How to develop sustainable procurement in higher and further education

29 May 2012
Kat Gorham, sustainable procurement project co-ordinator, Sustainable Procurement Centre of ExcellenceSustainable Procurement is increasing its presence in the higher education (HE) and further education (FE) sector. Many institutions are now looking at developing long-term objectives and strategies to implement sustainable procurement within their own institutions, but there are challenges along the way. The five tips below will allow you to identify these and overcome them. 1. Assess where you are The first thing anyone needs to do is understand where they are. What are your current practices and how is the procurement process undertaken? Break it down from the procurement department to individual departments, administrators and academics. Each of these groups of people will have a different understanding of the procurement process. Once you have a good idea of what this is, you can look at identifying ways to implement sustainable procurement across all of these areas effectively. 2. Assess where you want to go Once you’ve established where you are, you need to determine where you want to go. What do you want to achieve within this process and how will it work? Will the procurement department take the lead, and if so, how are they going to communicate the changes to the rest of the institution to make sure it is a consistent approach? 3. Who or what do you need to get you there? At the Sustainable Procurement Centre of Excellence (SPCE) we’ve been working with a number of institutions, developing training sessions for staff on sustainable procurement. You need to be able to identify those who need training in order to be able to implement sustainable procurement. This is likely to be the procurement department, environment and sustainability teams, estates and IT. All of these groups are key stakeholders that need to be involved from the very beginning. You also need to think about the strategy and policy you may need to get you there. This will involve insuring you have senior management buy-in in order to be successful. Prioritising your commodity areas will allow you to determine where there is the most scope/potential impact so you can start making a big difference. 4. Engagement and participation Implementing sustainable procurement is not as easy as just delivering a training session to the procurement team. There needs to be engagement with the wider stakeholders who use the procurement process, including academics and administrators. This could be through a marketing campaign or through wider staff training. However you decide to do it, there needs to be a communication of the changes in the procurement process, why they are being implemented and how they can help. This is key to the success of ensuring that sustainable procurement is on the agenda of everyone involved in the process. 5. Evaluate and continue building capability Once you have all of the above in place you can look at evaluating the success of implementing sustainable procurement. The process of relaying the message and ensuring everyone is involved and aware will take time. So evaluating this will allow you to identify any weak areas and to continue building capability within your institution. You can find some examples of sustainable procurement policies and strategies here on our website, and you could also request our free one-day training module on sustainable here. * Kat Gorham is sustainable procurement project co-ordinator at the Sustainable Procurement Centre of Excellence.
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