Many state and local government policies require purchasing agents to develop competitive specifications for the products they acquire. In developing specifications, it is important to identify and prioritize a list of requirements into a biddable document. This list of requirements should include a description of physical and performance characteristics of the product, including any or all of the environmental requirements of the product.
When developing performance requirements, expectations for the product must be specific, obtainable, measurable, and verifiable. Rather than using general language like "Low VOC" to describe paint or furniture, a specific level of VOCs should be identified. The best method when specifying performance measures is to identify existing environmentally friendly standards and specify product compliance with these standards. Many reliable sources of existing environmentally friendly standards are currently available, including those published by these federal and private organizations:
- Canadian Standards Association developed Canada's National Standard for Sustainable Forest Management and works with stakeholders to safeguard environmental values, protect social values and promote economic viability
- Consumer Reports evaluates the growing number of environmental labels against objective criteria to measure the validity of the label and the independence of the standard setting and certification organizations that are developing them
- ENERGY STAR develops energy efficiency guidelines for consumer products in more than 35 categories
- Eco Logo establishes environmental standards and awards its eco-label to products meeting its standards; currently has more than 120 standards and hundreds of certified products
- Forest Stewardship Council sets standards for forest friendly practices and, through independent verifiers, certifies forests that are managed consistent with its standards; forest-based products that originate from FSC-certified forests are also eligible for FSC-certification
- Green Seal has developed environmental standards for more than 30 product categories and awards its "green seal of approval" to qualifying products; the organization also publishes Choose Green Reports, which evaluate the environmental impact of selected products and provide product recommendations
- PowerSmart identifies energy efficient products and strategies to reduce energy consumption
- Sustainable Forest Initiative Standard is based on principles and measures that promote sustainable forest management and consider all forest values. It includes unique fiber sourcing requirements to promote responsible forest management on all forest lands in North America
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines recommend minimum recycled content levels for dozens of products
- U.S. Department of Agriculture provides guidance on purchasing bio-based products
- Responsible Purchasing Network maintains a database of bid specifications for 13 different types of commonly purchased supplies
These standards cover a large percentage of products on the market today and ensure that the products purchased will have the least impact on the environment both during product development and throughout their useful lives. Many local governments now have policies that require purchasing agents to review existing specifications to remove language that might conflict with the desire to buy more sustainable products.