Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland
You can improve your purchasing practices and take action to address cost, environmental and social issues at all stages of your procurement process.
You should analyse what goods and services your business buys. You can use this information to prioritise key areas within your business where you could be purchasing more sustainably.
You could prioritise the goods or services that cost you the most or those with the highest environmental or social impact.
Gathering this information before you start sustainable procurement will help you to:
You should assess the sustainability risks of each purchase or contract over its life cycle. This will help you identify what you can do to minimise the environmental and social risks of your purchases.
It is good practice to use a risk-based approach. This means you should identify which of the sustainability impacts of the purchase have the highest risk and what you will need to do to remove or reduce these when making your purchase.
Consider all costs linked with your purchase (known as whole life costs), including raw materials, manufacture, maintenance and disposal, not just the cost of buying it.
This can help you to decide if it is better to buy a more expensive product or service initially to reduce costs in the longer term. Sustainable products may last longer, use less energy, water and materials, and produce less waste. They may also cost you less to dispose of at the end of their life.
Include environmental and social measures in your purchasing process. You can include this as part of your supplier selection or pre-qualification.
You may choose to specify minimum environmental and social requirements, such as:
You may be able to buy a product or service with an environmental label or ecolabel which meets your minimum requirements. An environmental label shows that a product or service is produced with less impact on the environment. See the page in this guideline: Buying products and services with environmental labels.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has also developed minimum specifications for government buying standards for a range of products including IT equipment, white goods and paper.
When evaluating tenders and awarding a contract, check that a supplier meets your environmental or social requirements. Monitor and review your contracts and suppliers to check they deliver the environmental and social performance you require.
You could include your sustainable procurement process in your environmental management system (EMS) if you have one. For more information about EMS, see our guideline: Environmental management systems (EMS) and environmental reports
If you don't have a formal EMS you could develop a sustainable purchasing policy that is supported by senior managers in your business.
Tell your suppliers and staff about your sustainable procurement objectives and processes and encourage them to buy or deliver products and services that improve your environmental and social purchasing.
Ask your supplier how you could meet your needs more sustainably, and work with them to develop innovative solutions.
There are several toolkits and guidance you can use to help introduce sustainable procurement in your business. See the page in this guideline on Buying sustainable goods and services further information
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