last updated: 11th March 2013

Sustainable procurement is about taking and minimising the impact of environmental and social factors when making purchasing decisions. It is about looking at what the products are made from, who made them and what they are made of. It is about whether you need the goods or services at all. For example, can you borrow or use a similar piece of equipment elsewhere in the institution rather than getting another one'

Sustainable development is the simple idea of ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, both now and for generations to come. A widely used international definition is:

"development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) (The Brundtland Report) p43

Although the idea is simple the task is substantial. It means meeting the following four objectives at the same time.

  • social progress that recognises the needs of everyone
  • effective protection of the environment
  • prudent use of natural resources
  • the maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment

The LSC’s vision as set out in ‘From Here to Sustainability: The Learning and Skills Council’s Strategy for Sustainable Development’ is that the learning sector will proactively commit and contribute to sustainable development through its management of resources, the learning opportunities it delivers and its engagement with communities.
Click here for link to Full Report or Summary Report

In order to achieve this we have identified four priority areas for action:

  • Positioning the sector (Capacity building)
  • Buildings and estates (Building and design, procurement)
  • Curriculum (Learning materials. whole institution approach)
  • Community (Engagement, local and regional networks)

Procurement is specifically identified as one of the key ways in which the sector can deliver sustainable development.

In our strategy we ask colleges to: ‘make sure that all procurement practices reflect social and environmental as well as economic costs’. This means findings ways to reduce the environmental and social impact your procurement decisions. This can typically mean questioning:

What you buy
Is there a less environmentally damaging alternative'
Is there a more energy efficient product available'
Do I need to buy it at all – can I re-use other equipment?

How you buy it
Do I need a delivery of this product every week?
Do I need to purchase this product could it be a service instead?

Who you buy it from
Are there any local suppliers of this product?
Has the supplier any environmental convictions?

Buying more sustainably can benefit your college in a number of ways, such as saving you money, reducing risk of pollution and prosecution and enhancing your reputation. For further information on the benefits of sustainable procurement see:

Higher Education - Envirnoment Procurement Performance HEEPI
The Waste and Resources Action Plan WRAP
Strategic Supply Chain Forum SSCF
The Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges EAUC

Guidance developed on sustainable procurement suggests a few simple steps to get started:

  • Put a cross functional team together to look at sustainable procurement;
  • Consider putting a sustainable procurement policy together or looking to reflect a commitment to sustainable development in your existing procurement policy;
  • Look at forthcoming projects for opportunities to implement sustainable procurement (new capital project or college refurbishment);
  • Keep it simple – don’t try to do too much at once.

Sustainable procurement is still developing area however; work being carried out by the Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges alongside the Learning and Skills Council, Higher Education Funding Council For England, Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Management and Crescent Purchasing consortium (amongst many others) are developing tools for procurement professionals to support you in this important area. For more information on this project and environmental matters click on the EAUC link above.

Other guidance material:


Other Material
DEFRA's 'Quick Wins' are specifically designed for procurers. They are a set of sustainable specifications for a range of commonly-purchased products, such as IT equipment, white goods, paper (including tissue), etc. The products assessed were chosen for their environmental / financial impact, scope for environmental improvement and political or example-setting function.
The EU's Green Public Procurement Toolkit

Other Links are available Hear 

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