Call for government to take action on green buying

21 May 2012

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21 May 2012 | Anna Scott

The government must set out how it intends to use public procurement to help develop markets in green products and services, according to both a committee of MPs and a group of business leaders.

Giving evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee, Andrew Raingold, chief executive of the Aldersgate Group, said that as the UK’s largest purchaser, the government needs to take “exemplary action” in order to stimulate demand for more sustainable goods and services.

Raingold – whose organisation’s members include business leaders from companies including Biffa, Microsoft and Veolia – said that there needed to be a change in mindset away from setting minimum sustainability standards, which he said lead to incremental change. Instead, he said, the government should be “stimulating innovation in new goods and services, including greater emphasis on environmental and social measures and making these the basis for competition among suppliers, price and quality”.

In 2009-10, government procurement expenditure was £256 billion, according to a 2011 report from the Treasury and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The Environmental Audit Committee stated in its report, A Green Economy, that the government should also set out how it intends to monitor its progress in using procurement expenditure to help develop green markets.

It also recommended that the government set out what specific changes it intends to make to ensure that procurement meets the requirements of the recently passed Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, which is intended to “strengthen the social enterprise business sector and make the concept of ‘social value’ more relevant and important in the placement and provision of public services”.

The act requires certain public authorities to consider at the pre-procurement phase of buying services how what is being purchased might improve the economic, social and environmental well being of an area and how the authority might secure that improvement in the procurement process itself.

The government committed to buying “more sustainable and efficient products within the context of overarching priorities of value for money and streamlining procurement processes” in its 2011 report, Enabling the Transition to a Green Economy.

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