Responsible Purchasing Network

Responsible Purchasing Network
Frequently Asked Questions

Quick links:  General Information
  Accessing the RPN Website
  Getting Involved in RPN
  Using the Responsible Purchasing Guides

General Information

Q: What is the Responsible Purchasing Network?
A: The Responsible Purchasing Network (RPN) is a national network of procurement-related professionals dedicated to socially responsible and environmentally sustainable purchasing. RPN promotes and practices responsible purchasing by identifying best practices, developing effective purchasing tools, educating the market and utilizing its collective purchasing power to maximize environmental stewardship, protect human health and support local and global sustainability.

RPN is advised by a voluntary Steering Committee of leading procurement stakeholders from government, industry, educational institutions, standards setting organizations, and related organizations. Visit our staff list or a directory of our steering committee members for more information.

Q: What is environmentally preferable purchasing?

A: Environmentally preferable purchasing is an effort to purchase products and services with a reduced negative impact on the environment and human health. In addition to improved environmental performance, many environmentally preferable products work as well or better than traditional products and can be more cost effective.

Switching to safer cleaning products, for example, can reduce incidents of allergic reactions, asthma, burns, eye damage, major organ damage, and cancer connected with the hazardous chemicals used in many traditional cleaning products. Buying 100 percent recycled-content paper can reduce energy use by 44 percent, decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent, cut solid waste emissions in half, decrease water use by 50 percent, and practically eliminate wood use. Similarly, energy-efficient vehicles and renewable energy cut greenhouse gas emissions and harmful air pollutants while lessening our dependence on imported oil.

Q: Why focus on institutional purchasing?
A: Institutional purchasers – including federal agencies, state and local governments, colleges and universities, and private companies – represent tremendous purchasing power. State and local governments spend more than $400 billion, and colleges and universities spend more than $300 billion, on products and services every year.

Leveraging institutional purchasing power towards the procurement of environmentally preferable products and services increases market demand, spurring market innovation and ensuring these products and services are widely available and affordable for everyone

Q: My question was not answered in the FAQ’s. What should I do?
A: Please contact RPN via email, or phone toll free 866.RPN.1330, and a member of our team will assist you within two business days. RPN has a 32 hour work week. Our hours are Monday through Thursday between 9am and 5:00pm ET.

Accessing the RPN Website

Q:  How do I log in to the website?
A: Enter your username and password in the login box that appears in the right-hand column on most pages of the website. If this is your first time visiting, just click the “register” link in the login box to get a username and password. Members-only content (indicated with a padlock icon) requires login. Certain other pages, such as the Discussion Forums, also require login but are not restricted exclusively to members.

Q: What is my username?
A. Your username is the email address you used at the time you joined RPN or registered to use our website. If this is your first time using our site and you don’t have a username, just click the “register” link at the bottom of the login box. If you forgot your username or experienced an error, please contact RPN via email, or call toll free 866.RPN.1330, and a member of our team will assist you within two business days.

Q. What is my password? 
A. Your password was emailed to you when you first joined RPN or registered with our site. Forgot it? Just enter your username in the login box and click “get password” and it will be emailed to you.

Q: How do I modify my username or password? 
A: Enter your username and password in the login box on our website. Then click on Edit Username/Password and follow the instructions.


Q: How do I join?
A: There are a few easy ways to join RPN. Visit for instructions.

Q: Which “type” of membership should I choose?
A: For a list of membership types, please visit If you are not sure which type is right for you, please contact us via email, or call toll free 866.RPN.1330.

Q: How do I request an invoice?
A: You will receive a confirmation letter as soon as your membership has been processed. If you need an invoice for bookkeeping, please email and include your full name and the name of your organization in your request.

Q. What is an affiliate membership?
A: Affiliate Membership is a free way to allow a number of individuals from one organization to take advantage of an institutional RPN membership. To become an affiliate member simply contact RPN, and we will email you a link to an affiliate member login page. Affiliate membership status is contingent on the maintenance of a current Institutional Membership in RPN.

Q: How do I change my information on the membership directory?
A: You can edit the information that appears in our membership directory logging in and clicking Edit Password in the Personal Links section.

Getting involved with RPN

Q: How do I join the speaker’s bureau?
A: Please send inquiries here.

Q: How do I post a job to the RPN Job board?
A: Please email us with any openings that may be of interest to candidates seeking positions within the responsible purchasing field.

Q: How do I submit a news item?
A: Our goal is to provide current, valid information on responsible purchasing. Your contributions are welcome. Please email us. Please note: we may not be able to post all contributions.

Q: How do I contribute to the Discussion Forums?
A: Simply login to the forums and view a thread or start a new one; network with peers; share solutions; and discuss current products, policies, specs, and standards.
The forums are open to RPN members and non-members alike, but you must login to participate. Visit the forums here.

Using the Responsible Purchasing Guides

Q: Why can’t I access content marked with the padlock symbol?
A: The padlock icon indicates members only content. If you are a member, make sure you are logged in with the username and password you used to join RPN. If you are still having difficulty, email us, or call toll free 866.RPN.1330.

Q:  Why won’t this PDF open?
A: Make sure you have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free Download. If you have installed the reader but are still having problems, please contact RPN via email, or phone toll free 866.RPN.1330, and a member of our team will assist you.

Q: One of the URLs doesn’t work.
A:  Oops, sometimes the pages we link to have changed. Please report these changes to us by emailing email us with the subject line “Bad URL” so that we can update or remove the link. We will email you the correct URL if possible. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Q:  How can I get copies of the policies or specifications mentioned in your Purchasing Guides? 
A: The print versions of our Purchasing Guides contain one model specification and one model policy. The web-based versions link to PDF versions of multiple examples, and sometimes contain additional resources and tools as well. The web-based Guides are accessible free of charge to current dues-paying RPN members. Just login to the site and click on the Purchasing Guide you need by selecting it from the pull down menu in the upper right corner of the website.

Q: How do I contribute/correct information for the Purchasing Guides?
A: Our goal is to provide current, valid information on responsible purchasing, so your feedback is very important. Please email us or click on the “submit feedback” link at the bottom of the right menu on the Purchasing Guide web pages. A staff member may follow up with you regarding your suggestions or comments.

Q: I can’t find the information I need in a guide. Can you help me find it?
A: Our staff and partners are available for direct consultation to provide our members with product, policy, and specification resources and advice. Contact RPN via email, or phone toll free 866.RPN.1330, and a member of our team will assist you within two business days.   

Q: How are the Responsible Purchasing Guides developed? Is there a stakeholder review process?
A: Each Responsible Purchasing Guide is reviewed by a committee of stakeholders to ensure accuracy and timeliness, and to help us set appropriate goals and standards for responsible procurement. Please contact us if you are interested in helping us develop an upcoming Guide.

Q: What’s the difference between certifications and standards?
A: A standard is a set of criteria. A certification verifies that a product meets those criteria. For example, Green Seal and EcoLogo each developed a set of criteria for "green" cleaning products. When a company has their product evaluated by an independent agent to verify those criteria are being met, the product can become "certified," thus guaranteeing to buyers that the criteria that define the standard were met.

Q: What are differences between policies and specifications?
A: Policies are authoritative statements from decision makers (e.g., mayors, governors, provosts, chief executive officers, city councils, legislatures, boards of directors, etc.) that outline goals and strategies, usually in broad terms. For example, an executive order might establish a green cleaning committee, task them with identifying "greener" cleaners, and require them to file annual progress reports.

Specifications list, in detail, product attributes required for a contract. For example, specifications for greener cleaning products might require bidders to provide cleaners certified by Green Seal or EcoLogo.

Q: Why are model policies and specifications included in the responsible purchasing guides?
A: While compiling sample policies and specifications from leading institutions for inclusion in our purchasing guides, we occasionally find a policy or specification that, in our view, is exemplary. We highlight these policies and specs as "models" so that users can literally cut and paste language that addresses many or all of the issues related to the responsible purchasing of the product in question.

Q: How can I get a list of products for a specific product area?
A: Searchable product lists are in the "Products" section of the online version of each Responsible Purchasing Guide. The only products included are ones registered with leading standards setting organizations such as Green Seal, EcoLogo, ENERGY STAR, Scientific Certification Systems, EPEAT, and others. Product listings are updated periodically and allow users to compare product listings for multiple standards.