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Price, Performance, Competition & Availability: The Keys to Evaluating Environmentally-Preferable Alternatives within the Competitive Bidding Process

Origination Date: March 9, 1996
Revision Date: April 22, 1998

When evaluating alternative procurement, concerns about price, performance, competition and availability are especially important to government purchasing agents.

Price matters, obviously, to competitive bidding. Choosing to purchase a more expensive alternative commodity, such as recycled paper, has policy implications for the government budget process, a process over which the purchasing agent may have no control. Writing a bid for a more expensive commodity has practical implications which the purchasing agent can overcome, but the cost difference needs to be known up front and be anticipated during bid development.

  • Purchasing agents need to know if a proposed alternative is likely to cost more.

Performance matters because the whole point of procurement is to purchase quality products. Alternative products should meet the same performance standards as conventional purchases. Defective products that require replacement are costly in terms of employee labor & downtime; they are also disastrous in the sense of damaging end-users' confidence in the products' manufacturers and in the purchasing agents that procure them.

  • Purchasing agents need to know if a proposed alternative is likely to meet conventional standards.

Competition is essential in the procurement of alternative products. Specifications need to be written such that more than one or two vendors can supply the desired product. Determining a reasonable specification can be extremely time consuming in new commodity areas with little standardization. Purchasing agents need to identify likely bidders in order to make sure that they are on the bid list.

  • Purchasing agents need to know if a proposed alternative is likely to be offered by conventional vendors, or if not, purchasers need to know what vendors would be likely to supply the alternative.

Availability is always a serious concern in government procurement, but is especially important when considering new, alternative products.

  • Purchasing agents need to know that the supplier of a new alternative product can keep up with projected purchase quantities on large government contracts.

Lists of companies in broad categories (like the lists on this Website) cannot, in themselves, answer the questions above. Purchasing agents normally have to contact listed companies for additional information, and it often is NOT easy to get useful answers. Purchasers may have to work at getting a better understanding of end-users' needs, which isn't easy, either. The extra time and expertise required to seek out alternatives are often prohibitive.

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