Sustainable Purchasing Policy Template

Prepared exclusively for Sustainable Tourism Certified members.

Before you begin your sustainable purchasing policy:

Consider performing a purchasing analysis: 

This will assess products you commonly use by department and source by location. Ask your GreenStep Sustainable Tourism advisor for more information.

Gather a team as needed, across your departments or divisions:

Purchasing practices may be specific to departments or roles across your business. Ensure you have representation from all parties to aid effective development and take-up of your sustainable purchasing policy. In small companies, one person may fill all of these roles.

Determine the purpose and framework of your sustainability policy:

Determine the purpose behind this policy and how it will be implemented into your business. We strongly recommend having a measurement system in place, such as an annual review of purchasing decisions. This could be a topic to report on in your Sustainability Report. You should also brainstorm which purchasing guidelines you would like to implement and follow moving forward. Remember: this can always be revised and enhanced as you continue on your sustainability journey!

Ask your suppliers about their sustainable options and alternatives:

Get started by talking to your suppliers. Take a look at the additional resources below to learn more about common certifications you may come across, and how to implement your plan.

Additional Resources:

”Five Eco-Labels Demystified” (GreenStep)
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Implementation Guide [PDF] (StopWaste)

A. Policy Statement:

Describe your company’s purpose behind implementing a sustainable purchasing policy. Follow this by describing your purchasing guidelines in point form.

[Business Name] recognizes the social, economic and environmental implications of its procurement decisions. The Sustainable Purchasing Policy provides a framework for [Business Name]’s purchasing activities to best support its responsibilities to the community and planet, and to maintain open, fair and transparent procurement processes. Each department of [Business Name] shall comply with this policy and actively encourage department decisions that reflect the policy objectives.

It is the policy of [Business Name] to:

  • Institute practices to improve product efficiency, effectiveness and durability to reduce waste;
  • Purchase products that minimize toxins, hazards and environmental impacts to visitor, employee and community safety;
  • Purchase products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their production, shipping, use and discard, as well as by purchasing locally;
  • Purchase products that include recycled content, conserve energy and water, use unbleached or chlorine-free manufacturing processes, are lead and mercury-free, etc.,; and
  • Purchase products that are locally sourced and produced by minority, Indigenous, and/or women-owned vendors whenever possible

B. Policy Objectives

Describe your key goals and targets for implementing this sustainable purchasing policy. They can be both technical (such as reducing single-use plastics by 75 percent), or soft (such as spreading awareness among guests, visitors, employees and the community).

This Sustainable Purchasing Policy will complement and strengthen our commitment to sustainability and is adopted in order to:

  • Identify environmentally preferable products using qualified third party certifications (LEED, EnergyStar, Forest Stewardship Foundation, Certified Organic Canada, Fairtrade Canada, OceanWise) and increase use and availability of environmentally preferable products
  • Conserve natural resources such as water and energy
  • Minimize solid landfill waste, food waste and toxicity
  • Minimize environmental impacts and greenhouse gas emissions, reducing [Business Name’s] overall carbon footprint
  • Reward manufacturers and vendors that reduce environmental impacts in their production and distribution systems or services, and
  • Demonstrate leadership in sustainable internal operations and sustainable procurement for visitors, employees and the community

C. Sustainability Factors

Sustainability factors to consider in your purchasing decisions fall into three key categories – environmental, social and economic. This section will expand on what these considerations will be for your team while following this policy.

All employees will incorporate and balance the following factors during purchasing decisions in good faith and to the maximum extent possible, understanding that not all factors may be possible to consider, or to be considered at once.

Environmental Factors to be considered during procurement decisions include, but are not limited to:

  • Pollutant releases
  • Toxicity, including the use of PBT chemicals
  • Waste generation
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy efficiency
  • Use of renewable energy
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Durability
  • Ability to reuse or refill
  • Recyclability or compostability
  • Recycled or reused contents
  • Impacts on the natural environment, including biodiversity and depletion of natural resources
  • Third party certifications

Social Factors to be considered during procurement decisions include, but are not limited to:

  • Human health impacts
  • Environmental justice (disproportionate environmental and health impacts on different population groups)
  • Fair labour practices, health and retirement benefits, safety, livable wages, and human rights
  • Use of local vendors and businesses whenever possible
  • Use of minority, women-owned and Indigenous vendors whenever possible

Economic Factors to be considered during procurement decisions include, but are not limited to:

  • Product-use reduction and purchasing efficiency
  • Product performance, quality and durability
  • Cost (dollar and non-dollar)
  • Leveraging buying power
  • Long-term financial and market changes

D. Strategies for Implementation

The Strategies for Implementation section is for the primary use of you and your team. Customize the following points as you wish, as well as add purchasing behaviours that make sense for your sustainable objectives, your team and your business.

Purchasing and Procurement:

Purchasing and procurement managers, directors and employees will be responsible for:

  • Purchasing remanufactured products whenever possible, including toner cartridges, tires, furniture, and automotive parts
  • Considering short-term and long-term life cycle costs of products purchased, including warranty, disposal costs, operation, replacement parts and maintenance
  • Purchasing durable, long-lasting, reusable or refillable products to avoid unnecessary repetitive or single-use purchases
  • Purchasing recyclable or compostable products and/or products made of recyclable materials 
  • Evaluating and improving current purchasing habits to maximize efficiency and minimize waste
  • Performing a single-use plastic audit and/or reducing or eliminating single-use plastics
  • Requesting vendors to reduce or eliminate packaging materials, and/or take packaging materials back for reuse
  • Encouraging vendors to take back and reuse pallets and other shipping materials
  • Procure all wood-related materials including lumber and paper from sustainably harvested forests whenever possible and encourage the use of salvaged lumber
  • Encourage use of bio-based products that are biodegradable and compostable when applicable, including bags, film, food and beverage containers, packaging, cutlery, vehicle fuels, paper, paper products and construction products
  • Ensure all biodegradable and compostable products meet national requirements
  • Purchase third-party certified housekeeping, cleaning and janitorial products when possible, avoiding products containing bleach, chlorine and other toxins

Contracts and Specifications:

Purchasing and procurement managers, directors and employees will be responsible for:

  • Ensuring the specifications written by their department comply with this policy and incorporate sustainable procurement practices

Material Usage and Technology:

Managers, supervisors and directors will be responsible for:

  • Promoting electronic distribution of documents rather than printing and copying
  • When materials are printed, setting default usage to double-sided to reduce use of paper
  • Reducing the type and number of equipment needed to perform office functions to save energy and reduce purchasing or maintenance costs. This includes printers, network printers, fax machines, etc.
  • Ensure and/or prioritize imaging equipment is compatible with reused or recycled content materials
  • Ensure outsourced printing is performed on recycled content papers and that the materials include a statement detailing how much of the paper is made of recycled content
  • Ensure all imaging equipment is installed with energy and resource-efficient settings
  • Upon disposal or end-of-life for technology and imaging equipment, encouraging vendors to take back materials for reuse or recycle
  • Purchase Energy Star Certified products and energy, water and resource-efficient technology when available
  • Replace all inefficient lighting with LED fixtures
  • Consider hybrid, electric or less-polluting alternatives (such as compressed natural gas, bio-based fuels and fuel cells) during purchasing decisions of vehicles and technologies

Landscaping Products and Practices

  • Select plants to minimize waste by Xeriscaping and/or choosing species for purchase that are appropriate to the microclimate, species that can grow to their natural size in the space allotted to them, and perennials rather than annuals for color
  • Implement Organic Pest Management and/or try to manage pest problems through prevention and physical, mechanical and biological controls. Avoid toxic pest control materials whenever possible and use the least toxic pest control as a last resort 


Managers, supervisors and directors will be responsible for:

  • Generating awareness of this policy through dissemination and incorporation into employee onboarding and routine employee trainings
  • Encouraging employees to participate in [Business Name’s] sustainable initiatives, meetings, and sustainability internal and external trainings
  • Developing easily accessible procurement resources, reference sheets and other materials to encourage employee uptake
  • Developing a culture of sustainable leadership and stewardship for employees, visitors and vendors through top-down communication, education and feedback channels

E. Definitions

Include all definitions here that may not be readily known by the everyday reader, who may not have any expertise on this subject. Some relevant definitions that may need to be included are listed below.

Alternative/Hybrid Fuel VehicleVehicles that are powered by fuels that reduce air pollution, reduce fossil fuel consumption, solid waste and/or hazardous waste that result from their manufacture, use, service, and maintenance. The term is used to refer to various types of vehicles, including compressed natural gas, biodiesel, ethanol, electric and hybrid electric, propane, liquefied natural gas, and hydrogen fuel cell.  

Biodegradable – Capable of readily decomposing under natural conditions.

Durable goods – Goods which do not quickly wear out, or more specifically

Energy-Efficient Product – A product that is in the upper 25% of energy efficiency for all similar products, or that is at least 10% more efficient than the minimum level that meets Federal standards.

EnergyStar – A voluntary partnership among DOE, EPA, product manufacturers, local utilities and retailers. Partners help promote efficient products by labeling with the Energy Star logo and educating consumers about the benefits of energy efficiency. 

Environmentally preferable – products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. The product or service comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance or disposal. 

Forest Stewardship Council – A global organization that certifies responsible, on-the-ground forest management according to rigorous standards developed by a broad variety of stakeholder groups.  

Integrated Pest management – The coordinated use of pest information, environmental information, and available pest control methods to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.  

Post-consumer Material – A finished material which would normally be disposed of as a solid waste, having reached its intended end-use and completed its life cycle as a consumer item, and does not include manufacturing or converting wastes.

Pre-consumer Material – Means material or by-products generated after manufacture of a product is completed but before the product reaches the end-use consumer.  Pre-consumer material does not include mill and manufacturing trim, scrap, or broke which is generated at a manufacturing site and commonly reused on-site in the same or another manufacturing process. 

Recycled content Materials that have been recovered from the solid waste stream, either during the manufacturing process (pre-consumer), or after consumer use (post-consumer).  

Recycled Content Standard means the minimum level of recovered material and/or post-consumer material necessary for products to qualify as “recycled products.” 

Recycling – Placing used materials into channels that reuse them. 

Water-Saving Products are those that are in the upper 25% of water conservation for all similar products, or at least 10% more water-conserving than the minimum level that meets Federal standards.

Xeriscaping/Sustainable landscaping – An ecologically sound landscaping approach that is water conscious.  

F. Effective Dates

This policy shall take effect on [date].