Procurement, responsible purchasing and scope 3

According to the United Nations Global Market Place website, “procurement is called sustainable when it integrates requirements, specifications and criteria that are compatible and in favour of the protection of the environment, of social progress and in support of economic development, namely by seeking resource efficiency, improving the quality of products and services and ultimately optimizing costs.

Through sustainable procurement, organisations use their own buying power to give a signal to the market in favour of sustainability and base their choice of goods and services on:

  • economic considerations: best value for money, price, quality, availability, functionality;
  • environmental aspects, i.e. green procurement: the impacts on the environment that the product and/or service has over its whole life-cycle, from cradle to grave; and
  • social aspects: effects of purchasing decisions on issues such as poverty eradication, international equity in the distribution of resources, labour conditions, human rights.”

Scope 3 emissions

Sustainable procurement is important because purchased goods and services is a major category of scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions.

The volume of these emissions should not be under-estimated. Furthermore, the corporate social responsibility dimensions of supply chains can present significant risks for businesses, such as ethical and reputational risks.

There are 15 categories of scope 3 emissions.



Depending on the source and category, scope 3 emissions can be quantified using:

  • primary data specific to the activity within a company’s value chain (for example utilising actual weight for waste with appropriate emissions factors); or
  • Life Cycle Assessments conducted either independently or by the supplier; or
  • secondary data such as industry averages, proxy data, or
  • other generic financial data using methodologies such as ‘input-output’ / spend-based estimatation; or
  • a combination of the above and hybridised methods for material parts of the value chain identified.
Source: TraceX

Source: TraceX

Training in Sustainable Procurement

Also, check out Jimmy Brannigan’s presentation on getting started with sustainable procurement. Jimmy has worked closely with many tertiary education institutions in this area (particularly in the UK and Australia). Jimmy is also featured in the webinar below.

Many more videos are on the YouTube channel for Sustainability in Healthcare:

External links / tools:

ISO 20400: Sustainable Procurement:

In 2017, ISO 20400:2017 was released for Sustainable Procurement – Guidance. It provides guidance to organisations, independent of their activity or size and is well worth the price.

Below is how the process can be broken down.

iso 20400 sustainable procurement process

Source: Green Building Council of Australia.

Sample considerations for responsible purchasing

Supplier considerations:

  1. Does the supplier have ISO 140001 or alternative in place?
  2. Does the supplier report publicly and have a strong reputation and performance in relation to sustainability, carbon, water, waste, clean energy and climate risks?
  3. Does the supplier have a strong reputation and performance on other ethical / CSR issues?
  4. Is the supplier local Indigenous/community based?
  5. Does the supplier perform well on The Modern Slavery Act 2018?
  6. Does the supplier agree to collaborating on ESG performance and sharing timely periodic data in an agreed format?

Service/product considerations:

  • Does the products/service show evidence it aligns with strong climate-friendly elements –eg does it create harmful waste products?
  • Does the products/service show evidence it aligns with eco-efficiency and ecologically sound principles?
  • Does the products/service show evidence it aligns with a circular economy – eg is it reusable; is it leased; is there a take-back in place?
  • Does the product have rigorous, independent, and transparent third-party accreditation and verification (where the verification and licensing agencies are also independent of one another)?
  • If the product is plastic, can the product be replaced with paper or reusable alternative?
  • Are there any concerning or hazardous chemicals incorporated (refer to image below) – eg toxic printing inks are less preferable to plant-based or latex high-tech printing inks (not related to allergy)?
  • Are there unnecessary or uncontrolled fugitive gases involved – eg preferably substitute substances such as R22 (now banned from import as an ozone-depleting refrigerant) equipment?
  • Is there any recycled post-consumer content?
  • Is the product overpackaged – eg choose to work with suppliers seeking to reduce plastics and expanded polystyrene in packaging (in line with the national packaging targets)?
  • Is the product/service contributing to local jobs?
  • Is there evidence of reduced transport miles compared to competing products/services?
  • Is the product/service free of high-risk allergens, asbestos, and other pollutants/risks to health and justice not mentioned above?

In addition, products could be expected to meet all the following chemicals of concern criteria and at least two of the waste criteria.

Chemicals of concern criteria:

  • Product does not contain:
  • European Union restriction of hazardous substances directive (electronics)
  • Bisphenol A (BPA)
  • Bromine and chlorine-based compounds
  • Phthalates
  • Prop 65 chemicals
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
    Antimicrobial and antibacterial agents
  • Persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic chemicals (eg PFAS)
  • Non-halogenated flame retardants
  • Metal (mercury, lead, cadmium, or organotin compounds)
  • Perfluorinated chemicals
  • Does not create a hazardous waste product

Waste criteria:

  • 10% or more post-consumer recycled content in product
  • Product is recyclable, reusable, or can be taken back by the supplier
  • Primary packaging contains more than 10% post-consumer recycled content
  • Secondary packaging contains more than 30% post-consumer recycled content
  • Packaging and/or paper products have received Forest Stewardship Council certification
  • Packaging is labelled with consumer-friendly recycling information
  • Packaging is recyclable and/or biodegradable and/or compostable.

RMIT has in the past compiled their own criteria as follows.

green purchasing guidelines docstoc

Other relevant topics within the Getting to Sustainability website: