The trust that administers Government’s eco-certification has called on it to accelerate work on a sustainable procurement scheme, saying New Zealand was 10-20 years behind the rest of the world, Thomas Coughlan reports.

The New Zealand Ecolabelling Trust has called on the Government to swiftly develop a state-sector procurement strategy to ensure that products bought by the Government meet minimum sustainability standards.

That’s big news from the independent trust that was itself set up by the Government in 2002 and charged with administering the Environmental Choice New Zealand label, which appears on many sustainably-sourced products.

The Trust’s General Manager Francesca Lipscombe told Newsroom that the lack of a sustainable procurement strategy for central Government put New Zealand 10 or 20 years behind the rest of the world, but successive Environment Ministers hadn’t given much support to the proposal.

Sustainable procurement strategies

A sustainable procurement strategy would mean that supplies like cleaning fluids or printer paper purchased by the Government would have to meet minimum sustainability requirements.

Agencies could be required to purchase products certified by Environmental Choice or Fair Trade when available, but it could also extend to ensuring technology purchases have a minimum ‘energy star’ rating.

Supporters of the scheme argue that as the largest purchaser in the country, the Government has the ability to create massive demand for sustainable products and encourage businesses to make their own product lines more sustainable.

Sustainable procurement in Japan and Korea

A United Nations report form 2017 highlighted some of the successes of Japan and Korea’s sustainable procurement policies.

Korea’s state expenditure on green procurement increased from US$254 million in 2004 to US$2.2 billion in 2014 as a result of green procurement policies.

Japan has one of the longest-running schemes, having first legislated the policy in 1994. It expanded the scheme in 2007 to ensure the government’s procurement strategy aligned with its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Green purchasing”, as it is known in Japan is mandatory for central government and voluntary for local government. There is no central purchaser, but a register of standards that individual products must meet.

The Japanese Environment Ministry has a list of over 270 “designated procurement goods” with accompanying minimum environmental standards, which the Government must use when buying supplies.

The minimum standards apply to everything from smartphones to copiers, metal blinds, and plywood.

Shiga prefecture, which was the first in Japan to establish procurement guidelines, managed to procure 94 percent of all office stationary, including computers and copiers, from the approved ‘green’ list.

Examples of product categories for Green purchasing in Japan

Reluctance from Government

Government has been slow to move on green procurement.

Before the election, the previous National-led government announced a target of converting one in every three vehicles in the Government fleet to electric by 2021.

Labour’s coalition agreement with New Zealand First included a commitment to convert the fleet of more than 25,000 vehicles to emissions-free by 2025/26 “where practicable”.

A report to Energy Minister Megan Woods said Government organisations were reluctant to convert to electric vehicles given the cost of the cars and a lack of infrastructure.

A separate briefing to State Services Minister Chris Hipkins found that Crown limosine were unimpressed by the BMW hybrids they were trialing as a potential replacement for the currently diesel-powered fleet.

Lipscombe said she had lodged a request to meet with Environment Minster David Parker to discuss implementing the procurement strategy.

Early work on a sustainable procurement strategy was begun under the Clark Government, but was never taken very far. Lipscome told Newsroom the National-led government had set procurement back to “square one”.

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