University of Manchester educates suppliers with free tool

The University of Manchester wants to spread good social and environmental practice through its supply chain with a supplier engagement tool.

The university, which spends around £410m on goods and services each year and is running a £1bn campus development programme, has signed up 1,000 suppliers.

The free tool encourages suppliers to explore their social and environmental impacts and generates a customised action plan to help solve existing problems or embed new activity into operations.

“By using this approach, the university’s procurement team is stimulating change in the 1,000 suppliers who have signed up and spreading best practice well beyond their normal sphere of influence,” said the university.

A report on the project said suppliers had committed to 11,372 sustainability actions, of which 1,985 had been completed, 2,366 were in progress and 7,021 had been committed to but not yet started.

Actions recommended to suppliers range from developing an apprenticeship programme to promoting sustainable travel options.

The tool prompted one suppler, Chariot Office Supplies, a Manchester-based company that employs 13 people, to move their operations from two sites to one.

This resulted in lower carbon emissions and cut travel time. LED lighting and insulation was also installed to improve environmental performance.

Chariot MD Mike Carter said: “[The tool] has enabled our business to think about how we can make improvements by thinking about our environmental, social and economic impacts.”

Kevin Casey, the university’s head of procurement, said: “Many large organisations ask to see the environmental or other polices of their suppliers as part of the approval process.

“We wanted to move beyond a box-ticking exercise and encourage suppliers to focus on the actions rather than words. That’s why it’s not a compulsory measure.” 

The tool also provides the university with information that can inform future decisions about how it can help its suppliers. 

For example, the procurement team now knows that 68% of products supplied are manufactured outside of the UK.

“This helps [us] investigate the whole supply chain to ensure it is operating in a responsible way,” said the university, which plans to increase numbers of suppliers using the tool.

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