Should we look at green products in isolation from the rest of the company’s activities and the other products it makes? Does it matter if a company makes a green product without greening all its products and activities?
Many suppliers have a suite of activities or products that they offer. This may include some green products and some not so green or it may include entire activities that are either contentious or just ‘not green’. Can we ignore these products and activities in the search for the perfect green product?
One of the motivations of green purchasing is to reward suppliers able to supply green products, the idea being that this will encourage the market to develop greener and greener products etc.
Imagine your shock and horror when it turns out your preferred supplier is green over here but dirty or contentious over there? Nothing illegal but just not the green or sustainable according to your point of view? For example, is it ok to buy solar energy (supporting renewable energy) from a company which also works in the nuclear energy field? There is nothing illegal about nuclear energy, it’s just I doubt there are many people who support both solar and nuclear at the same time.
But how should we take into account the contentious issues? If the virgin paper fibre sourced from native forest is contentious, can we just buy the recycled paper option from the same company and move on? Or is the recycled paper option, which ticks all the boxes in your criteria, still tainted by the company having major stakes in selling contentious virgin fibre paper? Should we reward companies for doing the right thing or punish them for doing wrong?
Taking this approach to the extreme, do we only consider fuel efficient vehicles from car companies that don’t also make gas guzzlers? Or take a look at the least efficient products in the range, before considering the most efficient?
The approach has merit since it would ramp up the pressure on the companies if they weren’t greening all their activities and products. Suppliers would not only have to make green products but would have to avoid making non-green products at the same time. No more token green products out one door while the churn out the run of the mill products out the other.
Then I had a thought that brought me back to reality – would this approach make it virtually impossible to find a product that meets both criteria? In many categories I suppose the answer is yes. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start asking the question.