Sustainable Procurement Standard Assessment – Why Wouldn’t You?

A new International Standard for sustainable procurement best practice – ISO 20400 – was launched earlier this year. It’s important to say this is a ‘guidance’ standard, not a requirement. Since 2013, experts and industry bodies from more than 40 nations, including Europe, USA, Canada, Central and South America, Australia, Japan, China, Africa and others, have contributed to the development of this standard to make it the first international standard for sustainable and responsible procurement. And it replaces the 2010 British Standard BS 8903.

As the ISO website states, it offers “guidance to organizations, independent of their activity or size, on integrating sustainability within procurement, as described in ISO 26000. It is intended for stakeholders involved in, or impacted by, procurement decisions and processes.”

And this is important because, “Every purchasing decision we make has an impact on the environment, economy and society, from the energy we use to power our computers to the conditions of the workers who made our clothes. What an organization purchases and who it purchases from can have far-reaching implications, not only on the supply chain and the end consumer, but on the wider community, affected by the different segments of that supply chain … The fancy name for this is sustainable procurement, and it means making sure that the products and services we buy achieve value for money with the lowest environmental impact and most positive social results. This is done by considering the environmental, social and economic effects of our purchasing decisions.”

To put this into some kind of a more tangible context, we met up with the first public sector organisation in the UK to get assessed against the new guidance standard. London Universities Purchasing Consortium has long championed the fight against human rights abuses in the supply chain, and the ethical procurement of goods and services, to reflect the values of its member bodies. Making the decision to become assessed against the standard was a way to get an external view of where they sit on the responsible procurement scale of effectiveness, and of getting recommendations and guidance on how to go about improving that.

As it turned out, they performed very well for their first assessment – 3.7 out of 5. And they got some valuable feedback. So we asked Andy Davies, the LUPC Director, a few questions about why the assessment was so important to them, how they went about doing it, what value it provided to the organisation, and about what advice they would offer to other organisation considering doing the same.

The full, and very candid, responses to our questions (for which we extend a warm thank you to LUPC) are reported in our article on Public Spend Forum, where, if you are not a member, you can register very quickly to view that and a wealth of other material.

A particularly interesting and somewhat telling story that came out of the interview was the successful cessation of a ‘forced labour’ situation, that happened in tier one of the organisation’s supply chain. Andy explains how improved collaboration between the organisation and its supplies brought this practice to a halt. You can read the interview here.

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