Procurement – Carbon Footprints

May 2011 saw the publication of a report outlining Bristol City Council’s Carbon Footprint that related directly to procurement activity.  [Please see the full report: Carbon Footprint of Procurement] Will we see more local authorities asking questions on carbon footprints? Probably not!

The report does provide a response to the question ‘is the Carbon Foot a consideration for procurement teams’?  In basic terms the answer is ‘yes – BUT’. That but is always going to be there as cost is always a key consideration that outweighs marginal or woolly statements.

If it is not a primary consideration we need to really review what steps suppliers can take to ensure that carbon reduction targets are built into their responses in a way that does add value, has potential to score points and builds a credible, measureable indicator for the buyers without saddling the supplier with unnecessary burdens .

Carbon reduction will reduce operational costs in the long run, however for it to be really effective in council target terms it needs to have an annual impact that stands scrutiny.

Suppliers working in the areas listed should look at the development of their carbon reduction strategy for procurement as an opportunity to add value:

  • Construction
  • Sewage treatment and disposal
  • Refuse disposal
  • Waste Management
  • Community Services  including Health care

We should all be continually looking at our energy reduction targets, how we access our own services and materials with effective carbon management systems.

However most companies when asked will not have a clear understanding of what their carbon footprint is or how to measure it.

Therefore in our energy conscious market anything that demonstrates a clear commitment to sustainability and environmental management systems should include a carbon management plan.

A recent update to the EU Guide encouraged procurement teams to use environmental criteria in scoring tenders, note the point made:

“Applying environmental award criteria may make sense, for example, if you are not sure of the cost and/ or market availability of products, works or services which meet certain environmental objectives. By including these factors in your award criteria, you are able to weigh them against other factors including cost.” Section 5.2 of Buying Green 2nd Edition – EU Guide 2011 [Italics ours]

So to meet the environmental objectives the core of the response needs to offer better value and additionality that will make a real difference in the context of the council targets. Where do you begin? Possibly with these five steps:

1.       Measure/Audit your Carbon Footprint

2.       Report the results annually

3.       Provide evidence of reduction targets and how you are meeting them

4.       Substituting with less-carbon-intensive alternatives

5.       Renew the scheme regularly as products change

Suppliers can have a significant impact on Public Sector targets by adopting an EMS with a Carbon Reporting element, it may not be required in the Tender but it will not go unnoticed.

Do carbon footprints count? Yes if you link them to a carbon reduction plan and an environmental management system. These are much easier to introduce and will reward suppliers with an additional competitive edge.

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