Scotland's journey of achieving sustainable procurement outcomes 2002-2022: independent review

An independent review that looks back over the past twenty years of sustainable public procurement in Scotland and other parts of the UK. The findings showcase how the progressive approach to sustainable procurement in Scotland has achieved jobs, training and other positive outcomes.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

This literature review primarily assesses the strength of procurement policy and legislation in Scotland, whilst still referring to key legislation across the UK with respect to facilitating and driving wider economic, social and environmental benefits. The review generated key themes which were developed and examined fully in the qualitative research.

This chapter provides a timeline summary of the key policy, legislation, research and practice across Scotland, followed by a discussion of key issues and comparisons between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

2.1 Summary Timeline of Key Policy, Legislation and Research Across Scotland


Research funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation[3]

This research examined how community benefit requirements could be lawfully achieved through the means of public procurement, highlighting the complexity of this area and the need to support such requirements with supply-side actions and good monitoring and evaluation processes.


The Local Government in Scotland Act 2003[4]

The Act provides a framework to enable the delivery of better, more responsive public services, with the aim of giving councils more responsibility to act within an appropriate framework, to work in partnership with other bodies and the communities they serve, and to embed a culture of quality, equality and improvement. The main components of this framework included a duty to secure "Best Value" in local government service provision and a "Power to Advance Well-Being" to enable local authorities to work in a more innovative and creative way in responding to the needs of their communities.

Launch of Community Benefits in Procurement (CBIP) Pilot Programme[5]

Following on from the 2002 research, the Scottish Government established a pilot programme to examine the issues raised through the research (the CBIP Programme). The pilot programme included participation in pilot contracts by five authorities: Glasgow Housing Association, Raploch Urban Regeneration Company, Inverclyde Council, Dundee City Council and Falkirk Council. The projects involved targeted training and recruitment requirements, and the procurement of a wide range of works and services.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Marrakech Task Force (MTF) on Sustainable Public Procurement was set up as part of the Marrakech Process[6]

The aim was "to promote and support the implementation of Sustainable Public Procurement, by developing tools and supporting capacity building in both developed and developing countries". The initial programme with seven countries was part of the 10-year programme until 2011. This included training, mentoring and the delivery of various events.

Scotland's approach to developing a consistent process to sustainable public procurement was influenced by the MTF to accelerate a shift towards sustainable consumption and production by encouraging organisations to review systematically the risks and opportunities related to their procurement spend and then to progress these through the procurement process.


Review of Public Procurement in Scotland: Report and recommendations (John F. McClelland CBE)[7], also known as the McClelland report

This report was a landmark paper that provided a detailed review of public sector procurement in Scotland focusing on current structure and organisation, current skills and capability, current practices and procedures, performance indicators and targets, and the opportunity for improvements and new techniques.

The report highlighted the possible financial and service delivery benefits linked to more effective procurement. Most notably the opportunity to establish collaborative contracts across commonly used goods and services; the establishment of consistent best practice that encouraged Scotland's SMEs to engage in public contracts; and a significant improvement in governance. The report findings and recommendations led to the introduction of the Public Procurement Reform Programme including the set-up of the Public Procurement Reform Board.


Scotland's National Performance Framework[8]

The National Performance Framework sets out National Outcomes with the aim of creating a more successful country. The aim was to provide both the public sector, and individuals and organisations across the private sector, a very clear vision of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.

That purpose was underpinned by 16 outcomes and 63 indicators that introduced a new degree of transparency around government and provided the public sector with a shared responsibility for all parts of the performance framework.

Social Issues in Procurement Policy Note (SPPN 07 2006 Social Issues in Public Procurement[9])


Community Benefits in Public Procurement[10] report and guidance note[11]

The report provided information on the policy and legal context of using community benefits and illustrated the scope to incorporate social benefits in public procurement contracts, helping to emphasise the impact of public spending. In particular, the report focused on the consideration of wider community benefits such as targeted recruitment and training, during public procurement. It also provided practical examples of how to use community benefit clauses in public procurement projects and included a range of case studies and model clauses. Use of community benefit requirements increased as they formed part of flagship projects such as Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Game contracts; the Queen Elizabeth Hospital build and the Queensferry Crossing.

Establishment of Scotland Excel as Centre of Procurement Expertise for the local government sector[12]

Scotland Excel is a non-profit organisation serving Scotland's 32 local authorities and over 100 associate members from across the public and third sector. Its aim was to help establish public procurement as an effective driver for local and national economic growth and wellbeing, with services designed to help their members deliver sustainable services that every community needs, and realise a host of economic, social, and environmental benefits from their spend.

Procurement Scotland launched[13]

Formerly the National Procurement Centre of Expertise, Procurement Scotland's role was to develop and implement procurement strategies and frameworks on behalf of all Scottish public-sector bodies for common goods and services used by the public sector, such as IT software and hardware, and telecoms service.

Public Contracts Scotland launched[14]

The centrally funded national advertising portal providing free access to suppliers to all contract opportunities across the Scottish public sector. This was mandated by the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, for all Scottish public sector bodies to use to advertise all regulated procurements (£50 000 and over for goods/services; and £2 million and over for works) and their subsequent awards. Again, this helped to increase transparency and opportunities for businesses to access contracts.

Scottish Procurement Policy Handbook[15]

The handbook was developed in consultation with the Procurement Policy Forum (part of the governance structure of the Reform Programme and still exists today) in response to a recommendation in the McClelland report (section 7.1) "A public sector wide Procurement Policy Handbook should be established offering a standard and well documented approach to be utilised across all of the public sector."

It provides an overarching statement of the fundamental rules, behaviours and standards applicable to public procurement activity in Scotland as well as describing the key roles and responsibilities in relation to the procurement function and the required governance and accountability arrangements. It addresses key policy issues: the achievement of value for money for the taxpayer through effective competition; the importance of collaboration at a national, sectoral and local level; incorporating environmental and social issues in public procurement; and fostering innovation through procurement.


The Scottish Sustainable Procurement Action Plan[16]

The Action Plan supported the public sector to build sustainable procurement into their corporate culture, take proper account of sustainability in procurement activity and demonstrate how this is being achieved. It set an initial framework to enable recognition of existing initiatives and achievements and provided a "blueprint" for organisations at the early stages of developing their approach to sustainable procurement. It also introduced the introduction of the Flexible Framework self-assessment tool, which has since undergone development to become a key element of the current Scottish approach to sustainable procurement. The Action Plan outlines a whole organisation approach and commitment, which is said to be necessary to the delivery of successful sustainable procurement.

Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009[17]

The Act outlined a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland and sets a framework for action in Scotland to reduce emissions as well as adapt to a changing climate.

Audit Scotland – Improving Public Sector Purchasing[18]

The report examined the progress and impact of the Public Procurement Reform Programme. It found that although Scotland's public sector in Scotland was improving its purchasing resulting in some savings, there remained potential for the more efficient buying of goods and services and more significant savings being achieved through increased collaboration and better management.

Procurement Capability Assessment (PCAs)[19]

A system of annual PCAs assessed how effectively organisations were carrying out procurement activity including in terms of leadership, development of procurement strategies and specifications, and management of contracts. The PCA was instrumental in driving and measuring improvements in procurement capability across the Scottish public sector and has since been superseded by the PCIP introduced in 2015 (see below).


Transforming Procurement: Accelerating Delivery[20]

The Public Procurement Reform Board endorsed the second phase of the reform programme, Transforming Procurement: Accelerating Delivery. This refreshed strategy focused on "embedding sustainable procurement" at the heart of the reform agenda, reinforcing the notion that good procurement is vitally important to both the public sector and the business and third sector communities. This phase highlighted the need for the pace of change and embedding initiatives into "business as usual".


SNP Manifesto Commitment – Sustainable Procurement Bill[21]

The manifesto commitment made it clear the legislative framework for procurement decisions and support greater use of social and environmental benefit clauses in public sector contracts, leading to 'smarter' procurement. Building on the 2008 guidelines on the use of community benefit clauses in contracts but making this into a bill to develop this approach across the wider public sector.

Marrakech Training

Between 2011 and 2016, Zero Waste Scotland supported training to embed economic, social and environmental considerations to over 700 staff with procurement responsibilities in Scotland through the Marrakech Approach.


The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012[22]

The Equality Act brings together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single Act. It provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. It provides Britain with a discrimination law that protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.

Supported Business Procurement Framework Established

The first framework agreement makes it easier for Scottish public bodies to buy a range of products from supported businesses – helping to sustain vital employment for people with disabilities. This has since been replaced on expiry.

Procurement People of Tomorrow programme

Launched by the Scottish Government to address the recognised skills gap in both private and public sectors and raise the profile of procurement and the supply chain.


Sustainable Procurement in Scotland - A Collection of Case Studies[23]

These case studies illustrate some of the efforts made by individuals and organisations to embed sustainability within their public procurements, covering social, economic and environmental elements of sustainability.

United Nations Environment Programme - The Impacts of Sustainable Public Procurement[24]

Case studies within the UK include YORbuild framework in England and Temporary Staff and business management for the Scottish Government.


Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014[25]

The introduction of the Act was a key landmark in sustainable procurement for Scotland. It sought to help public bodies generate greater social impact and drive forward economic, social, and environmental wellbeing, establishing the laws regarding sustainable public procurement, and enabling maximum benefit from effective and efficient public procurement activity. The principle aim of the 2014 Act is to make procurement more sustainable by making it more transparent and accessible to businesses in Scotland, with public bodies required to publish procurement strategies setting out how they intend to comply with the 2014 Act, with progress measured in their annual reports.

Within the Act, sustainable procurement can be defined as the pursuit of sustainable development objectives through the purchasing and supply process. Sustainable procurement aims to make the best use of public money, helping the government achieve its overarching purpose and strategic objectives[26]. Section 25 stipulates that where a public body is to tender a contract valued at £4 million or above, it must consider during the design of the tender whether or not to include community benefit requirements.

The Sustainable Procurement Duty[27]

The Duty includes three main elements: that public bodies must consider how they can improve the economic, social, environmental wellbeing of the area in which they operate through procurement, with a particular emphasis on reducing inequality. That public bodies consider how procurement processes can facilitate the involvement of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), third sector bodies and supported businesses, and how public procurement can promote innovation. Public bodies must then act with a view to securing the intended benefits through procurement activities. This is one of the two general duties in the Act (see Section 8).

The Scottish Model of Procurement was introduced and sets the principles of:

  • Embedding sustainability in all we do
  • Improving supplier access to public contracts
  • Maximising efficiency and collaboration
  • Delivering savings and benefits


Scotland's Economic Strategy[28]

The strategy underlined the belief "that a One Scotland approach is needed to deliver on our ambitions, with all public sector agencies working together – recognising that all can and should make a contribution towards that growth – as well as the private sector, the third sector, and our universities and colleges."

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015[29]

The Act aims to empower community bodies through the ownership or control of land and buildings, and by strengthening their voices in decisions about public services.

This aligns with the consulting and engaging requirement in the PR(S)A.

Analysis of the Impact and Value of Community Benefit Clauses in Procurement[30]

The research assessed the usage of community benefit clauses and their impact on employment and skills development, including exploring how to monitor such clauses effectively. The research found that community benefit clauses are increasingly being used in public sector contracts across Scotland but that there remains scope to continue building awareness and understanding of such clauses, particularly around the use of community benefit clauses in service contracts. The research confirmed that community benefits contribute to four National Outcomes – National Outcome 2: We realise our full economic potential with more and better employment opportunities for our people, National Outcome 3: We are better educated, more skilled and more successful, renowned for our research and innovation, National Outcome 4: Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens, and National Outcome 7: We have tackled the significant inequalities in Scottish society.

Refreshed Procurement Journey introduced

The Procurement Journey is a website that provides guidance for public sector buyers who procure goods, services and care and support services.

Procurement and Commercial Improvement Programme (PCIP) introduced as upgrade to PCAs

The PCIP assessment provides a means of measuring and reporting on the procurement and commercial capability of organisations through the provision of evidence, based around a series of set questions and other evaluation methods.

Fair Work Practices and the Award of Public Contracts: Statutory Guidance[31]

Guidance to help public bodies evaluate fair work practices, including the Living Wage, when selecting tenderers and awarding contracts.

Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015[32]

This is the transposition of 2014 Directive which includes divergence from the UK (e.g., no lowest price awards and discretionary exclusion grounds in the basis of social, environmental and employment law breaches).


The Procurement (Scotland) Regulations 2016[33]

The regulations establish a national legislative framework for sustainable public procurement, ensuring that contracting authorities maximise the economic benefit brought to Scotland from effective and efficient public procurement spend.

The Public Procurement Reform Programme 2006-2016: achievements and impacts[34]

This report reflects on the progress and impact of the Public Procurement Reform Programme, highlighting that after a 10 year journey, Scottish procurement is considered as an exemplar in its field, an international leader in procurement practices and has led to the following outcomes: collaboration leading to savings; increased access to public sector contracts year on year; provided supported businesses with an easier route to public sector contracts, and increased the use of community benefit clauses.

First Annual Procurement reports (due to a requirement in the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014)

Statutory Guidance published under the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014[35]

The Sustainable Procurement Chapter reflects the link between the National Performance Framework (purpose and outcomes) and the Sustainable Procurement Duty. The Community Benefits chapter and Annex reflect feedback from 2015 research as mentioned above.


Reserving Contracts for Supported Businesses: SPPN 4/2017[36]

This note provides advice on reserving contracts for supported businesses. It contains information on determining whether an organisation meets the definition of a supported business for the purposes of public procurement legislation, identifying supported businesses, and monitoring and reporting, in addition to clarifying the thresholds at which this provision applies.


Launch of National Performance Framework 2018[37]

The new National Performance Framework includes 11 National Outcomes that set out the kind of country Scotland wants to be, and 81 National Indicators that will be used to track and measure progress towards achieving them.


Climate Change Omissions Reductions Target 2019 and Amendments to Reporting Requirements 2020[38]

The Act amends the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 to make provision setting targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions and to make provision about advice, plans and reports in relation to those targets, with the objective of Scotland contributing appropriately to the world's efforts to deliver on the Paris Agreement


Measuring Social Impact in Public Procurement: SPPN 10/2020[39]

This policy note serves to clarify the Scottish Government's policy on measuring social impact through procurement and support for application of this policy in the form of the sustainable procurement duty tools and accompanying guides. The main points are that the Scottish Government considers social impact not to be fixed or easily transferable but instead specific to the individual, community and place. It does not endorse monetary gauges to measure social impact in procurement as part of the procurement process and highlights that impact measurements should not be a barrier to businesses. Outcomes measured should be aligned to the National Performance Framework and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with the approach complementing procurement principles of relevance and proportionality. The note also includes a range of case studies.

Supply Chain Resilience and Diversity (SPPN 9/2020)[40]

This note explains how that by using the measures available to them through the procurement process, public bodies can support supply chains in public contracts and reduce the risk of disruption to supplies caused by supply chain vulnerabilities and surges in demand and promote local economic development.

Analysis of the Impact and Value of the Sustainable Procurement Duty in Procurement[41]

The research found that the Duty has led to a change in procurement practice with significant progress being made since the Duty was introduced. It outlined that Scotland is ahead of many other countries in its approach to sustainable procurement practices, and there is evidence that the Duty is contributing to the achievement of National Outcomes and the Scottish Government's overarching purpose. However, continuing work remains to be done to improve implementation including promoting innovation, increasing levels of understanding of the Duty, and refinements to the Sustainable Procurement Duty tools to make them more user-friendly.

Launch of "Sustainable Procurement Tools" platform[42]

This includes the Flexible Framework assessment tool, the Prioritisation tool, Life cycle impact mapping, the Sustainability Test and an eLearning platform.

Following a period of consultation, refreshed content for the Procurement Journey and Supplier Journey.

2021/ 2022

Climate Literacy for Procurers e-learning – launched March 2021[43]

Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 (the Act): statutory guidance – updated in May 2022[44]

The statutory guidance on procurement strategies and annual reports, the sustainable procurement duty, community benefit requirements, tenders and award of contracts was updated to reflect changes that have occurred as a result of the UK's exit from the EU and the end of the Transition Period and includes a chapter on Fair Work First and procurement.

Taking account of climate and circular economy considerations in public procurement: SPPN 3/2022[45]

This policy note clarifies expectations with respect to climate and circular economy considerations, aligning recently strengthened climate change reporting duties and current procurement policy and legislation that already require public bodies to consider and act on opportunities to improve environmental wellbeing. It highlights that public bodies should use their public procurement spend to support climate and circular economy ambitions. This policy note replaces SPPN 1/2021 and reflects additional sources of help and support that have been developed to enable public procurement authorities to use procurement to address the climate emergency.

Fair Work: Action Plan[46]

This document sets out the strategic approach the Scottish Government is taking to help achieve the 2025 vision for Fair Work. Fair Work is described as the foundation, and indeed a prerequisite for a sustainable approach to Scotland being the best place to live, work, invest and do business.

Fair Work action plan: becoming a leading Fair Work nation by 2025[47]

A refreshed action plan setting out actions to promote fair and inclusive workplaces across Scotland. This incorporates actions on tackling the gender pay gap, the disability employment gap, and our anti-racist employment strategy, driving fair work practices for all.

Fair Work First: Guidance to Support Implementation[48]

The Fair Work First guidance is designed to support business and other organisations to progress on a journey of continuous improvement in Fair Work. It was updated in September 2021 to take into account the two additional criteria on flexible working and fire and rehire practices.

Fair Work First Implementation – Scottish public procurement update: SPPN 6/2021[49]

Fair Work First has been expanded from 5 elements to 7 elements. This Scottish Procurement Policy Note (SPPN) explains the change and how it can be implemented in procurement processes. This expansion is in response to challenges faced in the labour market. The new elements seek to promote flexible and family friendly working practices and oppose the use of fire and rehire practices.

Real Living Wage announcement[50]

Companies bidding to win Scottish Government contracts will have to pay the real Living Wage. As outlined in the Fair work and procurement webpage[51], a supplier's approach to fair work practices, including paying the real Living Wage, can have a positive impact on the quality of goods, works and services in a public contract. It is expected that public bodies implement and promote Fair Work First in all relevant procurement processes and that suppliers delivering public contracts adopt and demonstrate appropriate fair work practices, for all workers engaged in delivering the public contract.

Public Procurement Survey of Suppliers 2020[52]

A survey of suppliers to the public sector in Scotland gathered the views and experiences of suppliers on key strategic topics of importance to Scottish public sector procurement. Of the 1,556 responses received, key findings emerged including:

  • The pool of suppliers interested in Scottish public sector contracts is diverse
  • Overall, the Scottish public sector is performing relatively well with regard to procurement, however, there is clearly a need for further improvement
  • Suppliers are generally well-equipped to bid for and deliver contracts and are generally encouraged to consider a range of issues during the tendering process, with some elements of the Sustainable Procurement Duty featuring particularly prominently
  • Where the Duty is concerned, public bodies are performing less well – and could be doing more – in relation to encouraging innovation
  • While suppliers generally feel well-placed to bid for a contract, they often encounter a range of difficulties – in particular, many view the tendering process as overly-complex, burdensome and in need of simplification and streamlining
  • Experiences of sub-contracting were largely positive, however late payment represents an important concern
  • Supplier take up of training, support and advice on the tendering process, is limited – largely due to lack of awareness; and
  • More could be done to ensure value for money remains at the forefront of public procurement.

Discussion of Timeline of Key Policy, Legislation and Research Across Scotland

The review of Scottish policy and legislation illustrated in the timeline indicates the continual desire and commitment within Scotland to achieve sustainable procurement outcomes. The key factors and enablers within Scottish policy, legislation and practice are discussed in the current chapter alongside reflections from the qualitative research.

Early and ongoing commitment

From the early 2000s, Scotland has demonstrated a real commitment and desire throughout local and national government to ensure that public procurement contributes to community benefits and sustainable procurement outcomes. This is evidenced through public procurement policy, practice, culture in Scotland, and through a substantial programme of activity across the public sector. The drive to improve public procurement has involved a transition from a centrally led programme to a more collaborative landscape with a shared common vision, underpinned by the 2014 Act[53].

Embedding sustainable procurement outcomes has been championed and encouraged across the Scottish Government and local government, resulting in bold and innovative approaches (e.g., Falkirk Council in 2003[54] embedding community benefits in all their expenditure and Raploch in 2005 embedding sustainable procurement and Targeted Recruitment & Training (TR&T) throughout[55]). A commitment to managing sustainable procurement outcomes through the delivery of projects has been critical to success (as demonstrated by the Inverclyde case study[56]), with Community Benefit Officers helping to ensure the management and delivery of outcomes.

Early consideration of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Marrakech approach[57] helped to shape and influence Scotland's approach to sustainable procurement. A key factor has been considering prioritisation as a vehicle for saving time and resources. This has been illustrated by the case studies highlighted in 2013 including Scottish Government's life cycle mapping and Perth and Kinross Council's project on furniture procurement[58]. This continues to be a key factor as demonstrated by the Prioritisation Tool within the Sustainable Procurement Tools[59].


The Scottish Government has ensured a strong momentum (from actions taken in response to the 2002 research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation[60] and the 2006 McClelland report, to the present time) to driving this agenda within a theme of continuous learning, engagement and improvement.

A key moment in the timeline was the McClelland report. For many respondents, it was a landmark report that heralded the launch of a transparent commitment by the Scottish Government to elevate the impact and importance of sustainable procurement. The report was described as a "ground-breaking moment" that drove improvement and progress of public sector procurement and highlighted the significant spend and potential power of procurement to generate significant outcomes.

Respondents highlighted how the report gave rise to a significant investment in development, training, the upscaling of teams and the development of resources. This also led to the establishment of the Procurement Reform Programme, the Centres of Expertise and the creation of national framework agreements where these would deliver benefits and economies of scale. Many viewed the report as an enabler, with one respondent maintaining that it "made people look at procurement as a profession".

"You start thinking that procurement can have a wider sphere of influence than just the money. Procurement has an opportunity to influence, particularly in the field of sustainability…you begin to think about what other ways procurement can add value to the organisation." (Other public body)

On various occasions, the Scottish Government has provided a strong, transparent and timely response to recommendations or reviews indicating that change was required. An example being the Community Benefits in Procurement Programme[61] which followed the 2002 research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (cited above). This tested which community benefits could be achieved through procurement legally (and shared learning through the publication of case studies). Another example is the ministerially led Procurement Reform Agenda, actioned in response to the 2006 Review of Public Procurement in Scotland report[62].

Aligning local needs and priorities to the National Performance Framework

Scotland's National Performance Framework[63] (NPF) provides a framework and direction within which local and project-based outcomes can be aligned. It enables a shared vision of the type of country Scotland can and should be. There is a demonstrated desire within Scotland to ensure that outcomes are reflective of local need and supplier capability. To create meaningful social impact, it is encouraged that social and National Outcomes to be delivered through a contract are considered at the outset of a given procurement, with the Sustainable Procurement Tools facilitating this process. Collaboration and partnership working between the public body, supplier and community are shown to result in targeted outcomes and benefits. An example is the Community Wish List approach initiated by Perth and Kinross Council[64] which has now been implemented by various local authorities across Scotland.

Early engagement and collaboration

To facilitate targeted, needs-led outcomes, early engagement and collaboration are critical factors. The power and success of this approach has been demonstrated in published case studies such as Gartcosh Scottish Crime Campus[65], and the Scottish Prison Service[66] case study. In these case studies, early engagement and partnership working between the public body and supplier allowed for a tailored and effective approach resulting in clear, demonstrated outcomes.

Introduction of the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014

Development of Scotland's journey of achieving sustainable procurement outcomes led to the introduction of the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 (The Act)[67] including the Sustainable Procurement Duty. This powerful piece of legislation has been a significant enabler in driving and facilitating both benefits and impact. It has provided clear direction to public bodies and formalised the broader routes through which procurement can be used as a mechanism for delivering social impact. The Act sets out clear procurement responsibilities, promotes local decision making, and enables increased transparency and accessibility through the publication of annual procurement strategies and reports.

A common opinion among respondents was the significance and strength of the Act and the Sustainable Procurement Duty as enablers to driving sustainable procurement outcomes. In the view of some respondents, the strength of the Act was that it placed obligations on public bodies to address each of the key factors encompassing sustainable procurement, highlighted the need to link tenders to local priorities, and introduced the requirement for strategies and annual reports. Public bodies' annual reports are collated by the Scottish Government and provide an overall picture for Scotland. They constitute a means of transparency, as well as communicating outcomes and progress, and highlighting priority areas to address. Following the introduction of the Act, Scotland's national and local government have placed particular emphasis on professionalising public procurement, as well as a focus on innovation and digitalisation.

A few respondents also stressed that the Act had driven a change in supplier capability and readiness to deliver social impact, as suppliers became better aware of what was required to tender successfully.

"The Procurement Reform Act is a game changer. It gave a different level of support…and prominence." (Other public body)

Holistic definition of sustainable procurement outcomes

Sustainable procurement outcomes are defined in the Scottish policy approach as encompassing improvements to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of a community rather than simply focusing on one strand. This interpretation means that social impact is determined by supply and demand and the needs and make-up of the local area, as the value of an action to one community or interest group may not equate to its value in another. Consequently, the Scottish Government's approach does not endorse monetary gauges to measure sustainable procurement outcomes but instead advocates for social impact being considered and measured on a case-by-case basis. This approach complements procurement principles of relevance and proportionality. This also means that public bodies have flexibility to design a procurement process that is proportionate to the risk and complexity of the particular contract.

This holistic definition is supported by a range of policies, legislation and strategies including the Climate Change Act[68], Economic Strategy[69], Equality Act[70] and Fair Work[71]. It is also echoed in Community Wealth Building approaches implemented across Scotland (see North Ayrshire Council), which involve varied initiatives and projects to achieve sustainable outcomes and promote the local economy (e.g., Transport Scotland case study).

Continuous learning and improvement to influence practice and demonstrate outcomes

This review of the development of public procurement in Scotland highlights a strong theme of continuous learning and improvement. This has been demonstrated by the various commissioned reviews and research studies that have been shared and communicated. This is a strength of Scotland's approach; using key learning to shape and influence the nature and direction of sustainable procurement and collating and sharing case studies and best practice to share innovation and enable improvement. This is demonstrated by the timeline of case studies in Appendix 3.

The Scottish Government has commissioned research and reviews on current practice to drive improvement. Research conducted in 2015 on the analysis of the impact and value of community benefit clauses in procurement[72] found that such clauses are increasingly being used in public sector contracts across Scotland. The research also found there was scope to continue building awareness and understanding of such clauses, particularly around their use in service contracts. The research also indicated that a more comprehensive evidence base should be developed regarding the longer-term impact of community-based clauses. Recommendations were made in relation to monitoring, evaluation and reporting requirements.

Another key research study on the impact and analysis of the Sustainable Procurement Duty (2020)[73] concluded that although Scotland is ahead in its sustainable procurement practice, there is a "further push" required to secure effective implementation of the Duty. This includes increasing awareness and understanding of the Duty; and refining the associated tools to make them more user-friendly and streamlined.

Similarly, a survey of suppliers[74] indicated that although overall, the Scottish public sector is performing relatively well with regard to procurement, there is clearly a need for further improvement. While suppliers generally feel well-placed to bid for a contract, many viewed the tendering process as overly complex, burdensome and in need of simplification or streamlining. Where possible, it was said to be important to prioritise and maintain focus on work that will make procurement processes simpler and easier for businesses. The findings also suggest that public bodies could and should do more to promote awareness of the support that is available for tendering processes, while also taking a more proactive approach to issuing constructive and high-quality feedback following tender exercises.

Scottish Government facilitating outcomes

The Scottish Government's approach is characterised by the provision of support and the facilitation of policy implementation. Rather than simply setting out and expecting adherence to policy, they support implementation by dedicating resource to an underpinning suite of relevant frameworks, guidance and tools.

This has included: the Scotland Procurement Policy Handbook in 2008[75]; the Scottish Sustainable Procurement Action Plan in 2009[76]; the introduction of PCAs and PCIPs; and the Procurement Journey website and Sustainable Procurement Tools platform. There is a wealth of available support to enable effective and sustainable procurement as outlined below.

Sustainable Procurement Tools

The Scottish Government's dedicated Sustainable Procurement Tools[77] platform hosts the four sustainability tools: the Prioritisation Tool, Sustainability Test, Life Cycle Impact Mapping and Flexible Framework. These tools and supporting guidance enable organisations to identify opportunities to increase social impact and embed a wider range of socioeconomic and other considerations within their contracts and supply chains including Fair Work First, climate considerations, and community benefits.

Assessment Measures

The introduction of measures to assess performance has been a key enabler in facilitating and driving improvement. This include PCAs introduced in 2009[78], to PCIP introduced in 2015 (these were further developed in 2021 placing a renewed focus on climate). Introducing a requirement for assessment has helped embed a culture of reflection, assessment and improvement as evidenced by the Renfrewshire Council case study (2010).

Centres of Expertise

The introduction of the four procurement centres of expertise in Scotland (Central Government Procurement, Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges, NHS National Procurement and Scotland Excel). These provide support and guidance to public sector bodies in the central and local government, further/higher education and health sectors.

Training, consultation and engagement

Facilitators include the continuous process of sector engagement and consultation to aid the development and coproduction of policies and frameworks. There has been a wealth of training opportunities for those working in procurement (such as Marrakech training) and the introduction of the Procurement People of Tomorrow programme. Implementation of such training has been shown to lead to improved practice, illustrated by Falkirk Council using the Marrakech approach to raise product and service standards in 2011.


The progress and impact of Scotland's journey of achieving sustainable procurement outcomes has been strengthened by collaboration, networking and establishment of committees and boards across Scotland, including:

  • The Public Procurement Reform Board established in response to the McClelland report
  • The Community Benefits Champions networks; and
  • The current network of the Public Procurement Group, Procurement Supply Group, Procurement Policy Forum, Collaborative Leads Group, Professional Practice and Development Forum, and the Climate and Procurement Forum.

There is a clear commitment to enabling co-production and ongoing development and improvement via this network of key stakeholders.

Comparing Sustainable Procurement Across the UK

Since the early 2000s, all four UK nations have been on a journey of achieving sustainable procurement outcomes involving the development of processes and delivering outcomes, but to varying degrees. The following section provides a concise summary of the key elements of this journey in the UK, Wales and Northern Ireland.


In 2005, a report by the Sustainable Procurement Group (Securing the Future in 2005)[79] set out the UK Government's Strategy. This included commitments to: sustainable procurement in the public sector; working through the Centres of Expertise to encourage sustainable procurement through local government; and delivery by tasking a strengthened Sustainable Development Commission to report on progress. The UK then outlined its commitment in their Procuring the Future report in 2006[80], setting out an urgent need to implement sustainable procurement throughout all central and local government bodies. It included a National Action Plan with six key recommendations:

  • Lead by example
  • Set clear priorities
  • Raise the bar
  • Build capacity
  • Remove barriers
  • Capture opportunities

The focus of this report appeared to be more on the environmental aspects of sustainability with lesser mention of social outcomes and sustainability.

In 2008, the HM Treasury Action Plan – Delivering sustainable development[81] – set out a range of actions the Department planned to undertake with regard to its policies, people, operations and procurement. Following this, in 2009, the National Sustainable Public Procurement Programme (NSPPP)[82] was launched with the aim of consolidating and improving the numerous sustainable procurement training packages offered to wider government procurers. Its purpose was to clarify the messages, create a consistent approach to delivery, and ensure quality of materials that can be readily shared between public organisations and sectors.

The Social Impacts Task Force (SITF)[83] was set up in 2010 with the aim of developing a cross-Government approach to understanding social impacts and embedding consideration of such impacts in policymaking. The most significant legislation in the procurement agenda was the introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012[84]. The Act calls for all public sector commissioning to factor in ("have regard to") economic, social and environmental well-being in connection with public services contracts. The Act should be a tool to enable commissioners to generate more value for money from procurement. It also encourages commissioners to talk to their local provider market or community to design better services and find new and innovative solutions to difficult problems.

This was followed in 2016 by the creation of the National Social Value Taskforce[85] by the Local Government Association. The Taskforce established a good practice framework that integrates the Act into the UK public sector and business community. It helped to set up the Social Value Portal (SVP) and the TOMs (Themes, Outcomes, Measures) framework, a toolkit that defines, measures and monetises the social value of public sector procurement. Further guidance was provided in 2017[86] to organisations (independent of their activity or size), on integrating sustainability within procurement, as described in ISO 26000. This was intended for stakeholders involved in, or impacted by, procurement decisions and processes.

2013 saw the introduction of what was later termed as the 'Preston Model'[87] which applied Community Wealth Building principles of collaboration and supporting the local economy, and demonstrated the impact of spend analysis. The model was shown to have led to over £70 million being redirected back into the Preston economy, and over £200 million redirected back into the Lancashire economy. The concept gained traction and increased interest in Community Wealth Building and sustainable procurement outcomes. In 2021, Preston City Council launched Community Wealth Building 2.0[88] which seeks to build on the success of the Preston Model and tackle the challenges of a post COVID economy and community. It aims to promote the real Living Wage more widely, advance their ambitions for democratising the economy and expand this agenda to lead to a resilient and inclusive recovery in Preston.

In 2020, the Procurement Policy Note 06/20[89] set out how to take account of social impact in the award of central government contracts by using the Social Value Model. It dictates that social impact should be explicitly evaluated in all central government procurement, where the requirements are related and proportionate to the subject-matter of the contract, rather than just 'considered' as currently required under the Act. It also stressed that unnecessary burdens should not be placed on commercial teams or suppliers.

In 2020, the UK Government outlined their Green Paper[90] on transforming public procurement (now the Procurement Bill)[91], taking advantage of the end of the Brexit transition period to overhaul the public procurement regime. The goal of the reform is to speed up and simplify procurement processes, place value for money at the heart of such processes, and unleash opportunities for small businesses, charities and social enterprises to innovate in public service delivery. On review of this paper, it appears that Scotland has already moved ahead on a number of these areas.

There appears to be limited sharing of case studies across the UK, or requirements for annual reports which is a key enabler to driving improvement and best practice.


Wales has a long history of embedding community benefits into the procurement process. In 2006, the Church Village Bypass[92] project championed early contractor involvement as a means of achieving new standards of transparency and community engagement. This resulted in significant time and cost savings, and community benefits. The Welsh Assembly used the scheme to launch the national Community Benefits Programme titled 'Delivering Maximum Benefits for the Welsh Pound'. The 2014 guide – Delivering Maximum Value for the Welsh Pound[93] – offers advice on how to incorporate community benefits in public procurements using either the open or restricted procurement procedures.

Similar to Scotland, Wales has prioritised continuous improvement its journey of achieving sustainable procurement outcomes. In 2012, a review was commissioned (undertaken by John McClelland) on strengthening the impact of Welsh procurement policy[94]. The review stated significant progress in public procurement in Wales due to the intense focus by the Welsh Government, public sector leaders and those involved in procurement operations across the sector. Cabinet level leadership and detailed engagement was said to be particularly strong. Policies were developed on a strong foundation of robust research and advice from Value Wales, and from insightful and influential reports and reviews conducted by various working groups and committees. There was said to be opportunity for further progress, with the report outlining 25 recommendations for further improvement.

Also in 2012, the National Assembly for Wales Enterprise and Business Committee established a Task and Finish Group to investigate and seek to influence the reform of EU public procurement policy. The Group had three objectives – to strengthen policy, support implementation and challenge application. The report noted that the Welsh Government's Community Benefits policy clearly points the way to achieving social and environmental policy objectives through procurement, but that it must be more widely applied across public sector bodies in Wales to ensure best and consistent standards. Delivery of the agreed milestones enabled the Welsh Government and wider public sector to fully embed Community Benefits, laying a strong foundation for the future. This led to the development of various iterations of the Welsh Public Procurement Policy (WPPP) which sets out principles and expectations against which procurement in Wales should be delivered.

Attempts have also been made to assess progress and drive improvement through the introduction of:

  • The Fitness Check[95] – a programme for the public sector against which the development of procurement in Wales can be measured
  • The SQuID[96] – the Supplier Qualification Information Database, developed in conjunction with public sector stakeholders (this is similar to the Single Procurement Document (SPD) in Scotland and contains questions used at the selection stage of a procurement exercise to identify suitably qualified and experienced bidders); and
  • The adoption of Scottish PCAs.[97]

There has been a programme of activity to support organisations to deliver sustainable procurement through guidance on how to incorporate community benefit into public procurement. There is a website for those involved in procurement which includes policies, frameworks and online training[98].

A key driver in the journey of achieving sustainable procurement outcomes was the introduction of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act (2015)[99]. It has provided the ambition, permission and legal obligation for Wales to improve their social, cultural, environmental and economic well-being. The purpose was to ensure that future generations have at least the same quality of life as current generations. It requires public bodies in Wales – such as local authorities, health boards and organisations like the Arts and Sports Councils of Wales – to put long-term sustainability at the forefront of their thinking. Public bodies have to consider the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to address persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. The Act is said to facilitate better decision-making by ensuring that: public bodies take account of the long term; help to prevent problems occurring or getting worse; take an integrated, collaborative approach; and consider how to involve people of diverse characteristics. There are five things that public bodies need to think about to show that they have applied the sustainable development principle – long term, prevention, integration, collaboration and involvement. It is said to be the only known legislation of its type globally.

The Act is accompanied by a seven-year term commissioner who is the "guardian of future generations". It also includes stipulations regarding annual reporting. Public bodies must publish a statement of their well-being objectives and how these apply to the sustainable development principle, accompanied by an annual report showing their progress in meeting their objectives.

A revised Community Benefits Policy was introduced in 2016[100],which seeks to deliver the very widest social, economic and environmental benefits while securing the goods, services or works required by the public sector in Wales. This was subsequently updated in 2019, followed by a manifesto commitment to a new procurement approach for Wales. This continues to be developed and communicated, with a report published in 2020 – Progress towards the development of a new procurement landscape in Wales[101] – outlining progress including the appointment of a Community Wealth Building Partner. A further report followed in 2021 titled Evolution of Welsh Government procurement[102].

Efforts to share progress and best practice include the publication of case studies from 2021[103], and the Future Generations annual report in 2020[104]. Also in 2020, the Future Generations Commissioner triggered a Section 20 review[105]of procurement practices within the Welsh public sector. The review noted steps were being taken to apply the Act, however highlighted ongoing challenges for procuring sustainably in relation to leadership involvement and engagement, resources and capacity, and the complex landscape. As a result, a "formal review" was ordered.

In 2020, for the first time in Wales, an updated Welsh Procurement Policy Note (WPPN) introduced a standardised process for defining 'social value'[106] and set out a menu of priority areas for social value for commercial teams to select and state in tenders. The WPPN states that the application of this model is mandatory for all Central Government and that a minimum of 10% of the total score for social value should be applied in the procurement to ensure that it carries a heavy enough score to be a differentiating factor in bid evaluation.

Currently, Wales, England and Northern Ireland are party to the Procurement Bill – while Wales continue to develop their Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill. In 2021, the Welsh Procurement Centre of Excellence began (initiated by a recommendation as part of Future Generations).

Northern Ireland

In 2002, the Executive agreed on a revised Public Procurement Policy for Northern Ireland that included guidance and targets on sustainability[107]. The overriding principle of the policy – which still stands today – is a focus on value for money. This is defined as the ultimate combination of quality, price and sustainability. The policy established a Procurement Board for Northern Ireland, comprising the permanent secretaries of each of the twelve departments. The Executive considered that compliance could be achieved by means of administration action, as determined by the Procurement Board. As regards District Councils, the Executive accepted that their different and separate framework of accountability must be recognised and, under existing legislation, compliance can only be on a voluntary basis. The Executive considered that compliance could be achieved by means of an administration action, as determined by the Procurement Board. Their early focus on value for money rather than community benefit or social impact, extended to a focus on unemployment being introduced in 2005.

Sustainability was introduced in the Miscellaneous Provisions Act in 2006[108]. This stated that a public authority must, in exercising its functions, act in the way it considers best calculated to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development in Northern Ireland. In 2008, the Investment Strategy (2008-2018)[109] set out a framework for how Northern Ireland would create a sustainable 21st century infrastructure. It identified priority areas for investment in the years ahead and was intended to assist government and private sector partners to plan ahead for the challenge of delivering the largest ever investment programme.

The Sustainable Development Strategy – Everyone's Involved – was introduced in 2010[110]. The strategy was designed to provide a framework that can support and inform the decisions and actions taken by individuals, groups and organisations in progressing the sustainability agenda. The Programme for Government 2011-2015[111] reinforces the importance of achieving sustainable outcomes, while providing the high-level context in which contracting authorities can identify specific sustainable goals to achieve from each procurement.

The Buy NI website was introduced in 2015[112] to integrate social considerations into ICT contracts. The Draft Programme for Government 2016-2021[113] was a draft framework containing 14 strategic outcomes which, taken together, set a clear direction of travel and enable continuous improvement on the essential components of societal wellbeing.

The Procurement Board discussed the Buy Social approach for Services Contracts in 2017[114]. They focused on an approach of Targeted Recruitment & Training (TR&T), opportunities for those who are long-term unemployed or leaving education, and on service contracts with an anticipated value of £500 000 per annum or more.

There was significant progress on the sustainable procurement agenda in 2020 when it was agreed that the Procurement Board was not fit for purpose. As such, the Board was reconstituted with permanent secretaries, and replaced with experts in public procurement and other parts of industry including the voluntary and community sector. This was in part due to a realisation that the public sector needed the private sector to deliver contracts, and that they can add value[115].

In 2021, the Executive approved a policy which mandates that from 1 June 2022 tenders must include a minimum of 10% of the total award criteria to social value[116]. That same year, payment of the Living Wage was made mandatory for all contracts[117].


To summarise, the literature review on policy, legislation and practice across the UK indicates that Scotland appears to be leading the way in many areas. These include:

  • The strength of commitment to the sustainable procurement agenda and the consistent drive and focus within Scottish Government leadership. This has driven innovation and improvement, most notably via the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 and the Sustainable Procurement Duty which placed a responsibility on organisations to embed social impact in their contracts.
  • The available support and tools in the Procurement Journey and Sustainable Procurement Tools accompanied by ongoing training and engagement help to facilitate outcomes.
  • The sharing of best practice, innovation and outcomes through the ongoing publication of case studies, commissioned research and reviews, and annual reports which provide a clear and transparent picture across Scotland of what is being achieved, and the priorities for development and improvement.

Scotland's position and progress on achieving sustainable procurement outcomes is perhaps most strongly demonstrated by the UK Government's Procurement Bill where it is evident that much of the proposed activity is already embedded within Scottish practice and enabled through the reform of Scottish procurement policy and legislative framework.

The remainder of the report outlines the results of the qualitative research and iterates many of the common themes outlined in the literature review. It strengthens the proposal that Scotland is a leader in sustainable procurement.



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