Scotland’s Social Bite cafe aims to balance healthy business with supporting homeless people ©Getty Images
Scotland’s Social Bite cafe aims to balance healthy business with supporting homeless people ©Getty Images

Turning responsible procurement goals into a deliverable strategy

17 February 2022

Driving economic recovery isn't all about the money. Scottish Procurement is exploring how it can use procurement to improve public services while boosting community wellbeing 

With each crisis of the past two years, procurement has demonstrated just how much it can contribute to economic and community balance. At Scottish Procurement – the government office supporting public procurement across the country – its Respond, Reset, Restart and Recover programme has put the profession at the centre of its drive to improve national wellbeing.

“In a climate of ever-increasing complexity and uncertainty and ever-decreasing budgets, we must not allow ourselves to drown in the current issues, instead keeping an eye on the future, longer-term vision and the roadmap to get there,” says Nikki Archer, deputy director and head of procurement and commercial policy and strategy.

“Although the four Rs approach was developed by our economy colleagues, in procurement we’ve played our part by being innovative in the way we support the response and handling of the pandemic. We’ve also aligned our messaging with the wider business to support a common understanding and a whole systems approach, positioning procurement at the heart of business, as a critical ally and enabler.”

The Scottish government identified public procurement as a key lever in economic and community wellbeing, so the approach was aligned with the national performance framework, which forms the basis of performance agreements between the government and public service delivery bodies.

Report on the real results

The group introduced a sustainable procurement duty on Scottish public authorities under the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, requiring them to:

  • Improve the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of their area
  • Facilitate the involvement of SMEs, third sector and supported businesses in the procurement process, and
  • Promote innovation and drive community benefits through procurement.

The Act also requires public authorities to publish a corporate procurement strategy setting out how their activities will deliver these outcomes, and to publish progress in an annual procurement report. Results are then assessed to determine the impact of public procurement on the broader theme of economic wellbeing.

“Because we don’t have a mandate, our progress has relied hugely on collaboration, co-production and a virtual governance network that we set up across our public sector to help agree and manage our shared priorities,” says Archer.

“To underpin local action, we’ve collaborated on a suite of policy notes which set out our national expectations and offers guidance to buyers.”

The body also collaborated on a standard national reporting template for local authorities in an approach that reinforces the value of procurement as an enabler of positive change.

“Policy and guidance is great,” says Archer, “but our buyers benefit from point-of-use tools to enable them to do their jobs. So we’ve collaboratively produced a suite of national tools, templates, best practice guidance, case studies and training to help them and their organisations.”

Identify levers for change

The organisation aims to enact genuine change, support sustainable spending and work in a way that empowers its budget holders. Resilience is also high on the agenda, as is the creation of better jobs.

“We’ve a wide range of programmes underway with our procurement community and budget holders, focusing on a range of levers for change,” Archer says. “Our view being that legislation and mandates do not tend to drive behavioural change.”

Scottish Procurement is also working with economic development and enterprise partners to understand its corporate investment and procurement pipelines. This will ensure that, when it’s ready to procure, suppliers and supply chains will be able to respond.

“We’re deliberately homing in on areas linked to boosting our response to the climate emergency,” Archer adds. “Internally, we’re working cross-functionally to influence more of a joined up, systems-thinking approach to our shared ambitions on driving a green and inclusive economic recovery.

“So, for example, how can we embed conditionality within corporate investment decisions, identifying what good looks like in respect to critical outcomes – with these flowing through all subsequent projects and funding.”

Through this approach, procurement is able to address social issues while also delivering on specific corporate aims. It highlights the role the function can play, especially when leveraging the advice of specialist networks, to deliver targeted and impactful strategies.

In actively seeking opportunities to maximise procurement’s impact on socio-economic value and inclusive recovery, Scottish Procurement hopes to empower a new generation of socially-conscious buyers to effect real, lasting change.

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