Procuring green energy would be the “easiest switch” and quickest change to make, said Hurrey © by Ashley Cooper/Barcroft Media/Getty Images
Procuring green energy would be the “easiest switch” and quickest change to make, said Hurrey © by Ashley Cooper/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

What does the UK’s green industrial revolution mean for buyers?

19 November 2020

Procurement professionals should consider carbon in purchasing decisions in the same way they would cost, quality and safety in order to meet UK decarbonisation targets.

Oliver Hurrey, chair of the Sustainable Procurement Pledge, told SM if procurement professionals were not already considering carbon emissions when sourcing and communicating with suppliers already, they’re already behind the curve.

Hurrey’s comments came as the UK government unveiled its 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, which explores areas such as driving green energy, accelerating the shift to zero-emissions vehicles, and taking action on net-zero aviation and green shipping. 

Hurrey said the plan was “another stake in the ground for all procurement professionals to think about carbon in the same way that they think about cost, quality and safety”. 

“The challenge is that it's yet another thing that needs to be considered. They're going to have to be aware of what carbon means for them pretty quickly. Procurement professionals who aren't already on top of this will need to get on top of it. That's going to mean training, it's going to mean knowledge, it's going to be catching up with the Joneses and finding out what other people are doing.”

Hurrey said in firms where there wasn’t already a  decarbonisation plan in place, procurement professionals should take the opportunity to lead on this and ask key questions on decarbonisation in tenders and sourcing processes.

“They absolutely need to be asking those questions and putting it as part of the consideration in their sourcing plans. If you're procuring from suppliers who are not aware of these big changes, then you're creating risk for your business and ultimately you're going to need to change those suppliers fairly soon,” he said. 

Procuring green energy would be the “easiest switch” for procurement professionals to make and would be “one of the biggest impacts you could be making most quickly”, Hurrey added.

He also highlighted the impact of the government’s announcement that the sale of petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2030 and the impact this will have on fleets and logistics operations. 

“It opens up whole new kind of business models. It's not just about procuring electric vehicles, it's all about creating leasing plans and creating arrangements and deals, not only in terms of the actual vehicles, but also the charging of those vehicles and how you are going to put that infrastructure in place in your business,” he said, adding collaboration might be a way to cut infrastructure costs. 

Procurement professionals will also need to consider the way they ship goods and whether they’re being shipped in a green way, he said. 

Gareth Stace, director general of UK Steel, said objectives should be set for UK content in major projects.

“New green infrastructure is precisely what the economy needs to rebound, and the UK steel industry is ready to support the government’s build back better strategy by supplying the world-class steel that is essential for our offshore wind, energy-efficient buildings, electric vehicles, and hydrogen networks,” he said. 

“The government must set clear objectives for steel procurement in these major projects, as happens in the United States.”

Justin Bowden, national secretary of GMB, called for the government to commit to UK supply chains to deliver good value for the taxpayer. 

“Ensuring the 10-point plan delivers an economic bang for every buck of taxpayer’s money means binding commitments that all those in receipt of these government subsidies and grants use UK supply chains and therefore generate UK jobs and wealth,” he said.

Alex Veitch, general manager for public policy at Logistics UK, said the switch to a low-carbon economy “must be affordable for businesses”.

He said: “In order for the commercial sector to be able to deliver, government should work with industry to develop a long-term pathway to decarbonisation, providing clarity on the technology and alternative fuels it supports so that manufacturers and operators can invest with confidence. 

“While logistics businesses are committed to switching to electric vans, the government must introduce a fairer way of funding grid reinforcements and energy supply upgrades; currently, the onus lies on a business to fund upgrades to the entire local electricity hub if there is insufficient energy supply in the existing infrastructure to power its electric vehicle fleet. Without a resilient energy and charging infrastructure the switch to electric vehicles will be a pipe dream for businesses.”

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, expressed concern over the deadline for the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles, which has been brought forward by a decade.

“Manufacturers have invested billions to deliver vehicles that are already helping thousands of drivers switch to zero, but this new deadline, fast-tracked by a decade, sets an immense challenge,” he said.

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