Sustainable procurement tools

Find out what good practice in sustainable procurement looks like and what tools are available .

Sustainable procurement tools

Sustainable procurement isn’t just about buying ‘green’ products. It also includes:

  • planning ahead to manage demand
  • effective ongoing contract management
  • dealing with supply chain risks and impacts

Procuring the future gives a good working definition, stating that sustainable development “achieves value for money on a whole life basis in terms of generation benefits not only to the organisation, but also to society while minimising damage to the environment.”

If done properly sustainable procurement makes sound business sense. Unless we take into account the whole costs of goods and services (including energy and water use) and the costs of managing wider social costs (like pollution impacts, carbon emissions and waste disposal), we will not achieve value for money in a meaningful sense. The tools set out below will help you do this:

Government Buying Standards (GBS)

GBS are a set of easy to use product specifications for public procurers.

They are set at ‘mandatory’ and ‘best practice’ levels. Under the Greening Government Commitments all central government departments and their related organisations must ensure that they meet the mandatory levels of the GBS. ‘Best practice’ criteria are for organisations that want to take the lead in sustainability. These either set the bar higher for existing criteria, or add further criteria that need to be fulfilled.

The GBS are owned by Defra. Individual standards are developed with input from across government, industry and wider stakeholders. They are extensively reviewed with market research and analysis to establish criteria that take long term cost effectiveness and market capacity into account. Our approach to developing and supporting Government Buying Standards sets this out in more detail.

The GBS can be used in planning a procurement to get a quick insight into key sustainability issues. Explore whether you can meet your GBS requirements by using an existing collaborative framework. GBS can be used as technical specifications in tender documents. If you’ve already awarded long term contracts, work with your suppliers to introduce GBS during contract management - they are not only the ‘green’ option but are designed to deliver value for money over the long term.

Sustainable procurement training

The National Sustainable Public Procurement Programme (NSPPP) provides training on sustainable procurement.

The Flexible Framework tool

The Flexible Framework spreadsheet and guidance is a widely-used self-assessment package which allows organisations to measure, monitor and improve how they procure.

Prioritisation tool

The prioritisation tool helps organisations prioritise their sustainable procurement activities in key product areas. It also helps in developing procurement strategies and action plans that address economic, environmental and social issues.

London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games construction guidance

Guidance on sustainable construction procurement draws on lessons from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

EU Green Public Procurement

GBS are aligned to the European Commission’s Green Public Procurement programme initiative. By using the Government Buying Standards you will also be able to meet EU-wide criteria and comply with UK commitments and priorities. Defra has produced guidance on the EU Green Public Procurement programme and its relationship with the GBS.

Food and catering services procurement tools

Defra has published a set of food and catering service procurement tools following the Bonfield report into sustainable public sector food procurement.

Published 2 September 2014