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Step 17 Guide 1: Purchase of energy efficient products and services

This is the seventeenth of 20 steps in the in the Energy Management Action Programme (Energy MAP).
Learn about Energy MAP and what it can do for your business.

In a nutshell

The starting point for purchasing energy efficient products and services is to have a purchasing policy that takes into account the energy implications of your purchasing decisions. All purchasing decisions should start with a needs evaluation so that you only buy what you really need. Resultant specifications should include energy criteria and the whole life costs of the items.

This guide provides an introduction to the following issues on environmentally preferable purchasing:

  • Purchasing policy
  • Assessing needs
  • Specification
  • What’s available?
  • Supplier appraisal
  • Whole life costs
  • Environmental labels


Purchasing policy

The first step in implementing environmental purchasing in your organisation is to develop a purchasing policy that addresses the need to reduce the environmental impact of the goods and services purchased. This should include the requirement to purchase energy efficient plant, equipment, fixtures and fittings.

Make sure your environmental purchasing policy is integrated with your organisation’s overall purchasing policy and is backed by senior management. The policy should apply to all budget holders and be well communicated throughout your organisation. You may have to arrange training to ensure that all purchasing staff are aware of the requirements, the reasoning behind them and how to go about the purchase of environmentally preferable goods and services.


Assessing your needs

You must analyse exactly what it is you need, before deciding on a solution. For example you may receive a request for more cooling in an office. Instead of installing additional fans or air conditioning, see if more ventilation can be achieved through rearrangement, removal or replacement of office equipment, or the use of shading on windows, or the introduction of cross ventilation into the room. The removal of printers and fax machines to a central location can help control heat gains from such equipment. Also the replacement of CRT computer screens with flat screens reduces the heat emitted and they are more energy efficient. All these alternatives should be considered and weighed up before making a decision.

The proposal to purchase is usually made by the users, specifiers and internal budget holders, who then pass their requirements on to purchasing staff. Users and budget holders should consider environmentally preferable alternatives and may require advice or awareness training in achieving this. Can existing equipment be shared with other staff? Can it be upgraded or repaired effectively?

The reality is that many purchases are made on the basis of what has been purchased in the past – ‘it’s the way we’ve always done it’. You should challenge this approach and only buy what you really need. Where the need is justified, make sure that environmental and energy considerations are included in the specification.



Include environmental and energy criteria in your specifications. Environmental labels, such as Energy Star, may also be used in specifications. Performance based specifications are usually easier to develop, and simpler to manage. This involves specifying a particular performance level for the item rather than identifying the technical characteristics in detail. In essence, it specifies the end result, but not how to achieve it.

The environmental labels listed below may contain product specification criteria which you could employ in drawing up your own specification. Also the UK Office of Government Commerce provides a very useful ‘Quick wins’ summary of minimum environmental standards, including energy consumption, for a wide range of products and supplies (see the link below).

Include operational efficiency, time control and standby specifications in buying guidelines. In the case of office equipment you should ask for running costs to be provided along with the energy consumption of the unit under normal, idling and low-power modes. All office equipment should carry the Energy Star label and suppliers should ensure that energy-saving modes are activated when equipment is ready for use.


What’s available?

In conjunction with specifying your requirements you may need to carry out a search of what’s available on the market. Many reputable suppliers include environmental criteria in their product specifications. This is particularly true for office equipment and computer manufacturers. Your first port of call may be the websites of the environmental labels. Alternatively you may simply use the specification criteria you have developed to locate appropriate suppliers.


Supplier appraisal

The product specification criteria can be used to appraise the proposed supplier. For large supply contracts you may need to apply more detailed criteria. In such cases, many organisations use questionnaires to appraise suppliers on environmental issues.

Other indicators of a supplier’s environmental competence include the implementation of environmental management systems such as ISO14001 and EMAS.


Whole life costs

Whole life costs include the running cost of equipment and other indirect costs. An alternative description is the ‘total cost of ownership’. In the case of office equipment for example, indirect costs include the cooling systems necessary for the removal of excess heat produced by inefficient office equipment.
Evidence shows that it can take twice as much energy to remove the heat produced by office equipment as it takes to run the equipment itself. Other examples include the case of compressors. Over a 10 year lifetime of a compressed air system, on average, 75% of its total cost is spent on electricity. If you include such additional costs in your purchasing calculations then energy efficient equipment generally comes out on top.


Environmental labels

Environmental labels provide a simple method of identifying environmentally preferable products. The following labels are some of the most prevalent in the market place for certain products.


European Union Energy Labels

These labels provide information on a product’s energy consumption and rate it on a scale of A to G, with A being the most efficient. Fridges, freezers, lamps and other products carry the label, which allows easy comparison of the energy performance of the product.


Energy Star

The ENERGY STAR label for office equipment helps you identify the most energy efficient models. The website (see links below) provides information on how to select the most energy saving configuration and how to use it more efficiently.
A list of Energy Star manufacturers and their products is available on the website.


European Eco-label

The Eco-label scheme offers you the means to make informed environmental choices when purchasing and ensures ‘green’ authenticity of the product. The label’s ‘Green Store’ provides a searchable database of products from computers to office paper.


Further information and guidance


This website offers a dossier about the environment and climate change

Buying green! A handbook on environmental public procurement
The Handbook shows how public purchasers can integrate environmental considerations into public procurement procedures. It is primarily aimed at contracting authorities at all administrative levels throughout the European Union but is also applicable to commercial companies.

Environmental purchasing in practice – guidance for organisations.
Best Practice Series Volume 2. The Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment. Lincoln, UK.
A useful guide if you are planning to establish environmental purchasing in your organisation.

European Green Procurement Database
Database of information on potential environmental criteria for calls to tender. Informs users about existing ecolabels for product groups, the main environmental issues and potential questions they can ask suppliers.



European Eco-label
The European Eco-label or ‘Flower’ is the symbol for environmentally preferable products and services in Europe. A range of products from computers to office paper carry the symbol, and a full product catalogue is available on the website.
Product catalogue

Energy Star
The label for energy efficient office equipment in Europe. The website has other useful resources such as energy calculation tools and advice on how to use equipment more efficiently.
Product database

The Nordic Swan
The Swan is the official Nordic ecolabel demonstrating that a product is a good environmental choice. The label has been granted to around 60 product groups.

The Blue Angel
The Blue Angel is the German environmental label which has been in existence for almost 25 years. About 3.600 products and services from approximately 580 label users in Germany and abroad have been granted the Blue Angel label.

Other environmental labels
This link to the European Eco-label website lists other European ecolabels.



Quick wins – Office of Government Commerce UK
Identifies minimum environmental standards, including energy consumption, for a wide range of products and supplies.

Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme. UK
Provides information and listings of energy saving technologies and products. The scheme is used by UK businesses to claim capital allowances on investments in energy saving technologies and products.

Market Transformation Programme UK
This page shows all the performance standards available for a particular product. Select a sector and then the product for which performance standards are sought. The values for Class Leader, Best Practice, Average and Minimum performance standards provide indicative values.
This page shows indicative cost savings for a limited range of products. These are the operational cost savings per year, achievable by choosing class leader or best practice over minimum standard products.

UKEPIC (UK Environmental Products Information Consortium)
Searchable product information database.

Energy saving recommended – Energy Saving Trust UK
The UK energy saving recommended logo appears on a wide range of products including fridges, freezers, light bulbs, light fittings, gas boilers and heating controls.

Boiler efficiency database

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