Truly greening federal government procurement would move Canada much farther, faster toward a sustainable, carbon-free future than prevailing on individual consumers to “shop for a better tomorrow,” Ottawa B-Corp entrepreneur and The Energy Mix subscriber Mike Gifford writes for Medium.
While “public attention has been focused on what consumers can do,” Gifford says, “governments in Canada are the biggest purchasers of goods and services in our country.” Individual consumer choices clearly matter, he added, but “organizations and our governments have much bigger purchasing power than the average Canadian.”
Gifford also sees green procurement at home as a solution to a global problem—and an opportunity for Canadian businesses. “If Canada is able to incentivize business development to be cleaner and greener, not only will we be doing more to address these problems, but our businesses will have expertise that they can export to other regions that will be struggling to address these same problems,” he writes. “By providing a market incentive, governments can fuel innovation in sustainability.”
Gifford is withering about the effort to date to green federal procurement, from a 2006 policy that appears to have been scarcely updated in 2018, to a 2014 green procurement plan from the Canadian International Trade Tribunal that is “so out of touch that it focuses on reduction of paper usage”.
Yet the Pan-Canadian Climate Framework notes that “governments are also major purchasers and providers of goods and services, and they can help to build demand for low-carbon goods and services through procurement policies.” And Gifford has some thoughts on how to make it advantageous for companies to embrace sustainability.
“If we want the bulk of our economy to have a low carbon footprint, carbon-neutral businesses need to be given a clear advantage in all public procurement,” he writes. “Even something as simple as requiring all companies with over a million dollars in revenue to submit an accounting of their CO2 emissions would be a great start. Likewise, you could ask every company to submit their B Impact Assessment score in their responses to requests for proposals.”
Government procurement must also ensure an appropriate process and a fair price. But “Ii procurement decisions are still driven by who promises to deliver the flashiest product for the cheapest price, we’re not going to build a sustainable economy,” Gifford says. And green energy grants funded by carbon taxes won’t get the job done on their own.
“The challenges we are facing are more complex than what these coarse-grained approaches of taxation and subsidies can provide,” he writes. ‘We need the majority of organizations to be incentivized to look for what they can do to adjust their supply chains, and to see that over-consumption is no longer the norm.”