A committee of MPs has urged the government to take a stronger leadership role in ensuring sustainable procurement across the public sector. The call comes in a Commons environmental audit committee report examining how sustainable public procurement policy is being implemented within government.

Its aim was to find out if there was a clear strategy across government for implementing a sustainable procurement policy, and to determine the clarity of EU and UK guidance on legislation relating to the issue.

The combined annual procurement budget of central and local government in the UK is around �125bn a year. The MPs found there is "enormous" potential for greater innovation in the area of sustainability.

However, the report shows there are constraints on how government procurement money is spent. It found the biggest barrier to environmentally-friendly procurement in the UK was the Treasury's refusal to use procurement to achieve environmental objectives.

And it says that the efficiency savings put forward by the Gershon review send a strong signal that cash savings need to be made through procurement. Evidence taken by the committee found that incorporating sustainability into procurement was not difficult, but there is a perception amongst professionals that it is.

The committee calls on the government to get the message across that there are easy environmental, and often financial, gains to be made by incorporating sustainability into procurement.

Lack of leadership was found to be one of the main barriers to improving sustainable procurement, with neither DEFRA or the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) taking overall responsibility.

The MPs feel the lead role should be taken by the OGC.

The report says: "There appears to be little if any internal drive from OGC to pursue sustainable procurement, or any recognition of the significant benefits to the environment and the government's sustainable development agenda of doing so."

The MPs also call for a dedicated website to outline detailed information on the issue, and for clear procurement targets along with guidance on how to reach them.