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Key steps to embed sustainability in procurement by Leyre Villaizan (PUBLIC)

Gisela Montes | GLASS | 12.10.2022

According to the United Nations Brundtland Commission, being sustainable means "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". However, the concept isn’t limited to the defense of natural resources but extends to the defense of social and economic resources.

Leyre Villaizan, Digital Transformation Associate at PUBLIC, a leading European government-focused technology company based in London, England (UK), outlines some of the key steps councils can take to ensure sustainability is embedded in every step of the procurement process.

Although there is no simple one-size-fits-all guide to procuring sustainably, she recommended 7 key steps as a good place to start.

1. Understanding where you are: The first stage of your sustainable procurement journey is usually taking stock of your current processes, capabilities, and resources to get a clear picture of sustainability ‘as-is’. There is a motto that says "it is not known, what is not measured".

2. Establishing sustainability goals & identifying priority categories: Having gathered insights into the sustainability status quo of your organization, you then need to identify specific sustainability priorities and objectives. This includes mapping the policies and regulations affecting your procurement processes, engaging with stakeholders, and identifying priority procurement categories.

3. Developing an action plan: Based on insights from your internal diagnosis above, an action plan should be developed. The plan should include a well-defined governance structure and distribution of responsibilities.

4. Collaborating with your suppliers: To be effective, sustainable public procurement (SPP) must be a collaborative effort. This means working with your suppliers to understand where they are.

5. Measuring: To bolster your SPP implementation, you can set up methods to track progress, adapt to feedback, and quantify success. The data collection and reporting methods put in place should enable your team to capture meaningful sustainability data and use it for iterative improvements.

6. Embedding sustainability into evaluation processes: It is useful to develop a standard approach for embedding sustainability into contract evaluation processes. This saves time, and ensures that sustainability requirements are consistent and comprehensive across agreements.

7. Training: After assessing your procurement team’s and suppliers’ capabilities, it is useful to develop training and guidance materials to help build or expand SPP-relevant skills.

Transforming the public procurement process into a sustainable process requires a lot of work. PUBLIC, with Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) and Spend Network, has published the Open and Sustainable Public Procurement Toolkit, a guide that teaches governments how to apply open data and open approaches to underpin successful sustainable procurement SPP implementation and drive public impact.

Do you want to know how to set your goals to start your journey towards sustainable public procurement, how to trace the first steps towards that journey, or PUBLIC's proposal to improve the skills of procurement teams and suppliers? Read the full note here and tell us which other key step you think should be taken toward sustainable public procurement.