Welwyn Hatfield council procurement gives SMEs a boost

21 April 2010

21 April 2010 | Allie Anderson

A Hertfordshire local authority has promised to support SMEs and drive environmentally friendly practices through its supply chain.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council approved its sustainable procurement policy earlier this month. Under the policy, the council will have to consider the environmental impact of all products and services it buys by looking at what goods are made of, how they are transported and how they will eventually be disposed of.

This means local suppliers have a natural advantage because of lower transportation costs and fewer associated carbon emissions. It is hoped this will encourage SMEs in the area to bid for council contracts.

The policy will affect all areas of spend unrelated to staff overheads and parts of it are already in place. The council is using the government’s “quick wins” scheme – sustainability targets for commonly purchased products such as IT equipment and stationery – to measure its progress. So far all PCs, monitors and printers meet “quick win” specifications and its paper products meet minimum standards.

While the council is not planning to save a specific amount of money through the policy, such practices have saved money in the past through, for example, selling used paper for recycling, a council spokesman told SM.

Under the policy the council will work with suppliers, encouraging them to reduce the environmental impact of their products and processes. It will also insist in contracts that vendors should “maintain environmental standards equivalent to the council’s own standards”. The spokesman confirmed that in the event of a supplier failing to meet the policy’s requirements it will not be used.

Bob Baldock, the council’s director of governance, said: “The council is committed to protecting our environment. The adoption of this policy will not only ensure that the products we use and the services we provide are as environmentally friendly as possible, but that we're helping to promote the local economy too.”

Last month, a report by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) said council spending could make local economies more resilient and boost sustainability. Independent reports have criticised the public sector's uptake of sustainable procurement despite schemes such as “quick wins” being implemented to make green buying easier.

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