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Guidance and standards for sustainable procurement

The Government has published new guidance and updated standards to help public sector buyers to buy sustainably:

  • Adapting your procurement
    Guidance to help Government departments and the public sector to use the procurement process to deliver public buildings, services and goods that are well-adapted to climate change.
  • Government Buying Standards
    Information on sustainable procurement and detailed specifications for a range of products

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Adapting your procurement

Adapting your procurement, jointly produced by Defra and OGC, is aimed at all Government departments, the wider public sector and private sector contractors.

Projects funded by the public sector have a long lifetime so it is important that adaptation is considered within procurement policy to ensure the long-term sustainability of this spend. Projects must be able to adapt to the climate change they might face over their lifetime.

The headline messages from Adapting your procurement are:

  • The impacts of climate change should be considered for the lifetime of the assets or other goods and services that are being delivered through procurement
  • This will help to ensure public services remain fit for purpose and public investment is cost effective in a changing climate
  • Increased public sector leadership and demand for well-adapted goods and services can help to incentivise the private sector and encourage the development of new skills and innovative approaches
  • It is possible to adapt your procurement within existing frameworks and procurement rules – there is no legal reason not to and it makes sense to reduce longterm risk from climate change to a project
  • Adaptation must be incorporated into wider corporate and sustainability objectives so that public procurement remains sustainable

Government Buying Standards

The Government Buying Standards (GBS) – previously known as Buy Sustainable Quick Wins – aim to make it easier for government buyers to buy sustainably.

The Government Buying Standards set out the sustainable criteria that must be followed when buying a range of different products and services. The Standards have been also designed to ensure that products which fulfil the criteria provide better value for money over the whole life of the product than products that do not.

All central government departments and their related organisations must ensure that they meet at least the mandatory Government Buying Standards when buying goods and services in the product groups covered. There are currently around 50 standards in ten priority groups – and more are being added on an ongoing basis.

Official specifications are provided for a range of products, covering cleaning, construction, electrical goods, furniture, gardening services, office equipment, paper, textiles and transport. Although there are no Government Buying Standards for food and catering, the voluntary Healthier Food Mark for the wider public sector is currently being piloted and contains sustainability criteria.

Specifications can be inserted directly into tenders, asking suppliers to prove their compliance with these standards and enabling more suppliers to develop products that meet the standards – so increasing competitiveness.

The GBS webpages also provide information on sustainable procurement and how to apply it when buying – and links to websites with lists of products that meet the standards.

Sustainable procurement

At the launch of the Sustainable Procurement Action Plan in March 2007, the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury John Healey MP said “…We know that good procurement is sustainable procurement…” – and all government departments are now required to adopt sustainable procurement.

Government Buying Standards are designed to help buyers across the public sector to do exactly this.

By following the Government Buying Standards, the whole public sector can meet key targets around sustainability – including some of the mandatory Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate (SOGE) and Sustainable Development in Government (SDiG) targets.


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