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Production : Asking the Right Questions

6 elements of a responsible request for proposal

January 2012 By Meta Brophy, Monica Garvey and Joe Muehlbach
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Whether you call it "Green Purchasing," "Sustainable Sourcing" or "Environmentally Preferred Procurement," evaluating whether or not suppliers meet your own environmental standards—and creating buyer/supplier relationships that reinforce those standards—drives sustainability through your print and paper supply chains.

Including sustainability elements in the request for proposal (RFP) is a good way to research, track and compare how preferable options are integrated into materials, facilities and handling. Every project bid solicitation offers clients and suppliers an opportunity to articulate environmental expectations and deliverables. After all, aren't you a reflection of your supply chain?

A responsible RFP looks beyond price, quality, availability and functionality—all of which remains critically important—and considers other factors in procurement decisions, including environmental and social aspects. Here are six elements to cover:

1. Corporate Philosophy
Your RFP should ask whether the vendor's organization has a written environmental policy. Is the organization focused on continual environmental performance improvement as evidenced by commitment to a certified environmental management system like ISO 14001:2004? You want to know the company is compliant with regulations and legislation. How does it focus on the performance of its own supply chain? If available, read the company's external report on environmental performance, find out who in the company is responsible for environmental management and review the organization's goals and objectives, including specific targets.

2. Supply Chain Management
It's important to establish clear expectations and requirements for suppliers. Engaging your internal team and key suppliers in routine dialogue fosters better understanding of the challenges related to the lifecycle of the products and services you purchase. When you audit the environmental performance of your suppliers, you can also evaluate social responsibility elements of a business including labor and human rights, human health and safety, charitable giving, biodiversity initiatives and community involvement.

3. Paper and Packaging
Is the company's paper fiber sourced legally from sustainably managed forests? Find out whether the company 1) promotes key credible third-party forest certifications systems and 2) commits to continuous improvement targets regarding the percentage of certified fiber purchased each year. Ask about advocating for and supporting more land certification. Be sure the company complies with the amended U.S. Lacey Act as it pertains to imported wood products, namely: wood fiber, pulp and paper. Ensure that the company has certified chain of custody systems in place.

Additional RFP Resources
 

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