Peter Quinn is Head of Procurement at the Bank of England, who recently won the IEMA Sustainability Impact Award 2020 for Sustainable Procurement. He discusses how to get started with embedding sustainable procurement in your organisation.

The Bank of England is the UK’s central bank. Our mission is “to promote the good of the people of the United Kingdom by maintaining monetary and financial stability”. Every team in the Bank has an implicit responsibility to contribute to this mission, even those – like Procurement – who are not directly involved in setting monetary policy or supervising the financial services industry.

It is important to the Procurement team that we have the biggest possible positive impact. We recently set out to strengthen sustainability principles in our procurement. The following ‘4 Cs’ are the steps that we would recommend to any organisation hoping to do the same.

1. Conceptualise

We wanted to redefine what procurement means at the Bank. We came up with an analogy to help our colleagues understand what we do: ‘Procurement is to suppliers what HR is to our staff i.e. recruiting, developing and managing suppliers as a key part of the Bank’s 'talent pool’.

At all stages of this procurement cycle, we aim to embed principles of sustainability. This means that we favour suppliers with a demonstrable commitment to sustainability, and work with our suppliers to continuously improve. We wanted to redefine what ‘value for money’ means to the Bank, with sustainability and shared values contributing to our understanding of quality. We wanted to ensure that our priorities were clear, that sustainability considerations had a real impact on decisions made, and that we could measure our achievements.

2. Codify

The Bank’s own code of conduct, 'Our Code', outlines the standard of conduct expected from individuals working at the Bank. In line with this, we decided to create the Bank's 'Supplier Code of Practice' to highlight the values and principles that we expect our suppliers to embrace and put into practice.

We started by looking at the UN's sustainable development goals, selecting the areas that were most relevant to us and consulting with subject matter experts where appropriate – for example with our inclusion team and our green team. Our supplier code clearly and concisely explains why the principles we have selected are important to us, and sets out at a high level what we expect from the organisations we partner with.

3. Communicate

This isn’t something that a Procurement team can do alone; these changes need buy-in from across the organisation and from suppliers. Our supplier code was widely communicated across the Bank and there is an on-going training programme for all internal buyers to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities. The Supplier Code of Practice is linked to the Bank's standard terms and conditions of contract and all new suppliers receive a copy when they engage in a Bank tender process.

We have developed an online 'triage tool', which gives a personalised recommendation for each procurement. This informs all internal buyers of the relevant policy requirements they need to consider and the internal subject matter experts they need to consult when procuring goods or services. This is how we ensure that key sustainability requirements are baked into specifications from very early in the procurement process, and only the suppliers who can meet these requirements are selected.

4. Collaborate

Sharing ideas and comparing experiences has been incredibly helpful. The Bank is an active member of Hellios, a community of 30 + financial institutions working together to agree supplier management information and standards. We recently led a working group to refresh the group’s approach to the environmental requirements with a special focus on climate action, which is now implemented. By working together, we can ensure better, further-reaching outcomes, and reduce the work we have to do in ‘re-inventing the wheel’.

We also see collaboration with suppliers as key. We monitor sustainability performance in contracts as part of the contract management process where relevant. This helps us to ensure continuous improvement, for everyone’s benefit.

It’s a cliché, but this really is a journey. We will continue to learn, adapt and improve, and to ask more from our suppliers and from ourselves.

If you’d like to see our supplier code, it is available on the Bank of England website.

Find out more about all of the IEMA Sustainability Impact Awards winners for 2020 here.

Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributing member, and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated.

Photo of P Quinn
Peter Quinn

Peter is Head of Procurement at the Bank of England. He heads up the Bank’s Central Procurement Team, who support colleagues across the organisation. The Bank relies on suppliers for a whole range of goods and services, including technology, catering, and banknote printing.

Peter is passionate about bringing our values to life in our supplier specifications and working with our existing suppliers to improve outcomes in relation to the environment, human rights, business ethics, diversity, inclusion and wellbeing.


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