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Sustainable procurement

These pages are primarily for procurers: those who are responsible for buying the goods and services that organisations need to operate effectively and efficiently.

A good working definition of sustainable procurement is:

“A process whereby organisations meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole life basis in terms of generating benefits not only to the organisation, but also to society and the economy, whilst minimising damage to the environment.”
(Sustainable Procurement Task force)

More sustainable procurement can help meet environmental goals across government; save considerable amounts of public money; and help support innovation and economic growth.

Public sector procurement spend is immense: £256 Billion in 2011-12 of which £44 billion was spent by central government. This is equivalent to around a sixth of GDP. Sustainable procurement makes sound business sense. Unless the whole life costs of goods and services, including energy use, water use, as well as the cost of managing wider social costs like pollution impacts, carbon emissions and waste disposal are taken into account, we will not achieve value for money in a meaningful sense. All these factors illustrate why Government sees sustainable procurement as good procurement

Defra promotes the tools and approaches which enable central government and the wider public sector to procure sustainably.

Government Buying Standards

A key tool is the set of Government Buying Standards (GBS). These easy-to-use product specifications enable public authorities to develop tenders which  procure sustainably. For example, the GBS on furniture supports the purchase of products which are easily repairable and made from sustainably sourced timber.

National Sustainable Procurement Programme

The National Sustainable Procurement Programme (NSPPP) promotes good practice throughout the purchasing cycle. It seeks to make it clear to government employees that sustainable procurement is simply good procurement practice which can generate significant benefits, including, increased efficiency, carbon reduction and cost savings. Additional e-learning tools are also available for use in both the public and private sector.

Other Sustainable Procurement tools

Other Sustainable Procurement tools include a guide on Construction Procurement based on learning from the London 2012 Olympics; the EU’s Green Public Procurement Programme and the Flexible Framework, and Supply Chain monitoring and management.

There is a strong business case for sustaianable procurement. You can read more about the contribution of sustainable procurement to efficiency, innovation and economic growth arguments.

Because Government Buying Standards are mandated for Central Government bodies, and recommended for the wider public sector, these pages will be of most use to Public Sector procurers. However the principles of sustainable procurement apply across the board and many of these tools will be useful to the private sector as well.

The Energy Efficiency Directive

Article 6 of the Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU came into force on 5 June 2014. Its obligations on central government departments, their agencies and non-departmental public bodies are (for England) set out in a Cabinet Office procurement policy note. The governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will be issuing similar administrative directions.

In brief, the requirements are:

a) All public sector bodies in scope of Article 6 must, when purchasing products and services and purchasing or renting buildings, comply with the energy efficiency standards set out in the Directive (Article 6 plus Annex III), subject to certain qualifications. In scope organisations are defined as all central government departments including non-ministerial departments, executive agencies and NDPBs.

b) Other public bodies, including local and regional government, are not obliged to do the same, but are encouraged to do so, following the example of central government. All central government departments are asked to support the application of Article 6 by bodies associated with them including at a regional and local level in any way possible. For example, through sharing their own best practice.

See also

Page last modified: 4 June, 2014