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United Nations starts global sustainable procurement drive

April 4, 2014

The United Nations Environment Programme’s plan aims to endorse and promote procurement of goods and companies that bring “significant environmental and social benefits”. UN

Environmental Leader reported on the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and its new Sustainable Government Procurement Programme, which is a global initiative to help governments “redirect public spending into goods and services that bring significant environmental and social benefits”, and which is the first part of a 10 year framework towards sustainable consumption and production.

UNEP, which previously promoted remanufacturing in a report released in 2013, believes that by “improving knowledge of sustainable procurement’s benefits and supporting implementation through access to experts and tools”, the new programme can help governments to begin “demanding goods and services that conserve natural resources, create decent green jobs, and improve livelihoods”.

With many developed nations spending over 13 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on public procurement, and developing nations spending 20 percent, the UNEP believes that “existing initiatives from around the globe prove that sustainable procurement transforms markets, boosts eco-industries, saves money, conserves natural resources and fosters job creation”.

Among a number of examples that UNEP gave of governments endorsing environmentally-friendly procurement was that of a company in France winning a contract “for the purchase of toner cartridges”, awarded primarily on the basis that the company, between 2009 and 2011, recovered 11,500 kilogrammes of waste, saving the government 30 percent in costs, and also created nine full-time jobs for disabled people.

In the UK meanwhile, a sustainability consultancy has launched a certification that can help UK companies “assess and reduce the environmental, social and economic risks and impacts of their procurement activities on their business and supply chains”. LRS Consultancy’s Responsible Procurement Code provides companies “with an independent audit and certification based on an expenditure  analysis and the evaluation of levels of responsible procurement and supply chain performance”.

Results from the audit help to “assess the levels of sustainability within their procurement policies”, and the RPC can also “provide a range of benefits” including “identifying and realising cost savings” and “environmental and social impacts”.

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