Public procurement represents $13 trillion (USD) of global public spend and 15% of global GHG emissions. It is a hugely significant lever for making our economies more sustainable, innovative, and inclusive.
This implies that the job of the modern-day procurement or commercial team has never been so important — or complex. Not only do they need to deliver high-quality goods and services for the best possible price, but they also need to be at the forefront of an authority’s longer-term sustainability goals.
That’s why we at PUBLIC have been doubling down on our efforts to help public authorities tackle this challenge and make sustainable procurement a reality. And by ‘more sustainably’, we mean delivering on concrete environmental, economic, and social outcomes.
This includes our recent work with the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP). We assessed best practice from around the world and constructed a toolkit for organisations that want to successfully implement sustainable public procurement (SPP). Our toolkit is being used by commercial teams around the world. It can further provide inspiration, case studies, templates and step-by-step guides for governments starting their sustainable procurement journey.
Below, we outline some of our key insights from helping authorities to procure more sustainably, with a particular focus on the challenges — and opportunities ahead — for UK public authorities.
The challenge — and opportunities — for authorities in the UK
The changing policy landscape in the UK emphasises SPP. Procurement notes like PPN 06/20, PPN 06/21, WPPN 12/21 stress the weight of sustainability criteria in public contracts. The UK’s commitments to achieving Net Zero have created urgency for councils to review and improve their processes.
Reflecting this, over 75% of the UK’s councils have declared climate emergencies, and 182 have made commitments to Net Zero by 2025-2030. The opportunity for councils to meet targets by leveraging supply chains is enormous: almost 96% of a council’s Scope 3 emissions comes from a council’s supply chain.
SPP has been made even more important by the Social Value Act. Many authorities have policies or strategies aimed to support local economic growth, promote diversity and inclusion, and deliver on other broader sustainability outcomes. It is possible for councils to unlock the opportunities SPP brings: look at Wales’ Social Partnership and Public Procurement Bill. It is a great example of the scale of some authorities’ ambition to drive sustainability and social value in all areas of their procurement strategy.
So, the direction of travel at the policy level is clear: authorities in the UK need to develop tools and processes to make these strategic commitments a reality. Fortunately, there are steps forward. Here are 7 of PUBLIC’s key principles to help authorities get started with sustainable procurement.
Key steps to embed sustainability in procurement
We’ve surveyed hundreds of national and local governments in their attempts to establish sustainable procurement approaches, and have identified some key principles for success. That said, every authority’s sustainability journey is different. While there is no simple one-size-fits-all guide to procuring sustainably, we would recommend the following 7 key steps as a good place to start.
Each of these steps should be adapted according to your organisational context, but we believe that they provide a solid foundation for structuring your organisation’s SPP initiatives.
How can PUBLIC help?
Sustainable procurement is not easy. Getting it right requires the right balance of sustainability and commercial expertise. At PUBLIC, we can help you achieve that balance. PUBLIC supports authorities in making the procurement lifecycle more sustainable. We can:
Some of this guidance for implementing SPP is available on the toolkit we introduced above. If you need help taking the next step, or want our advice as you embark on your SPP journey, get in touch with Leyre (email@example.com) and Radhika (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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