Green procurement is the purchase of products, services, and works that cause minimal environmental impacts. It can contribute to local, regional, national, and international sustainability and enhance cost-effective use, maintenance, and final disposal of products; lower the cost of water and energy; and help attain environmental targets, such as reduction of environmental impacts and promotion of sustainable production (European Union, 2016APEC Committee on Trade and Investment, 2013).

Life-cycle approach is fundamental in green procurement because it helps measuring environmental performance of a whole process, including production, transportation, procurement, and disposal. Governments and market/industry control the success of green procurement. Government is in charge of developing a sound policy framework, collecting commitment to greening purchasing from producers and politicians, setting environmental requirements, advertising standards, training, monitoring, and conveying the benefits of green procurement. Market/industry is responsible for environmental standards in the market, training, and certification of green procurement (APEC Committee on Trade and Investment, 2013).

Japan was the first country in Asia-Pacific to implement green procurement to reduce environmental degradation. Japan’s Eco Mark Program, which came into force in 1989, was the first milestone for green procurement in the country (APRSCP, 2014). The programme was initiated by the Japan Environment Association, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and other organisations. The programme operates in accordance with the principles and standards of the International Organization of Standardization (ISO). The Eco Mark Program covers a range of products, including recycled plastic such as household and industrial textiles, stationery and office supplies, plastic, furniture, and refillable and resource-saving containers.

Japan has promoted green purchasing in a number of ways, including launching the Action Plan for Greening Government Operations in 1995, establishing the Green Purchasing Network in 1996, and enacting the Act on Promotion of Procurement of Eco-Friendly Goods and Services by the State and Other Entities in 2000 (Nakahara, n.d.). The act obliges all government ministries and entities to implement green purchasing policies, release their own procurement policies, and report them to the Ministry of Environment. Efforts to carry out green procurement are decentralised to local governments, which are responsible for formulating annual green procurement policies and implementing them upon integration with national regulation. The law regulates categories for eco-friendly products that are mainly designed based on the Eco Mark Program (APRSCP, 2014). Various products from recycled plastic are covered by this regulation, such as stationery, office furniture, imaging equipment, computers, mobile telephones, home electronic appliances, uniforms and work clothes, and interior fixtures and bedding. Although the products listed in the regulation refer to Eco Mark, several Eco Mark products have a higher standard for plastic recycled material used. For instance, the recycled plastic material in ballpoint pens must be 70%, while the law requires only 40% (Japan Environmental Association, n.d.,bMinistry of the Environment of Japan, 2019). Thus, Eco Mark is considered a leader in green procurement in Japan (Nakahara, n.d.)

In Thailand, public procurement contributes 20% of the national economy, which means that promoting a green procurement policy can encourage manufacturers to produce more green products. Thailand has taken several steps to foster green procurement. The Pollution Control Department is tasked by the minister of natural resources and environment to implement the green procurement policy. Unlike Japan, Thailand has no legal framework for green procurement. Yet, Thailand released two green public procurement (GPP) plans in 2008–2011 and in 2013–2016 (APRSCP, 2014). The first GPP plan aimed to promote green procurement in government, with central and local government agencies as target groups (Suksod, 2015UNEP, 2017). The second GPP plan targeted a wider range of groups, including public organisations, universities, private sector, and the public. The second GPP plan also encouraged behavioural change so consumption could be more sustainable (Suksod, 2015). Although green procurement is voluntary, the two plans have specific goals that must be achieved (Table 1).

Table 1. Targets of the Green Public Procurement Plans

Recycling: Green Procurement (Table 1)

First Green Public Procurement Plan 2008 2009 2010 2011
Number of implementing authorities (national scale) ≥ 25% ≥ 50% ≥ 75% ≥ 100%
Spending on green products/services ≥ 25% ≥ 30% ≥ 40% ≥ 60%
Second Green Public Procurement Plan 2013 2014 2015 2016
Number of implementing authorities (local) ≥ 10% ≥ 15% ≥ 30% ≥ 50%
Number of implementing authorities (universities and public organisations) ≥ 50% ≥ 60% ≥ 70% ≥ 100%
Spending on green products/services ≥ 70% ≥ 75% ≥ 80% ≥ 90%

Source: UNEP (2017)

In 1994, the Ministry of Industry and the Thailand Environment Institute launched the Thai Green Label. It has since become a guideline for green public procurement products. It has 27 product categories, including recycled plastic. Two other labels, Green Cart and Green Leaf, regulate designated green procurement products and hotels, respectively.

The Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Environment enacted the Act on the Promotion of the Purchase of Eco-Products in 2005, making the country the second to regulate the purchase of eco-products. The act promotes the eco-product market by requiring green product procurement to minimise environmental pollution and support sustainable development. Under the law, the Ministry of Environment is responsible for formulating guidelines for environmentally friendly products, while government agencies are responsible for buying green products with the Korean Eco-label, Energy Saving Mark, or Good Recycled Mark. The labels cover a range of products, including recycled plastic products, furniture, household appliances, amongst others. The act has increased the amount of green purchasing products from US$255 million in 2004 to US$850 million in its first year of implementation. To further promote green procurement, the government provides information on the green products information platform and in the standard green procurement ordinance, shares and disseminates best practices, facilitates green procurement training, and grants fiscal incentives (UNEP, 2017).

Malaysia encourages the use of green products by prohibiting its civil servants from using single-use plastic products, aiming for zero single-use plastic nationwide by 2030. Plastic products, such as plastic wrap, and single-use plates, cups, bowls, straws, and cutlery, are targeted for reduction. People are requested to bring their own food containers and cutlery (Singh, 2019).


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