National plan for sustainable procurement launched

11 June 2006
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12 June 2006 | Rebecca Ellinor

Leadership and scrutiny are key if the UK is to head the field of sustainable procurement in the EU by 2009.

That was the view expressed by Sir Neville Simms, chairman of the Sustainable Procurement Task Force (SPTF), as he launched a national action plan on the issue today.

He called for national and regional leaders who would "take ownership" of the sustainable procurement agenda. He also said public-sector organisations with a procurement spend of more than £1 billion a year should appoint a commercial director to their board by April 2007.

The business-led task force, set up by Prime Minister Tony Blair, spent the past year working on the plan to ensure the £150 billion spent on goods and services every year is used in a way that "achieves value for money on a whole life basis, while accruing benefits to the organisation, society, the economy and the environment".

It has made a number of recommendations with a timetable to achieve them, which the government said it will review and issue a formal response to in the autumn.

Broken down into six key areas, Sir Neville calls on the government to:

  • Lead by example - Give clear direction on the importance of sustainable procurement, make sustainable procurement integral to public-sector purchasing and for organisations auditing public-sector bodies to make it clear they are looking for long-term value for money.

  • Set clear priorities - Restate public procurement policy for all central government departments, other major organisations called on to add to it with their own policy statement on sustainable procurement. Government also called on to rationalise the raft of existing procurement policies into one practical framework and make a short guide on it available to all.

    Sustainability issues are also to be a consideration as part of the Office of Government Commerce's gateway reviews for large projects.

  • Raise the bar - government to engage internationally with key markets and other countries to set new sustainability standards and work with academics on how to attribute value to social aspects of sustainable procurement.

  • Build capacity - government called on to set up a delivery team to support policy development, research, practical advice and training to procurers. All public-sector organisations with a procurement spend of more than £1 billion a year asked to appoint a commercial director to the board by April 2007.

  • Remove barriers - Ensure budgets can support sustainable procurement.

  • Capture opportunities - government to lead the public sector in setting forward commitments to buy innovative goods and services and liaise better with SMEs and third-sector organisations which often have innovative solutions.

    While the government is yet to issue a formal response, it did today announce the appointment of cabinet secretary Gus O'Donnell to ensure every UK government department responds to the report's recommendations.

    It also today announced a commitment to ensure government offices are carbon neutral by 2012 - meaning it prevents as many carbon emissions as it produces. By 2020 it plans to: reduce the total carbon emissions is produces by 30 per cent; recycle 75 per cent of waste; reduce waste generated by 25 percent; reduce water consumption by 25 per cent; and increase energy efficiency by 30 per cent per square metre of its offices.

    Prime Minister Tony Blair, who met with Sir Neville today added: "Changing the way we spend this money, so it helps prevent climate change and protects our environment, could have a huge impact. This report points the way forward, and we will look seriously at its recommendations."


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