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The Power of Public Purchases

Ashley Gould, Head of Procurement for the Highland Council describes the many benefits of partnership working  for sustainable procurement
 “The actions of the public sector have a huge impact on society, the economy and the environment and in no area is this more obvious than how we spend public funds. Procurement is a key means of delivering this Government’s priorities and underpins the achievement of the social, economic and environmental benefits that sustainable economic growth demands”

This is a quotation from the Scottish Government Sustainable Procurement Policy, October 2009, 

This reflects the important part that all levels of Government view Procurement as having in delivering sustainability in all areas of life.  Procurement is also seen as a key driver in achievement the European Commission’s Europe 2020 Strategy

In support of this, the Scottish Government has been using the Sustainable Procurement Flexible Framework Self-Assessment Tool for some years and all public bodies are encouraged to use this and has made supporting training widely available

The Highland Council has assessed itself in most areas at level 3 of 5 using the tool, however it recognises that the pace of change in this area needs to improve and that it needs to work with partner organisations to make the most of the opportunities that arise in this important area of work.  

This is not a straightforward matter, as it involves significant use of imagination, and asking ourselves questions we’ve rarely properly asked before, across everything we do.  It is not about the use of quality criteria in the sense of matching a product, work, or service to a specific need, but about thinking about the actual consequences of procurement decisions being made.  What will the direct social, economic, and environmental impacts of these decisions be?  Public Procurement does allow for these questions to be taken into account, and the Council does not believe that doing so will necessarily lead to increased cost.

Significant gains have been made:  the Council’s last ICT Services contract was the first of its kind to feature sustainability heavily, resulting in significant carbon reduction, the recycling and re-use of hundreds of Council PCs, employment opportunities in Sheltered Workshops, graduate opportunities within the service providers organisation, and the IT training of young carers.  The Council is also working towards the WWF “What Wood You Choose” silver award, and has achieved notable gains in the Government’s “Hungry For Success” campaign.

More can be done however, and improved guidance for Council staff on building sustainability into their procurement requirements has just been launched.

The Council would now hope to make the most of the expertise available from partner organisations in the Highland Environment Forum in pursuing this agenda and in making the most of the opportunities we have through working together to deliver this; and also to meet the sustainable procurement duty embedded within the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act.  The Council’s Head of Environment and Development is convening a working group from within the Highland Environment Forum to take this initiative forward, and both he and the Council’s Head of Procurement are looking forward very much to working in partnership with the rest of the Forum to make the most of our joint opportunities.

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