Sustainable procurement standard reaches final stages

18th August 2016

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Jade Cohen

An international standard to guide organisations on integrating sustainability into their procurement processes has reached its second round of consultation.

ISO 20400 will complement ISO 26000, the international guidance on social responsibility, which was published in 2010.

Sustainable procurement entails making better choices with all purchases, including office supplies, energy providers, caterers and building materials, ISO said.

Until now, there have been few harmonised, international guidelines that can be applied universally, and in sufficient detail, it added.

Jacques Schramm, chair of ISO/PC 277, the committee developing the standard, said: ‘For many organisations, sustainable procurement is already featured in their sustainability reports, yet there is a distinct lack of clear guidelines on how to implement and measure sustainable procurement practices.

‘Using ISO 20400 will therefore help organisations achieve their sustainability objectives, improve management of supplier relations, improve the sustainability efforts of their supply chain and give them a competitive edge,’ he added.

Colleen Theron, sustainability lawyer and consultant at CLT Envirolaw, said that development of the standard reflected the significant spending by organisations on goods and services. Procurement in the public sector typically accounts for around 12% of GDP and 29% of government expenditure, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Many people who work in procurement roles do not have a sustainability background, which means it is often not considered in purchasing decisions, she said.

The standard should improve this situation as it emphasises building an understanding of sustainability issues for people in procurement roles, said Theron.

Conflicting priorities can also be a problem, she noted, with procurement professionals often rewarded on the basis of their performance in keeping spending low. ‘The whole idea of sustainable procurement is to create longer-term relationships with suppliers, not just cut them off when prices go up,’ she said. ‘ISO 20400 places a lot of emphasis on developing relationships with colleagues and suppliers.’

Final publication of the standard is expected next year.


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