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Sustainable public purchasing

Government spends around £236 billion annually on routine products and services.  During these tough financial times, now more than ever, we need to be thinking about balancing environmental, social and economic needs. 

The decisions we make in the public sector can affect product markets and local communities as well as how central government works.  

The UK is committed to an EU target for 50% of relevant tendering procedures across the public sector to be “green”. The EU will monitor our progress against this target in 2011. We are working hard to raise levels of sustainable public purchasing across the public sector whilst recognising suppliers need a strong demand from us to provide more sustainable products and services.

Defra leads on the development of, together with industry and experts across the public sector, the Government Buying Standards to steer the purchasing power of the public sector.  We aim to support green growth by encouraging green technologies, promoting innovation, working with small businesses and protecting the environment whilst also delivering value for money.

Who needs to know?

  • Anyone who is buying or commissioning goods or services using public sector funds.
  • Government organisations including central government departments as well as local authorities, NHS purchasing staff and government contractors of buildings and services.
  • Businesses.
    • Interested in winning public contracts
    • Researchers, Academics.

Latest news

  • Defra will continue to publish on a rolling basis new and revised Government Buying Standards for Transport, ICT, textiles, food, water using products, cleaning products (revised) and horticulture and park services by March 2011.
  • Training materials for the National Sustainable Public Procurement Programme will be publicly available from April 2011.

What is Defra doing to support public purchasing?

Government Buying Standards for priority products

Priority products include:

  • ICT, food and textiles
  • furniture and construction  
  • transport and energy using products

Work continues to develop more standards for public products (see latest news) to support green growth, protect the environment and tackle the challenge of climate change.

EU Eco Label

The European Ecolabel is a voluntary scheme to encourage businesses to market products and services that are kinder to the environment. Defra works closely with other Member States and the EU Commission on developing the criteria for a wide range of goods including cleaning products, appliances, paper products, textile and home and garden products, lubricants and services such as tourist accommodation.

National Sustainable Public Procurement Programme (NSPP)

Defra co-ordinates a national approach to sustainable public purchasing by developing training materials and training trainers for anyone with an interest or role in sustainable procurement including local authorities and the NHS.

The training, which is currently being further developed, covers all three pillars of sustainability and focuses on how to procure well and improve the local economy, skills, increase efficiency, reduce carbon as well as save costs.  The training will follow an international approach being developed by the Marrakesh Task Force in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 

Flexible Framework

Is a widely used tool to help those buying to adopt sustainable practices.  Defra has produced guidance to help buyers measure, monitor and record their performance.  Interactive guidance is also available.

Page last modified: 25 January 2011

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