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2001 Planning — Co-winner 4

City of Richmond, British Columbia

Using a purchasing guide to promote environmentally responsible products

Population: 150,000

The City of Richmond hopes its new environmental purchasing policy will go a step beyond encouraging city workers to occasionally purchase environmentally friendly products: the city's goal is to expand markets for such products. In 2000, Richmond, one of 21 municipal governments in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), unveiled its Environmental Purchasing Guide to help municipal staff implement the city's new environmental purchasing policy. Developed in partnership with GVRD, the user-friendly guide is supported by a training workshop.

Background

In the mid-1990s, Richmond started to explore the idea of establishing an environmental purchasing policy for city employees. The State of the Environment Report (1998) and the regional Solid Waste Management Plan (1995) identified the need for such a policy and recommended that Richmond encourage the use of environmentally friendly products. However, municipal staff balked at the idea of embarking on a project that had no framework to guarantee its success.

Richmond's research showed that environmental purchasing policies in other cities have done little to promote market development of environmentally friendly products. Typically, cities have adopted such policies to demonstrate a commitment to the concept in general; however, the policies have had little impact and are rarely applied in a consistent manner. Richmond's goal was to take the idea of environmental purchasing a step further.

Results

  • The Environmental Purchasing Guide has been endorsed by the Greater Vancouver Municipal Purchasing Group, which represents purchasing managers from all GVRD municipal governments.
  • By the end of 2001, Richmond will have distributed 100 copies of the guide to its city employees involved in purchasing; four hundred more will have been distributed to employees of other GVRD municipal governments. Additional copies will be distributed to any employee upon request.
  • Richmond and GVRD have conducted eight Environmental Purchasing Guide workshops for city and regional employees.

Lessons Learned

  • Richmond had originally intended to develop detailed specifications for all products listed in the guide. It soon became clear that this approach would have made the document unreasonably large. After researching the issue further, the city recognized that there already exists an enormous amount of information in the public domain about individual products.
  • Richmond's decision to hire a solid waste management consultant and writing consultant to help develop the Environmental Purchasing Guide was critical to the project's success. Writing the guide in plain language was especially important.
  • The process was more complex and time consuming than staff had anticipated. Although the original goal was six months, the policy and guide actually took one and a half years to produce.
Page Updated: 21/12/2015