The buzz phrase “Sustainable Procurement” is becoming ever prevalent in local government. This is especially the case because of the importance of the environment and the obligations placed on local government in relation to its expenditure.

What is “Sustainable Procurement”?

Sustainable Procurement considers the social, environmental and economic impact of procuring goods or services. This concept is not new and has been implemented on an international level.

In summary, the concept “Sustainable Procurement”, promotes procuring authorities to look beyond the upfront cost of a good or service, and focus on making decisions based on the entire life cycle of the good or service, taking into account associated costs, environmental and social risks and benefits. Below are some brief dot points which can be considered in observing sustainable procurement practices.

Environmental impacts

  • Inputs of natural resources
  • Energy and water used in the manufacture of a good
  • Use and disposal

Social impacts

  • Labour conditions
  • Use and disposal
  • Compliance with legislation
  • Using fair trade practices

Economic impacts

  • Cost of acquisition
  • Cost of operation
  • Cost of maintenance
  • Whole of life cost

It is important to note that councils don't need to take an all or nothing approach. Many successful Sustainable Procurement strategies were launched based on a single minor improvement.

Benefits of Sustainable Procurement?

The benefits of Sustainable Procurement include:

  • reducing adverse environmental impacts arising out of local government procurement practices;
  • making more efficient use of public resources;
  • stimulating local markets to innovate and produce more sustainable products; and
  • generating financial savings through greater energy efficiency, reduced waste disposal and reduced water use.

Legislative interaction with Sustainable Procurement

Sections 6, 7 and 8 of the Local Government Act 1999 (LG Act) provide the principal role of a council, functions of a council and principles to be observed by a council. Pursuant to the LG Act, councils must provide and co-ordinate various public services and facilities and must develop its community and resources in a socially just and ecologically sustainable manner.

Furthermore, councils are obliged to ensure that council resources are used fairly, effectively and efficiently and councils must seek to facilitate sustainable development and the protection of the environment. Councils are also obligated to ensure that councils maintain a proper balance of economic, social, environmental and cultural considerations in relation to performing their functions under the LG Act.

How to implement Sustainable Procurement?

As stated above, pursuant to the LG Act, councils are already obligated to consider economic, social and environmental impacts. These obligations mirror the principles of Sustainable Procurement and as such, councils should already be practising Sustainable Procurement in some shape or form.

To actively implement Sustainable Procurement practices, all departments need to review current policies and adopt strategies to avoid unnecessary consumption and manage demand. Councils should also institute an overarching framework or policy and implement an action plan which sets commitments for operations.

The success of procuring in a sustainable manner hinges on the cooperation of all teams and their ability to implement a sustainable procurement policy.

As councils would be aware, the implementation of a novel or innovative procurement approach must be done carefully to ensure that probity and procurement obligations of the council are adhered to. We have helped a number of councils to do so.