Big spenders set out their ethical purchasing goalsFebruary 2009
Two arms of the British state that together spend more than £50billion ($73bn) a year – the Ministry of Defence and the National Health Service – have begun to adopt sustainable procurement regimes.
The defence ministry has produced a ‘sustainable procurement charter’ committing it to using its buying power to improve suppliers’ social and environmental performance.
The charter says the ministry, whose 2010-11 budget will be £36.9bn, will work with suppliers ‘to achieve sustainable development goals’ by educating them on relevant issues, developing performance measures and sharing best practice.
The ministry’s sustainable procurement director, Duncan McDonald, said many key suppliers, including the building company Carillion, had already signed the charter, and he expected the rest to follow ‘soon’.
McDonald said one example of the new procurement regime is a Green Commander Fleet Radar Programme, which includes ‘eco-design principles’ in air traffic control systems to reduce energy use. In addition, the ministry has produced a Sustainable Procurement Delivery Plan considering the social and environmental issues that should concern principal suppliers by December 2009. With advice from Enviros Consulting it has decided that the priorities for sustainable procurement should be transport, food, clothing, construction and fuel.
Ethical procurement guidance on healthcare products and services has also been produced by the NHS. The draft guidance, now out to consultation until April, has been published by the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency, which oversees £20bnBritish of NHS spending a year.
It says NHS trusts should appoint a ‘senior level champion’ to implement ethical procurement, should provide awareness training for all procurement staff, and conduct ethical risk assessments for all large procurement deals.
The guidance, to be finalized in the summer, was written with help from the Ethical Trading Initiative, which said there was ‘clear evidence’ of labour standards abuses within healthcare supply chains. The British Medical Association’s Ethical Trade Group also provided advice.
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