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Green is for go: The government is pushing for sustainable and energy-efficient procurement

Paul Barton


United Kingdom

While all public sector bodies must follow UK goverment policy for sustainable procurment, the private sector must also take note. Paul Barton, a partner at Fieldfisher, explains

While all public sector bodies must follow UK goverment policy for sustainable procurment, the private sector must also take note. Technology Partner Paul Barton explains more:

All public sector bodies must follow the UK government policy that promotes and facilitates sustainable and energy efficient practices. The commitment to sustainable procurement extends to ensuring suppliers follow sustainable practices.

  • The EU Energy Efficiency Directive came into force on 5 June 2014. It requires that specified public sector bodies must, when purchasing products and services, comply with the energy efficiency standards set out in the directive and other public bodies – including local and regional government – are encouraged to follow the same example but are not obliged to. These energy efficiency requirements must also be consistent with cost-effectiveness, economic feasibility, wider sustainability, technical suitability and sufficient competition.
  • The Greening Government Commitments were established in February 2011 and detail the targets set out by the UK government to reduce the nation’s environmental impact. The commitments cover carbon emissions, resource use and sustainable procurement.
  • The Government Buying Standards (GBS) are a set of standard product specifications that are mandatory for central government departments and related organisations. All departments must ensure they meet GBS when purchasing goods and services for the product groups covered. The wider public sector is encouraged to specify the “mandatory” standards in tenders.
  • The government has also committed to reuse existing IT systems, while moving towards a common infrastructure to increase efficiency and interoperability. A key aim was to reduce procurement timescales, to make it simpler for SMEs to compete for government business and improve the implementation of big IT projects.
  • The Greening Government: ICT strategy was established in 2011 and aimed to tackle cost and deliver efficient, green practices. The approach recognised the dual role of IT in respect of environmental issues: both as a cause of environmental problems (as a result of increased energy consumption), but also as an enabler which could change the way government operates and provides services. The strategy highlights that government must encourage and incentivise green practices from its suppliers, awarding contracts that appropriately encompass green solutions. It adds government must build on its current procurement practices by considering both the financial and green ‘total costs of ownership’, when comparing tenders (including energy, disposal and service delivery approaches). Further, the government must embed the GBS in all IT procurements and seek a minimum set of standards for accounting for environmental impact costs throughout the life of a product or service (including energy use).

The UK government is clearly pushing for sustainable and energy efficient procurement in both the public and the private sectors.

It is important to understand these obligations and to ensure both buyers and suppliers are fully aware of their commitments when entering into or renegotiating contractual arrangements.

This articles was published in the October 2015 edition of Supply Management.

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