Elizabeth Bruns, Nicole Darnall, Kylie Flynn, Angela Fox
Japanese governmental purchases account for 19.8% of its gross domestic product. These purchases include vehicle fleets, construction materials, chemicals, electronics, and office materials, to name a few. Collectively, these purchases are significant contributors to global climate change and other environmental concerns. Green purchasing policies are one way that Japan can significantly curb environmental impacts while stimulating the global demand for green products and services. For this reason, Japan’s national government has developed guidelines for “green” or environmentally conscious purchasing.
According to the Japanese Ministry of Environment, the national government, and all 47 prefectural governments, theymust undertake green purchasing to reduce their climate impacts. A primary reason is that green purchasing policies can significantly reduce carbon impacts across the globe and help Japan achieve its carbon emissions goals. These policies also increase internal efficiencies that lead to cost savings. At the local level, however, green purchasing is only encouraged, and as a result, implementation is inconsistent.
Researchers at Waseda University’s Research Institute for Environmental Economics and Management partnered with Arizona State University’s Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative to conduct a national survey to address these concerns. The survey targeted department directors of finance, municipal engineering, and environment in all 860 municipalities with 25,000 or more residents. Their results show that 53% of municipalities have a green purchasing policy, 29% have no policy, and 18% of directors did not know if their municipality had such a policy.
These findings suggest that there are significant barriers to municipalities adopting green purchasing policies. Five important factors are related to Japanese municipalities’ policy adoption and that facilitate green purchasing success.
Complementary policies and practices can reduce municipalities’ cost of adopting green purchasing policies since they provide a foundation upon which to develop green purchasing initiatives. They also help enhance management’s commitment and foster a shared vision around similar issues. Directors in municipalities with green purchasing policies report having more complementary policies and practices than other municipalities. However, in Japan, the rate of adoption of these complementary policies and procedures is low. Having supporting policies and practices can reduce the cost of adopting a green purchasing policy and facilitate overall implementation success.
Purchasing criteria are the factors that individuals consider when deciding to purchase a good or service. Nearly three-quarters of directors (73%) in Japanese municipalities with a green purchasing policy reported reducing greenhouse gas impacts compared to about half (49%) of Japanese municipalities without a green purchasing policy. Moreover, about 80% of municipality directors with green purchasing policies stated that recyclability or reuse is an important purchasing criterion compared to about two-thirds of directors in municipalities without a green purchasing policy.
Across all product categories, directors in municipalities with green purchasing policies mreported that environmental concerns are of greater importance than directors in municipalities that lack these policies. These leadership beliefs are likely to be essential to the success of a municipality’s green purchasing policy.
Information access can influence purchasing decisions and outcomes. Less than half of the directors (45%) in Japanese municipalities with green purchasing policies have green product/service lists available to their departments when making purchasing decisions. By contrast, only 13% of cities without green purchasing policies have access to green product/service lists. These findings suggest that directors in municipalities with green purchasing policies have greater access to more environmental information sources when making purchasing decisions. Since information access shapes decisions, lack of access may be a critical barrier for municipalities to overcome for the successful implementation of their green purchasing policies.
Leadership, employees and resources are critical in the adoption of organizational policies. More than two-thirds of directors in cities with green purchasing policies reported that top management facilitates their ability to implement green purchasing. Half of the directors in municipalities with green purchasing said that awards and recognition are important in promoting their cities’ environmental sustainability. Only one-fifth of cities without green purchasing policies reported similarly. Moreover, while financial resources may have some relevance, it appears that top-level management support and employee embracement has more of an impact. Additionally, Japanese municipalities with green purchasing policies tend to leverage more financial resources from external sources, which further facilitates their green purchasing implementation.
Vendor roles are how municipalities engage their vendors in the green purchasing process. More than half (57%) of directors in cities with green purchasing policies agree that many vendors offer environmentally friendly products/services compared to 36% that lack green purchasing policies. Additionally, half of the directors with green purchasing policies agree that vendors help them learn about environmentally sustainable purchasing options. These findings suggest that vendors play an important role in the municipalities’ adoption of green purchasing policies and contribute to implementation success.
Municipalities across the world are incurring greater pressure to reduce their environmental impacts. Sustainable purchasing policies are one significant way to respond. pThe research on Japanese municipalities underscores several key facilitating factors for green purchasing adoption and implementation success. These findings can apply to both cities that lack a green purchasing policy and cities that wish to strengthen their existing green purchasing initiatives. To learn more, read the full report findings found at https://sustainability.asu.edu/spri/japan.
Elizabeth Bruns is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Sustainability at at Arizona State University’s (ASU’s). She is exploring interests in urban farming and economic development. She plans to pursue an MS in Sustainability Leadership after her graduation in December 2020.
Nicole Darnall is Associate Dean at ASU’s College of Global Futures and Associate Director and Professor at ASU’s School of Sustainability. She is Co-founder of ASU’s Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative.
Kylie Flynn is completing her Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability at ASU with minors in Digital Culture and Parks and Protected Area Management. She is a Communications Intern for ASU’s Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative.
Angela Fox is completing her Master of Arts in Sustainability at ASU. She is interested in sustainability behaviors around social change.
Darnall, N., T. Arimura, T. Miyomoto, J.M. Stritch, S. Bretschneider, and L. Hsueh. 2018. Advancing Green Purchasing in Japanese Municipalities. Arizona State University, Center for Organization Research and Design, Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative and Waseda University, Research Institute for Environmental Economics and Management.