Sustainability encompasses environmental, economic and social issues. While it is often thought of as reducing consumption and waste; or recycling, it is also about ensuring people are treated fairly when harvesting or manufacturing goods for our consumption. Thus, it relates to how we do things and how it affects the quality of our lives. Where a change in a process, or the goods or services we use, improves our working environment, reducing workloads and stress levels – this too is a sustainability matter.
Where, for example, there is a reduction in waste this will result in a reduction in the cost of disposing of the waste to landfill sites, there will also be an intangible benefit to the organisation from the increasing sense of well-being by the staff who are aware that their support for the initiative is having an environmental impact. The challenge here, as far as efficiency calculations are concerned, is to be able to allocate a realistic monetary value to this perceived feeling of well being. It could be that this environmental approach is used to help attract new investment through, for example, an increase in student numbers or in grants or gifts from donors.
In some instances, there may be a cost associated with a ‘sustainability’ decision; this should be recorded as a negative, cashable, efficiency. In many instances, however, there will be other efficiencies that will outweigh the ‘cost’ of taking the sustainable decision. Using the Whole Life Costing model, it may be shown that the purchase of a more expensive piece of equipment will have lower operating costs and, in the longer term, will offer better value for money.
Examples of sustainability include
- S1 - Reduction in waste – packaging, residue from processes etc
- S2 - Reduction in consumption - use of raw materials (consumables, utilities etc)
- S3 - Legislative compliance – eg WEEE legislation
- S4 - Recycling and/or reuse of products
- S5 - Enhanced Reputation and/or marketing opportunities
- S6 - Cost avoidance
- S7 - Other
- S8 - Not specified
For guidance for individuals seeking to embed sustainability into procurement see the Sustainability Resources information.