World first international sustainable procurement guidelines published

The world’s first international sustainable procurement guidelines have been published, offering advice for organisations on how to commit to more green and ethical procurement practices.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO)'s ISO 20400 ‘Sustainable procurement – Guidance’ lays out advice and recommendations to help organisations develop sustainable purchasing practices and policies, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The guidelines offer routes for integrating sustainability into organisations’ procurement policy strategies and process, helping them to make purchasing decisions that, they claim, will address social, economic and environmental issues such as sustainable communities and responsible consumption and production.

World first international sustainable procurement guidelines published

According to ISO, they are aimed at all organisations, regardless of size or context, adding value by improving productivity, assessing performance, enabling communication between purchasers, suppliers and other stakeholders, as well as encouraging innovation. They define the principles of sustainable procurement as accountability, transparency, respect for human rights and ethical behaviour.

The ISO is a network of global standard makers, made up of standards bodies across 163 different countries. Its members work together to develop standards for the international community, raising awareness, providing training and resources for research.

Jacques Schramm, Chair of the ISO project committee that developed the standard, said: “It is no longer enough for businesses to rely on suppliers to provide them with what they want, no questions asked. Organisations benefit greatly from getting to know their suppliers – understanding what their requirements are as well – to ensure their demands are not unrealistic and that the suppliers they work with have good, ethical practices.

“The risks of not understanding and managing practices throughout the whole supply chain are great. At best, poor quality products or ruptures of stock can result. At worst, disasters like the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013 can happen.

In 2013, more than 1,000 workers at a textiles factory in Bangladesh were killed when the factory collapsed due to structural failings, after bosses told staff to return to work to complete orders, despite the building being declared unsafe. The unethical practices of the manufacturer, which supplied well-known companies such as retailer Primark were cited as a main cause of the tragedy.

Schramm concluded: “Sustainable procurement helps to minimise risks such as these by encouraging buyers and suppliers to work closely together for a better result for all.”

In March, ahead of Phillip Hammond’s Budget announcement, several resource industry associations called for the Treasury to introduce green public procurement rules. Both the Environmental Services Association and the Resource Association spoke of their desire to see more sustainable procurement practices in the UK, driving greater resource efficiency and productivity. However, despite some promising plans regarding packaging recycling mentioned in the Budget, procurement was not addressed.

ISO 20400 ‘Sustainable procurement – Guidance’ guidelines can be viewed on the ISO website.

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