13 October 2008 | Jake Kanter
The government has made "significant progress" with sustainable procurement since last year, according to the chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC).
Speaking at a conference on the topic in London this month, Jonathan Porritt said the issue had been given a "new lease of life" in public sector purchasing. But he also criticised the government for not providing clear data on its procurement methods.
The SDC chairman explained that since coming into power last year, prime minister Gordon Brown has taken public sector sustainability very seriously.
"This time last year the team and I were in near despair. We unearthed astonishing incompetence in the entire system. We began to wonder what would change, but from October 2007 things did change."
The SDC heavily criticised government performance on sustainable buying earlier this year, describing it as slow and "pretty disappointing" (News, 10 April).
Porritt added there is still a great deal of work to be done if the UK is to become a leader in the EU on sustainable procurement by next year. He urged the government to improve its "very disappointing" reporting of purchasing data and to consider its weaknesses on sustainability issues.
He also raised concerns over the sustainable procurement skills of buyers and the readiness of local authorities to move forward with the issue.
Barbara Morton, director of Action Sustainability, agreed the UK needed to demonstrate leadership on the topic. "In terms of the ambition for the UK to be a leader on sustainable procurement, a lot should be happening that isn't at the moment."