2015 CORD Pro Bono Proposal: Green Procurement in an Arizona State/Local Agencies

Confirmed Participants: Stu Bretschneider, Nicole Darnall, Greg Dawson, Geoffrey Gonsher, Lily Hsueh, Justin Stritch, Linda Williams

State and local government procurement spending is valued at approximately $1.5 trillion annually.[i] These government entities therefore have the ability to shape product and service markets considerably. For this reason governments often create special procurement processes to favor veterans, minorities and environmentally certified products. To the extent that state and local agencies/departments utilize “green” procurement practices, by adding considerations to purchasing criteria,[ii] the market for green[iii] products could increase dramatically, creating significant incentives for companies to reconsider their traditional production processes, incorporate sustainability principles into their daily business routines, and reduce their environmental impacts. Moreover, by purchasing green products and services, state and local agencies/departments may increase their internal efficiencies, thus reaping cost savings, reducing energy, solid waste, water, and other environmental impacts.

While green purchasing programs have been established in nearly every state, and more than 500 local governments have followed suit,[iv] implementation of green procurement programs has been inconsistent, and little is known about the reasons why. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the initial costs for green products or services can be more expensive than conventional products, and that assessing environmental considerations slows the procurement process. However, mangers’ perceptions and capabilities are expected to have a role, as are organizational factors.

Researchers at Arizona State University’s Center for Organization Research and Design propose to partner with a state or local department/agency to assess its green procurement procedures. Researchers will interview and survey procurement officials and staff to understand how procurement is implemented within the state or local department/agency. To the extent possible, they will also assess purchasing transactions to arrive at an overall assessment of the agency/department’s green procurement process. Issues that we will consider include how priorities related to green criteria are weighed against issues of price, product/service familiarity, and expediency, and how organizational factors and product features affect both the likelihood of green procurement and cost. We also expect to identify how procurement procedures and green criteria affect the speed of procurement and whether the process imposes any additional delays or produces expedited outcome. We also seek to understand how these issues relate to managers’ perceptions about green procurement, managers’ capacity to implement a green procurement program, and the organizational factors that facilitate or inhibit widespread adoption and implementation.

[i] Coggburn, J. D. 2003. Exploring differences in the American States’ procurement practices, Journal of Public Procurement 3(1), 3-28.

[ii] Conway, D.M. 2012. Sustainable procurement policies and practices at the state and local government level. K.H. Hirokawa, P.E. Salkin (eds.). Greening Local Government. American Bar Association.

[iii] We follow Executive Order 13101 and EPA’s Environmental Preferable Products-EPP Guidelines in defining “green” products and services. “Green” products are "environmentally preferable" products that are made with the “highest recovered material level practicable” or “those products having lesser or reduced impact on human health and the environment when compared to competing products or services that serve the same purpose.”

[iv] White House Task Force on Recycling. 2001. Greening the Government: A Guide to Implementing Executive Order 13101.