What is sustainable procurement?

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.”

The topic of sustainable procurement is also known as green purchasing. For many businesses, goods purchased may become their 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.

In 2017, there is a new ISO standard for sustainable procurement – Guidance. ISO 20400:2017 provides guidance to organisations, independent of their activity or size, on integrating sustainability within procurement, as described in ISO 26000.

Training in Sustainable Procurement

  • Planet Procurement has a strong reputation in sustainable procurement and training. They have a module available online through the Green Building Council of Australia.
  • Action Sustainability (a social enterprise) has produced a series of short films about sustainable procurement and related topics. It features Cathy Berry lead author of the British Standard for Sustainable Procurement (BS 8903). Here are a couple of the films available.

Other relevant topics within the Getting to Sustainability website

Green procurement tools and product accreditation

Here’s 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).

Government performance