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Procuring sustainably for a green minded office

When it comes to procurement in a small business, sustainable procurement might not be at the top of the agenda as there is a perceived higher cost associated with sustainability and keeping costs down is in most instances one of the key activities of a smaller business. However, sustainability is not all about spending more. Sustainability also means having enough conviction to make the decision not to purchase, purchasing from a local SME and demonstrating the willingness to keep improving on existing processes and procedures and as a result, becoming more efficient and less wasteful, benefiting the economy, the wider environment and the business itself.

Inclusive (non-discriminatory) and Sustainable Procurement should be considered by any type of organisation with the end goal to support the circular economy and minimise their environmental and social impact. For smaller businesses it may seem less of a priority as their impact might not appear that great. However, the process of becoming more sustainable in their procurement will help them to understand what is happening around them and to future-proof the business by looking forward and being more mindful about their purchases.

Setting up a structure in the form of a Sustainable Procurement Plan will help identify sustainable supplies and will support the actions below by ensuring that agreed sustainable criteria are met throughout the process. In the plan, the standard needs to set out how sustainability objectives of an organisation are addressed at the early stages of the procurement process such as;

  • market analysis,
  • forward commitment,
  • life cycle assessment,
  • risk management,
  • whole-life costing,
  • social return on investment and more

Adopting a specific guidance standard such as ISO 20400 will allow the business to put a structure in place to implement widely recognised standards which will help the business be more efficient and more sustainable in the long term. The standard provides guidance for any organisation of any size or type that needs to deliver sustainable outcomes through their supply chains. Please bear in mind that ISO 20400 is a guidance standard, not a certification standard.

First steps

Many general selection criteria work well for larger organisations, whereas some need to be adapted to the smaller business or even to the nature of the business. After defining a strategy;

  1. Assess supplier affiliations and their own Sustainable Strategies to make sure they are in line with yours. Seek out reliable feedback on their overall performance.
  2. Research the product life cycle and its social, environmental and economic impact
  3. Utilise a questionnaire to help decide if the supplier and the products it supplies fit your strategy
  4. Revisit your agreed Sustainable Business Plan on a 6 monthly basis to ensure it is working for the business and the stakeholders and adjust if need be.

In terms of ISO, WRM has supported a number of clients with their ISO 14001 (Environmental) and ISO 9001 (Quality) certification, where sustainable procurement forms an integral part of the quality standard.

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