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Background

Following an announcement in the 2008 Budget, The Centre of Expertise in Sustainable Procurement (CESP) was established within the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) to provide leadership and support to central government bodies on their environmental sustainability. The announcement of the establishment of CESP was further developed in the Government's response (PDF, 986KB) to the SDC's 6th annual Sustainable Development in Government report.

The 2010 Budget announced an extension to the remit of government's Chief Sustainability Officer and of CESP to provide leadership, challenge and support to the wider public sector on energy efficiency, working with existing delivery bodies to ensure a coordinated approach. Further information on the programme of work associated with this new role will be published on the OGC website in government’s Delivery Plan Update in the summer.

The UK Government has set itself the goal of becoming one of the leaders in sustainable procurement within the EU and aims to achieve ambitious forward targets for sustainable operations on the government estate.

Two key levers to enable this change across central government are public procurement and the operation and management of the civil estate.  These levers provide an opportunity for government to show leadership, providing a flagship for the wider public sector and private sector to consider.

UK Government policy seeks to reduce the harmful effects of human contribution to climate change, as well as reducing the impacts of negative resource depletion as a result of human consumption patterns and population growth. To this end the Government has established key goals in relation to environmental sustainability for central government.

Firstly, goals for Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate (SOGE) were announced by the Prime Minister in 2006, which all central government departments and Executive Agencies agreed and have now signed up to achieving. These common goals include the reduction of carbon emissions from offices and road travel, waste reduction, increased recycling and reduced water consumption. There are also Mandated Mechanisms for departments to implement, including requirements for new builds to meet BREEAM excellent standards, and for central departments to have implemented accredited Environment Management Systems. Secondly the government set goals on sustainable procurement for central departments in its Sustainable Procurement Action Plan in 2007. These include initiatives to strengthen leadership across central government, build capacity in terms of skills and knowledge and raise standards through mandatory requirements for purchasing goods, including Government Buying Standards (formerly 'Quick Wins').

In 2010 the Government announced new Sustainable Development in Government targets that will be in place from 2011/12 and will replace the SOGE and SPAP framework. See here for further information.

CESP was established to provide leadership on and a central focus for Government’s sustainability goals across central government procurement and operations. Everything CESP does is geared to helping central government departments meet their sustainable procurement and operations commitments, that collectively contribute to the Government's overall forward objectives.  Positioned within the OGC, CESP helps develop OGC's own capability and capacity to deliver sustainability, as well as to ensure government uses the available procurement and operations levers at its disposal.

CESP brings together a number of different communities around a common agenda and vision for the future. These include expert bodies such as the Carbon Trust, Energy Savings Trust and Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET); estates and commercial communities within central government; environmental practitioners across Whitehall; and wider public sector and private sector practitioners.