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Climate change adaptation: sustainable procurement guidance

Guidance for public bodies covering the purchase of supplies and services that may be vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Climate change adaptation: sustainable procurement guidance

Climate change adaptation

This guidance is concerned with the procurement of supplies and services that may be vulnerable to the effects of climate change and for which climate resilience is important e.g. construction projects, supplies sourced from areas known to be vulnerable to climate change impacts in the lifetime of the contract.

It is part of a series of guides which support the sustainable procurement duty tools to help public sector organisations embed sustainability into their procurement processes

Description of risk/opportunity

  • is the supply of this product or delivery of relevant service potentially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change?
  • is there an opportunity to minimise the effects on supply or service delivery, as a result of anticipated climate change?


Risk to business and/or supply continuity as a result of anticipated higher temperatures, flooding, and other extreme climatic events.

About adaptation

It may only be appropriate to consider climate change adaptation in certain contracts, but it can be a potentially significant issue. Some examples of adaptation measures include: using scarce water resources more efficiently; adapting building codes to future climate conditions and extreme weather events and building flood defences.

Adaptation is the adjustment in economic, social or natural systems in response to actual or expected climatic change, to limit harmful consequences and exploit beneficial opportunities (Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme).

Adaptation arrangements are your organisation’s plans for adapting to climate change, in response to the Climate Change (Scotland) 2009 Act (Public Bodies Climate Change Duties).

Known or anticipated climate change impacts can potentially affect supply chains in parts of the world known to be vulnerable to the impacts. This may be due to the effects of rising sea level impacting on the availability of land for crops or commercial/manufacturing operations, or more local impacts on construction projects or infrastructure and health.

As Adaptation Scotland states:

'Effective long-term planning contributes to sustainable development by safeguarding people and places; by protecting and enhancing the natural environment, and by contributing to a resilient economy that can cope with volatile resource prices and supply chains. It allows you to add value to the services you deliver. Climate resilience can support your organisation’s carbon management efforts, which is important as climate-related impacts can jeopardise mitigation and its financial benefits.'

The role of procurement

Consideration of the role that procurement has in addressing the above requires consideration of the risks that required supplies and services may be vulnerable to climate change.

For example, are supplies sourced from areas known to be vulnerable to climate change, and is there an opportunity to address this now? (some of the climate change effects are happening now but others will take time to manifest themselves - ensure that risks are considered during the lifetime of the contract in question so that it is core to the subject matter of the contract).

The intended outcome may for example include buildings/major refurbishments/infrastructure that are more climate change resilient, facilities management contracts better consider the whole life costs of operation and maintenance; physical risks may also be reduced.

With the exception of climate change considerations such as flood resilience, adaptation measures that depend on behaviour and operational criteria are far more difficult to define and quantify, than those relating to mitigation.

Consequently, contracting authorities must consider carefully: the procurement stages at which adaptation is considered; the extent to which the contracting authority can prescribe adaptation measures; the extent to which the contracting authority can evaluate potentially diverse and even conflicting submissions from bidders.

This guidance is provided to support the embedding of relevant and proportionate contract/framework requirements and the information and examples are provided in good faith. To the extent that this guidance contains any information concerning procurement law such information does not constitute advice to you.

The contents of this guidance is not to be construed as legal advice or a substitute for such advice, which you should obtain from your own legal advisers if required. The Scottish Government is not and shall not be held responsible for anything done or not done by you as a result of this guidance.