'Canny: 'knowing, skilful, shrewd, lucky, careful in money matters, harmless' - sustainable procurement is the application of sustainable development principles to procurement and is a key activity in helping to ensure that the world remains habitable and that people have a decent quality of life.

There is a wide range of approaches to sustainable procurement, which can be applied at all stages in the procurement process. Often the barrier to achieving sustainable purchasing by organisations is a lack of understanding between the environment or sustainable development manager and the purchasing manager on what is required or what is possible.

The Canny Buyer was a sustainable purchasing initiative by Aberdeen City Council along with partners: Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, Aberdeen City Environmental Forum, Aberdeen Forward Ltd, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Grampian Environmental Forum, The Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, the North East Scotland Business Waste Management Partnership, Scottish Enterprise Grampian, and the Scottish Executive.

The Council provided the main management of the project, via a steering group of interested organisations. A consultant, John Forster Associates, was appointed to develop and implement the project.

The project elements included a one day seminar on the topic of sustainable purchasing, an on-line guide or reference book, and a set of case studies. The Seminar A one-day seminar on sustainable procurement was held on February 5 2004 at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, Aberdeen. It was aimed at all those in business or public bodies with responsibility for strategy, budgets, or procurement decisions. With prominent speakers giving practical information based on first hand experience, this was an important step in learning about what is involved and how to put it into practice, and included workshop discussions. There was an exhibition from organisations that provide services or advice on sustainable development issues. The venue was selected as it offered delegates an example of best practice. All food and beverages were sourced where possible from local producers; it was also organic or fairtrade. All paper was recycled from the event, and all food waste was collected and composted. The venue was accessible by public transport. Registration for the seminar could be carried out electronically, therefore minimising waste where possible. 77 delegates attended the seminar. Feedback indicated that the majority of people found the event useful, with many appreciating the opportunity to learn of best case examples from Scotland and to meet and discuss the issues with others. 35 people attended a second seminar on the project and outcomes in Aberdeen in October 2004.

The on-line guidebook at www.cannybuyer.com gives a straightforward up-to-date account of the important features of sustainable procurement, supplemented by links to sources, case studies, initiatives, and regulations to stimulate and support organisations who have not yet begun procuring sustainably. For those organisations that are already further down the road of sustainable procurement, the guidebook provides fresh insights to ease the way. The guidebook was designed for a variety of audiences: environmental specialists (who know perhaps relatively little about procurement); procurement specialists (who need to know how to take account of sustainability in their work); senior managers, board members, governing body members (who need to have a strategic overview of the issues so as to decide how to approach them); and budget holders, project managers and other specialists who need to be aware of how this issue affects their work.

The guidebook is applicable to a range of organisations - small and large businesses, public and voluntary bodies: in short anyone who may need to acquire goods and services. Case Studies and leaflet Feedback from the seminar indicated that many delegates would like to see more case studies on implementation. Eight case studies of organisations of different size in Scotland were undertaken - varying from some of the largest businesses to a two person business.

Given the lack of documented good practice, it was decided to develop case studies of organisations that are regarded as good exemplars of sustainable procurement. The aims were to determine features of good practice, factors that have led to the take up of good practice and factors that have acted as barriers. The Case Studies are on the Canny Buyer website. Using the seminar and the case studies, John Forster Associates wrote a leaflet 'The Pocket File on Canny Buying'. This summarises the route towards sustainable procurement. It was designed by Aberdeen City Council and 3,000 printed on recycled paper in October 2004. Copies were distributed to contacts and through conferences in Scotland. A copy is available on the Canny Buyer website. Canny Buyer Fife Event CVS Fife delivers a Capacity Building Project, funded through the European Social Fund Objective 3 Programme.

One of the "horizontal themes" of the Programme is Sustainable Development. CVS Fife approached Friends of the Earth Scotland which led to the involvement with the Canny Buyer initiative in Aberdeen. CVS Fife were keen to develop an initiative from which they themselves could learn and that it should be very practical - so that organisations could see some "quick wins" to keep them interested and committed to following through the initiative longer term. CVS Fife planned to work with a number of (up to 20) interested organisations to set up a network of voluntary organisations working on sustainable procurement issues in the local area. A free one-day seminar on sustainable procurement was therefore held on February 10 2005 in Glenrothes in Fife. It was aimed at medium to large voluntary organisations already working with CVS Fife. Presentations included a case study on furniture procurement and how the principles would apply to other products, such as paper. Delegates also worked in smaller groups discussing the issues that can arise in organisations and the best way to resolve them. The venue was as accessible as possible by public transport. For access from some rural areas, a car-sharing network was set up for attendees. All paper and marketing materials were printed on recycled paper.

The Canny Buyer project formally ended after the Fife event in February 2005. The Sustainable Development Commission highlighted the project in its 2004 Critique and on its website. John Forster Associates drew on the Canny Buyer work for a workshop presentation at the Scottish launch of the UK framework for Sustainable Development in March 2005. Correspondence was received from a range of organisations seeking information on the project and permission to highlight it in presentations - with contact from as far as South Australia and Kuwait. As well as the seminars, a much broader audience has been reached via the website, flyers, and presentations to conferences and events.

The project has also been highlighted as a good example in an article by Joanne Teal, Solicitor, Public Law, McGrigors published in the October 7 2005 edition of the Scots Law Times, and in Greens Scottish Human Rights Journal 30-5, called Sustainable Procurement: Spending it Wisely? Aberdeen City Council judged that the Canny Buyer was a success and achieved what it set out to do and more, and that the success of the Canny Buyer should be built on - continued and used further in Scotland, working with related organisations to promote sustainable procurement, with regular updating of the website, and running a third workshop in 2006 - perhaps in the central belt of Scotland to build on knowledge and to encourage more action. Funding would need to be sought to continue the project.

The Canny Buyer Project has been run on the basis of sustainable development. The project used the services of local consultants to (i) co-ordinate the project and write the guidebook (John Forster Associates), (ii) event management (Hulse Rodger & Co) and Friends of the Earth Scotland and, (iii) web design and host (University of Aberdeen). The consultants were required to demonstrate their commitment to and knowledge of sustainable development. Meetings for the project team used telephone conferencing to minimise travel where appropriate.