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Promotional Items

Navigation: Minimum Sustainable Recommendations | What are the issues? | What are the options? 

Did you know...According to recent independent research conducted in 2009 by the Association Resource Centre, the promotional product industry sales in Canada are approximately $4 billion dollars annually (PPPC, 2010).

Minimum Sustainable Recommendations

Below are minimum standards for a number of promotional products commonly purchased:


Minimum Sustainable Recommendations

Clothing: (t-shirts, hats, windbreakers, fleeces etc.).


See Clothing (Apparel) Page.

Re-useable Plastic Drinkware (e.g., travel mugs, can coolers, sports bottles etc):


  • Must be Bisphenol A (BPA) free
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) free
  • Made from at least 15% recycled content
  • Packaging must be made up of 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) materials



  • Opt for refillable. If single-use: minimum 50% post-consumer waste content or biodegradable
  • Consider Ecologo certified products

Bags and tote bags


Fabric must be either:

  • certified organic natural fibers (e.g., wool, cotton, linen); and/or
  • highly renewable fibers (e.g., bamboo, hemp), and/or
  • low-impact recycled synthetic fibers (e.g, polyester)

For added social and environmental benefit, consider purchasing clothing with a third-party certification, such as Fairtrade Certified (FLO) or the Better Cotton Initiative.



  • Made from organic cotton or 100% recycled plastic.
  • Request supplier to place the “environmental feature” on the lanyards (e.g. “Made from 100% recycled plastic bottles)


Metal-based promotional products: (key chains, medals lapel pins, ornaments, etc.)

  • Products must not contain heavy metals (e.g. metal must be lead-free)

Electronic gadgets (flashlights, tire pressure gauges, calculators, radio)


  • Preference for energy source to be renewable (e.g. solar, rechargeable, etc.) rather than single-use battery operated.
  • LED bulbs (if applicable)


Plaques and awards


Depending on the plaque or award, look for:

  • Sustainable wood products
  • Low toxicity and no heavy metals in products (e.g. must be lead-free)
  • Products with high recycled content


Gifts of appreciation


  • Gifts should be made by local artisans or; if local options are not available, purchase fair trade (World Fair Trade Organization, Fair Trade Federation) crafts and artisan products


For all Promotional Material the following statement must be provided to the bidders to ensure responsible manufacturing. The vendor must review and sign the statement:

Goods to be purchased shall be manufactured under humane conditions by manufacturers and subcontractors who abide by the local labour laws of the Country of origin and abide by International Labour standards developed by the International Labour Organization (United Nations).
The Bidder hereby certifies that the manufacturer and sub-contractors for the item on offer are in compliance with international labour standards and all applicable local labour laws in the location in which the item is manufactured.
Yes ______
Signature ____________


Other things to consider

Support accessibility – Know your audience and select promotional items taking into consideration the potential barriers associated with the item for persons with disabilities.

With the exception of clothing, the following statement should be included in all specifications of promotional items, “written evidence must be provided to verify the environmental claim”.

  • Give preference to items that provide the recipient with long term value.
  • Ensure proper labels are placed on the goods to show environmental stewardship.
  • Give preference to items that are delivered in minimal packaging and ensure packing made out of recycled material and is easily recycled.


What are the issues?

In our globalized world, environmental and social issues have been growing steadily. Climate change, fair working conditions in factories overseas, toxic chemicals in consumer goods, or the absence of ethical business practices all routinely make headline news.

In recognition of the mounting concern, the government of Manitoba enacted the Sustainable Development Act which requires economic, environmental and socially responsible purchasing.  Because promotional items range from golf tees to water bottles, the potential associated environmental and social issues are numerous, varied and difficult to manage from a purchasing professional’s perspective. In much the same manner, the social issues associated with the manufacturing of these items are just as varied.  Selecting sustainable promotional products and the marketing and the distribution of these products provides the province with an opportunity to express sustainable values to stakeholders.

In addition to the environmental and social issues associated with promotional materials, the buyer should recognize the requirements associated with The Accessibility for Manitobans Act and its related standards as it pertains to promotional items. To support accessibility, the buyer should consider the intended audience and select promotional items taking into consideration the potential barriers for persons with disabilities. For a person who has a physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment, a barrier is anything that interacts with that impairment in a way that may hinder the person's full and effective participation on an equal basis.


What are the options?

Truly sustainable promotional products would be durable and be useful beyond just their promotional value. They would be made from renewable, recyclable or compostable materials. In addition, the items would be made from manufacturers that follow their supply chain and guard against the use of factories with interminable workweeks, sub-minimum wages, no overtime pay, unsafe work conditions and use of child labour etc.

In recognition of the social issues the province has developed the Purchase of Clothing from Responsible Manufacturers Policy. The principles outlined in this policy can be applied not only to the purchase of clothing manufactured in a socially responsible manner, but also other various promotional items.

Thanks to the demand for sustainable promotional products, there is a variety of environmentally and socially responsible product options – allowing the province to promote themselves in a manner consistent with their values.


Last updated: January 2019

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