Japan for Sustainability Newsletter #004
GREEN PURCHASING AND GREEN PROCUREMENT IN MOTION
In recent years, green procurement activities have expanded and taken
root in various sectors in Japan. The three main players driving this
movement are governments, companies and NGOs/citizens.
National and local governments are implementing green procurement in
order to reduce their own environmental impacts and to promote awareness
and green purchasing activities among suppliers and citizens.
Many companies, desiring to contribute as corporate citizens to the
establishment of a sustainable society, also want to reduce the
potential environmental risks caused by their own suppliers and reduce
costs by reviewing production and business processes from the
perspective of the environment.
Japan ranks first in the world with the number of companies that hold
ISO 14001 certification, a global standard for environmental management
practices. Many companies have begun adopting green procurement
practices as a part of their efforts to implement ISO 14001. Not only do
they reduce waste emissions and the use of paper and electricity in
their companies, they also go a step further to consider the indirect
effects of their procurement activities on the environment.
The third major player is civil society, including citizen
organizations, environmental NGOs and the general public. They act on
the conviction that buying is as powerful as voting, and that they can
influence industry to make it more eco-friendly through their purchasing
Let us describe the activities of each of the three players.
In April 2000, the Japanese government adopted a series of laws to
address the pressing issue of the waste disposal facilities being pushed
to capacity. These laws include the Basic Law for Establishing the
Recycling-based Society, the Law on Waste Disposal and Cleaning, the Law
for Promoting Effective Utilization of Resources, the Law for Promotion
of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging, the Law
for Recycling of Specified Kinds of Home Appliances, the Law on
Construction Material Recycling, the Food Recycling Law, and the Law on
Promoting Green Purchasing.
In 1970, 14 laws that regulate pollution were adopted in rapid
succession, and these indeed were a driving force for Japan's measures
on pollution. The adoption of eight environment-related laws in 2000
will play an important role in shaping the framework for a
recycling-oriented society and promoting effective measures.
The laws on recycling were adopted to reduce the 400 million tones of
industrial waste and 50 million tonnes of general waste generated
annually, and to cut down on the volume of waste being sent to final
disposal facilities. The Green Purchasing Law was enacted to promote
recycling, so that recycled products would be better accepted in the
The objectives of the Green Purchasing Law are to "promote and
disseminate products and services (eco-friendly goods) that contribute
to reducing the negative impact on the environment and to build a
society with less burden on the environment and is sustainable."
To that end, the law encourages the public sector, including the
government, (1) to promote the procurement of eco-friendly goods, and to
(2) provide information on such goods.
As early as January 2001, the government issued basic guidelines and a
list of 101 designated procurement goods and their standards. The law
went fully into force in April that year. It obliges national
governmental bodies to formulate green procurement policies and to
follow them. The law also requires the bodies to compile records of
their purchasing and disclose this information publicly.
In February 2002, 50 more items were added to the list of designated
procurement goods, and the government decided to add 17 items pertaining
to public works activities.
The Green Purchasing Law only asks local municipalities to make efforts
to follow the law, but actually, many local authorities are already
promoting green purchasing and procurement on their own. Below are a few
Tokyo Metropolitan Government set the Procurement Guide for Eco-friendly
Shiga Prefectural Government formulated "Basic Guidelines for Shiga
Green Purchasing," and supports the Shiga Green Purchasing Network set
up in 1999.
Reducing, Reusing, and Extending The Life Of Stationery Items
In business circles, green procurement or preferential purchasing of
environmentally-sound parts and materials are becoming more prevalent
among larger companies. Canon, Ricoh, Sharp, Matsushita Electric are
among those that have adopted guidelines for green procurement and
promote green purchasing as a part of company-wide efforts.
Take the example of Matsushita Electric Industrial, which has
strengthened its efforts to conduct green procurement with 3,600
suppliers, who account for 70 to 80 percent of the Matsushita Group
annual procurement of 2.2 trillion yen (about U.S.$18 billion). The
procurement divisions of 11 companies in the Matsushita Group agreed to
add environmental criteria to the three existing criteria of "quality,"
"cost" and "delivery" when selecting parts and materials. Based on their
Green Procurement Standards Manual, they implement green procurement for
all items covered under raw materials, supplemental materials, supplies
and equipment, and commercially-available components as well as
components made under subcontract.
Many companies apply two tiers of selection criteria for green
procurement, the first evaluating the supplier as a company (judged by
the use and quality of ISO 14001 or some other environmental management
system) and the second evaluating the environmental aspects of the
actual materials or parts.
Large companies who actively conduct green procurement understand that
this effort will enhance their competitiveness. As global warming
progresses and societies attempt to shift toward sustainability,
reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and waste, recyclability and other
environmental aspects are areas that can provide a competitive edge for
In such a situation, companies that can select suppliers who provide
materials and parts with low environmental risks and have environmental
management systems to continuously reduce their environmental impacts
and costs hold a key for competitiveness.
Sony Corporation not only uses green procurement in the selection of
suppliers, but also created Green Partner Guidelines in order to form
partnerships with suppliers of parts, devices and raw materials, in
order to enhance the level of their environmental consideration.
Tokyo Gas also implements green procurement by setting procurement
guidelines not only for products and parts but also for construction
works and services.
As a result of all these activities, one can now tangibly sense an
increasing level of green procurement activities in Japan in recent
years. We now introduce one of the driving forces, the Green Purchasing
Network (GPN), established in February 1996 by companies, governments
and consumers' groups in an effort to promote green procurement and
GPN started with 73 affiliate organizations (40 companies, 20
governments and 13 other organizations) and they had increased
membership by over 35 times to reach 2,668 affiliates (2,038 companies,
362 governments and 268 other organizations) as of June 2002.
The GPN is a unique organization that may be difficult to find in other
countries. It plays a pivotal role in green procurement activities and
movements in Japan. The GPN is a loose-knit network that promotes green
procurement activities at all levels by:
- promoting greater awareness of green procurement
- giving awards to excellent green procurement initiatives
Winners of Japan's 5th Green Purchasing Awards
- creating purchasing guidelines
- setting up databases of on environmentally-sound products
- issuing data books
- conducting surveys and research in Japan and abroad
- helping to set up regional green purchasing networks
The GPN revised its Green Purchasing Principles in June 2001. One of the
most important revisions was to place "consideration of the actual need
for the goods" as the overarching principle, recognizing that before
deciding to purchase something it is necessary to consider basic
questions like "Do we really need this product?" and "Can we think of
other options, such as repairing the existing products, sharing products
or renting products?"
Recently, the GPN formulated guidelines for hotels and inns that cover
important points to be considered when one seeks
environmentally-conscious accommodations. This is the first set of
environmental guidelines for hotels and inns in Japan and the fifteenth
set of guidelines from the GPN.
For reference, the GPN guidelines so far have covered the following 15
product and service categories: printing/information paper,
copiers/printers/facsimile machines, toilet paper, tissue paper,
personal computers, office stationery, lighting, automobiles,
refrigerators, washing machines, office furniture, air-conditioners,
televisions, uniforms/business wear/working wear, offset printing
services, and hotels/inns.
More on GPN Green Purchasing Principles, Guidelines, activities:
Not only business circles, but also local governments and NGOs
throughout Japan are proactively formulating green consumer guides for
their own regions. According to Green Consumer Research Group, there are
more than several dozen of such green consumer guides in total in Japan.
Local governments aim to the raise awareness and activities of citizens
by providing green consumer guides or by getting local people involved
in preparing such guides. Citizens' groups and NGOs increasingly
recognize their great collective purchasing power, despite the small
impact of each individual consumer.
GPN has launched what it calls "Eco Shop Navigation" on its website, to
respond to consumer requests to get information on shops selling
environmentally-sound products in their region. Users just click their
region (prefecture) and select the product category to purchase to
obtain a list of shops in the region.
These days, many local governments who are actively tackling
environmental issues and almost all large companies are conducting green
procurement activities. In the near future, green procurement will
become a daily routine for all local governments and companies above a
>From a global perspective, one of the characteristics of environmental
activities and movements in Japan is that such movements have been
driven by industry rather than by consumers. One could say that the
green procurement movement is also driven more by industry and local
governments than by consumers. The next challenge for local governments
and companies will be how to raise the awareness among general consumers
and how to increase numbers of green consumers.
Green procurement by large consumers in the economy (i.e., companies and
governments) has huge potential impacts on industry reorganization and
the competitiveness or survival of individual companies. Many further
developments and initiatives are expected in this field. Please keep an
eye on the JFS website for updates.