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
Policy and legal context

Policy and legal context

As well as relevant National Outcomes and Indicators within the National Performance Framework a focus on biodiversity - protection and enhancement may form part of a public sector organisation’s sustainability strategy, environmental or biodiversity strategy. 

Under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act (2004), all public bodies in Scotland are required to further the conservation of biodiversity when carrying out their responsibilities. The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act (2011) requires public bodies in Scotland to provide a publicly available report, every three years, on the actions that they have taken to meet this biodiversity duty. Scotland’s Biodiversity – A Route Map to 2020 sets out the priority work needed to meet the international Aichi Targets for biodiversity and improve the state of nature in Scotland. 

Please also note that the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 requires the 'consideration of economic, social and environmental well-being, reducing inequality and innovation', for example through the appropriate use of the sustainability test (and its associated tool; the prioritisation methodology), and the application of relevant and proportionate contract requirements. The 2014 Act also requires obligated organisations to develop a procurement strategy and report against its delivery at the end of each year, emphasising the importance of monitoring and reporting delivery of intended sustainable outcomes.  

The public procurement regulations allow a contracting authority to exclude companies from tendering for public contracts for not meeting certain conditions that is, breach of any obligations in the fields of environmental, social or labour law; and select the most suitable bidders based on technical ability and previous experience in relation to the subject matter of the contract. This is done through the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD (Scotland)

The public procurement regulations also allows a contracting authority to ask for what they are buying to have been given a label which certifies that it meets specific environmental, social or other characteristics. The use of labels needs to be approached with care. If a contracting authority does ask for a label, it must be: 

  • linked to the subject of the contract (and all criteria must be relevant)
  • clear to judge in an open and fair way which does not discriminate
  • open to anyone who meets the standards
  • certified by a third party

This means that a particular label should only be requested where all of its certification characteristics correspond to a procurement. Where not all of a label’s certification characteristics apply to a procurement, it would be more appropriate to provide a full description of the requirements in the tender documentation, instead of asking for the label itself. Additionally, if a specific label is requested  evidence of compliance with an equivalent standard or label must also be accepted.