Efficiency in the use of water, raw materials and energy, paired with demand reduction, is another aspect of sustainable procurement.
Source reduction is an important strategy for reducing the consumption of raw materials while maintaining efficiency and usability of the products. Source reduction goes beyond recycling by attempting to reduce negative environmental impacts throughout the entire life cycle of the product. Design, manufacturing, usage, sales (including packaging), and final disposal are all part of source reduction (Box 14: Life cycle assessment).
Benefits of source reduction include:
Decreasing environmental impacts including a decrease in pollution and toxicity and decrease in the use of non-renewable resources.
Lower costs, and increased economic benefits throughout the production process:
Harvesting operations (more efficient and targeted harvesting)
Manufacturing (less raw materials to process)
Product management (collection, transportation, packaging and storage).
The benefits of source reduction should be considered in light of consequences for performance and usability. A lower-performing paper using fewer resources per unit of product may create a false sense of economy of resources if it requires more units of the product to accomplish the task. This is particularly true for some products that undergo specialized treatment and processing to enhance performance and usability (e.g., tissue with additives to soothe skin, stronger and more durable paper, and so on)
Besides wood, energy remains the most expensive part of the manufacturing process for the pulp and paper industry. While energy efficiency has improved dramatically in the last few decades, the manufacturing processes of many products still consume considerable amounts of energy. Energy reduction is of strong interest to the forest products industry.
There are pulp mills that burn residual biomass to both meet their own energy needs, and to sell surplus energy to the grid. Most mills do not, however, either because they have not been equipped with sufficiently modern technology or because the production process does not generate biomass residue as a by-product (such as mechanical pulping).
Demand reduction can be a positive and important element of a sustainable procurement strategy. Reusing the back side of paper, using double-sided printing, using lighter products, etc. are all ways to reduce wasteful consumption.
Factors to consider regarding efficiency, source, and demand reduction
When it comes to transportation, energy consumption depends on the distance, location, and even condition of the facilities and transportation routes. It is advisable that a company first identify the areas of priority where it has more leverage and can have a positive impact without compromising the quality of the products.