Sustainable procurement

Staff involved in the procurement of goods, services and works should routinely consider how we can enhance and protect our shared environment, contribute to the health and well-being of society and build a sustainable economy through our procurement decisions.

The University’s Sustainable Procurement Strategy (developed prior to the adoption of the University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy in March 2021) outlines six priority issues to consider. The priority issues were selected because they contribute environmentally, socially and economically to the University, our key stakeholders, suppliers and the local community.

  1. Optimise the use of natural resources
  2. Effectively manage waste in the supply chain
  3. Effectively manage the delivery of goods and services
  4. Support the management of our carbon impact
  5. Work with suppliers and departments to raise awareness of sustainability
  6. Ensure that ethical considerations and a living wage are considered

The Sustainable Procurement Strategy will ultimately be updated to align with the University’s wider strategy, however the guidance is still relevant in the meantime.

Social Value

In addition to the priorities above, in recent years the focus on delivering ‘social value’ from procurement activity has increased. Including social value in purchasing decisions means accounting for a supplier’s social impact when evaluating the delivery of value for money. Such considerations can also assist in developing a more resilient and diverse supply base.

The University’s commitment to social impact is articulated in its Strategic Plan 2018-2023: “To build a stronger and more constructive relationship with our local and regional community” (engagement and partnership, commitment 2). Under this commitment, the University recognises the importance of delivering benefit to local citizens, and working in partnership to increase its cultural, societal and economic impact at both local and regional levels. Whilst specific social value outcomes relating to procurement are not yet developed the higher education sector has produced helpful guidance on themes, outcomes and measures which may be considered on individual procurements.


In order to assist departments in embedding sustainability considerations into decision making the Purchasing Department has prepared summaries, for common categories of goods and services, of the likely impacts of making the purchase and opportunity areas for mitigating negative impacts or taking positive action. Example questions you might ask of suppliers during a procurement process are also available.

Practical Considerations

Anyone purchasing goods and services should consider:

  • Asking first if the purchase is really necessary (reduce consumption)
  • Avoiding products containing unsustainable materials e.g. unsustainable timber
  • Reducing packaging
  • Giving preference to products that are manufactured with a high recycled content, or which can eventually be recycled (or reused) – i.e. minimising the impact of eventual disposal
  • Giving preference to products that reduce energy consumption
  • Consolidating deliveries to the University, and timing deliveries to reduce congestion
  • Giving preference to suppliers that can demonstrate how they are reducing their environmental impact (in particular their carbon footprint) & increasing biodiversity
  • Giving preference to products that are less harmful to human health and the environment
  • Whether there are any local suppliers who might be able to deliver best value
  • Giving preference to suppliers that can demonstrate ethical trading practices e.g. living wage compliance
  • Giving preference to suppliers who can demonstrate delivery of additional social value to local and regional communities.

The University Purchasing Department will:

  • Carry out a sustainability assessment of the University’s major suppliers at tender stage
  • Monitor the University’s preferred suppliers on an ongoing basis with regard to their sustainability policies and practices
  • Attempt to shape or alter, where appropriate, the sustainability policies and practices of our preferred suppliers
  • Wherever practical, arrange agreements that offer environmentally preferable products as alternatives
  • Provide University departments with advice on sustainability issues relating to purchasing

Environmental Management System

The University operates an Environmental Management System (EMS) working to ISO 14001 standard. The system is being expanded to cover all University operations.  Further details of how purchasing activity interrelates with the EMS can be found here.

Contact details

For further information, please contact:
The Purchasing Department
Telephone: 01865 (6) 16022