Publication - Advice and guidance

Biodiversity: sustainable procurement guidance

Guidance for public bodies covering the purchase of products or services that have potential negative impacts on biodiversity.

Biodiversity: sustainable procurement guidance


Award criteria are used to determine which economic operator is best placed to deliver a contract. A contracting authority has discretion to determine what award criteria to apply but questions asked at this stage cannot duplicate questions already asked at the selection stage. 

This is because at this stage suppliers are being assessed on the merits of tenders themselves rather than their suitability to tender. 

The criteria should allow objective comparison of tenders, be published in advance in procurement documents and not discriminate/favour potential contractors.  

Where the sustainability of product or material content is both relevant and proportionate the following questions may be helpful: 

'Please describe your approach to environmental sustainability, including details of any specific steps taken in the design and manufacture of services to protect and/or enhance biodiversity.'

'Please describe how you manage your environmental impacts detailing any environmental good practice systems, including ISO 14001, or EMAS, or equivalent which form part of your business practice.'

An environmental management system is likely to only be relevant in the procurement of some services.

Its requirement should be proportionate according to the market and the scope of services required, and you must be prepared to accept an equivalent to a system accredited to ISO14001 or EMAS. 

Rather than asking for a specific standard buyers must identify the elements of these standards and decide what is relevant to their organisation and the particular procurement.

It is then essential that suppliers are notified of which elements they will be evaluated on. This will provide good evidence of their professional and technical ability – particularly where ‘sustainability’ is a desired outcome. 

As an example to incorporate within your documents for a service contract you could include: 

'Please provide a copy of your Environmental Policy and highlight how it relates to the enhancement of biodiversity in the construction services you provide.'

As this is written it relates to the supplier’s capability and is therefore a selection criterion, but it could be worded to relate to the particular services being procured if used within the tender. For example: 

‘Please provide a copy of your Environmental Policy and highlight how it relates to protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of the immediate vicinity of the construction services which are the subject of this tender.’