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Carbon in production: sustainable procurement guidance

Guidance for public bodies covering the procurement of products that are known to be energy/carbon intensive in their production.

Carbon in production: sustainable procurement guidance
Supplier selection

Supplier selection

Selection criteria are concerned with the capability and capacity of an economic operator to deliver the contract. They do not focus on how an economic operator proposes to perform the contract; this is assessed at the award stage. The key point in ensuring that contact opportunities are accessible is to ensure that the selection criteria are proportionate to the requirement. 

When selecting suppliers it is essential to assess the technical capabilities that will be required for the products or services you are procuring to meet your needs. Not only is this useful from the buyer’s point of view, as suppliers that can clearly not meet the requirement will be eliminated, but it is also useful for the suppliers as they have a very clear understanding of how serious you are about sustainability and what will be essential for their submission to be successful. 

Any selection criteria deemed appropriate must be tested through the format of the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD). The ESPD consists of a fixed set of questions that allows bidders to self-declare whether they meet the exclusion and selection criteria. Contracting authorities must incorporate statements into their contract notice or prior information notice (PIN) to help with the interpretation of the standardised questions in the ESPD. The ESPD (Scotland) Standard Statements document is available to download from the Procurement Journey.  

Compliance with environmental management systems and standards is dealt with under question 4D.2 in ESPD which asks bidders’ to confirm whether they hold independently accredited certificates (to be specified by the buying organisation).  

In terms of materials used, a tenderer may have responsibility for the manufacture of materials or at least how they are installed. Where the level of embodied carbon is both relevant and proportionate the following example questions may be helpful: 

'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.' 

'Please describe your approach to environmental sustainability, including details of any specific steps taken in the design and manufacture of services to reduce embodied carbon and any other relevant detrimental environmental impacts.' 

‘Please provide a copy of your Environmental Policy and highlight how it relates to the reduction of energy consumption in your products and/or services.’ 

Below are examples of questions specific to minimising both energy and resource use and associated carbon: 

‘Detail your understanding, experience and achievements in cost-effectively providing [insert service] services that minimise the use of significantly high embodied carbon and reduce the whole life costs of the contract delivery.’ 

‘Detail your understanding, experience and achievements in minimising the overall embodied carbon for a similar project.’ 

An ideal response would provide the following: 

  1. Evidence of having achieved reduced embodied carbon for clients using alternative materials or production methods. 
  2. Evidence of providing clients with embodied carbon data with analysis and recommendations for changes/adaptations to reduce embodied carbon levels in a cost effective way (where relevant and practical.

An environmental management system is likely to only be relevant in the procurement of some services, but also procurement of products from manufacturers where it has been identified that key environmental risks and opportunities rest in the production and associated process.

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 may 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.