Sustainable purchasing guidelines

As consumers, what and how we buy can positively influence the supply chain. Thoughtful purchasing benefits the environment and reduces waste. 

Large institutions can also support a sustainable economy by using purchasing power to choose and foster demand for environmentally and socially responsible products and services. 

That’s why UQ’s procurement framework requires sustainability to be considered in all procurement processes, and the UQ Sustainability Strategy includes purchasing as one of its focus topics.

Whether you’re buying for work or for yourself outside of work, you will find a wealth of good tips on sustainable purchasing below.

View our purchasing guides by item

Procurement planning

UQ's procurement planning process, as set out in the University's Purchasing Policy, requires the inclusion of sustainability considerations in all purchasing decisions.

UQ wants to do business with ethically, environmentally and socially responsible suppliers.

Socially responsible procurement at UQ recognises that purchases can generate social value above and beyond the value of the goods and services being procured through the selection of social, diverse or ethically responsible suppliers. 

The UQ Supplier Standards outline our principal expectations of our suppliers and the standards in place to help us meet our responsible, social and legal requirements.

What is sustainable purchasing?

There may be more to sustainable purchasing than you think. People often consider the environmental impact of the end materials they are using or buying, but what about the raw materials that have gone into manufacturing? And all the supporting processes that have taken place to bring that product to market, such as farming, transportation, use of labour, storage, trading and so on.

The item’s life cycle and end-of-life disposal also have financial, environmental, social and ethical impacts, and in many cases are only just beginning to be considered as part of the purchasing process.

What can you do to shop more sustainably?

Here are a few ideas for how you might be able to shop more sustainably: 

  • Ask yourself: do I really need to purchase this? Can existing products or equipment be used? Can I reuse, hire, lease or share instead?
  • Source a pre-loved product. Check out UQ WARPit to find pre-loved furniture or office and lab supplies.
  • Buy environmentally preferred products. Look for products with good energy and water efficiency ratings and buy local where possible. Opt for items with recycled content and content that can be recycled. Choose items with long warranties and with low operating, maintenance and consumable costs.  Avoid products with hazardous and toxic materials.  Deal with suppliers that have social and environmental policies and who minimise their packaging.
  • Minimise consumption. Avoid printing and set up on-demand and duplex settings, especially on shared printers. Take your own bags when shopping and use a reusable mug at coffee shops. Stock the office kitchen with reusable crockery and cutlery and request these when catering at functions. (See our sustainable events guide.)
  • Trash or treasure? Although you may no longer need an item, there may be someone looking for that exact product. Reuse, recycle or donate whenever you can. As well as using WARPit to find secondhand goods, you can upload your own items to see if another staff member has a use for them.
  • Business practices. Ethical farming and fair terms of trade support sustainable businesses, particularly in developing countries. We offer some more guidance on this for particular purchasing areas in the relevant guides below.

Our sustainable purchasing guides