These suggestions and insights are invaluable tools when looking to drive continuous positive improvement in the procurement process.