Sustainable Procurement Tools

Overview – Description and Scope

This guidance is concerned with the use of vehicles in the delivery of products, materials, equipment or services procured (see below for examples) the aim being to minimise or, where practicable, avoid carbon emissions.

N.B. Reference is made below to legislation and guidance regarding the procurement of vehicles – this is for information only and buyers should review this separate guidance if they are planning to procure vehicles.

Vehicles may include:

Private and light goods vehicles (cars including taxis and hire cars, vans, goods vehicles not exceeding 3,500kgs gross weight and private buses and coaches), public transport, goods vehicles in excess of 3,500kgs gross weight, Crown and exempt vehicles (e.g. emergency vehicles, disabled driver and disabled passenger carrying vehicles), special vehicles (e.g. those over 3,500kgs exempt from vehicle excise duty including road rollers, work trucks, diggers and mobile cranes - this guidance includes information regarding the use of construction plant).

This guidance may be considered, where relevant, alongside other Climate Change guides – Carbon in ProductionEnergy consumptionClimate Change Adaptation.

Opportunities for jobs and skills to support climate change targets may also be relevant so you may also consider the Employment, Skills and Training guide.

The Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan 2020-25 focuses on zero emissions skills relevant for vehicles and transport.

Air pollution from diesel and petrol combustion in the use of vehicles is also a major issue of concern and links to Health and Safety and Physical and Mental Health.

The guidance reinforces the criticality of pre-procurement consideration of intended outcomes and optimum methods of delivery of these, involving mature dialogue internally and with the market. It also provides relevant procurement guidance, aligned with the Procurement Journey, with example clauses within the Annex.  

Users of this guidance should have completed the Climate Literacy e-learning module, available from the Sustainable Procurement Tools portal.

Supporting the Sustainable Procurement Tools

The guidance 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.

For example, the Sustainability Test includes the following question:

Are vehicles routinely used in the supply of a product procured or in service delivery AND/OR is there a potential opportunity to minimise vehicle emissions arising from vehicle movements, including through innovative systems?


The majority of contracts will involve vehicle transport to some extent. The buyer should assess the proportion of this activity in relation to the scope of the contract. To what extent does the contract represent a significant part of the business of a potential supplier?

Only when these issues have been considered can the buyer assess whether vehicle emissions may be a core issue to the contract. For example:

A service contract that involves regular movement of people, equipment, materials or supplies as part of contract requirements (e.g. construction, FM, social care contracts); or

A contract for products and equipment that involves regular delivery of these to your site(s) (e.g. ICT, healthcare consumables and devices deliveries).

(As indicated above this guidance does not deal with the procurement of vehicles. If you are planning to procure vehicles the Cleaner Road Transport Vehicles (Scotland) Regulations 2010 are applicable – see the Guidance on the implementation of The Cleaner Road Transport Vehicles (Scotland) Regs 2010). The regulations require that energy and environmental impacts linked to the operation of vehicles over their whole lifetime are taken into account in all purchases of road transport vehicles as covered by the Public Service Regulation.

Buyers of vehicles may also need to consider the Scottish Government’s Hydrogen Policy Statement, including the potential in transport as an alternative to internal combustion engines, especially heavy-duty vehicles such as buses, heavy goods vehicles, trains and ships – this may also be relevant for the procurement of, for example, bus services). Buyers of vehicles may also wish to read our process-focused case study on the Glasgow Emission Free Fleet Strategy.

Life Cycle Impact Mapping (LCIM), which may be used to identify and assess the social and environmental impacts within the life cycle of a product or service, can be an easy way into the Sustainability Test for internal customers to understand relevant risks and opportunities, such as climate change and vehicles.

Below is an example Life Cycle Impact Map that provides detail on potential risks (and opportunities in italics) for contracts that involve the use of vehicles:

Impacts of obtaining raw materials/ resources needed for relevant service Impacts of manufacturing and logistics/ set up of service

Mining and extraction of raw materials for vehicles and fuels – ore, minerals, oils: pollution to air, land and water, climate change emissions from energy intensive process and leakage from oil/ gas wells, community health impacts, destruction of Biodiversity.

Mining impacts for rare earth minerals for electric batteries and electronics – high embodied carbon and pollution to air, land and water (including from potential deep-sea mining).

High embodied carbon in production of transport vehicles – use of energy, resources, plastics, metals, batteries, tyres etc.

Hazardous and other waste.

Climate change and air pollution emissions from shipping of vehicles and parts – local sourcing strategy.

Impacts of packaging used in shipping e.g. resource use – avoid single use plastics/ take back packaging.

Impacts during use of product/ service delivery

Impacts at end of life/disposal/ end of service

Climate change emissions from fossil fuel use – diesel/ petrol/ LPG, potentially exacerbated by inefficient use of vehicles/ routing/ loads – route optimisation/ full loads/ anti-idling policy and alternatives to need for transport.

Climate change emissions from use of Electric (electric charging) or Hydrogen vehicles – depending on mix of electricity grid or alternative energy source – reduction in emissions from use of low/ zero carbon vehicles including alternatives to vehicle use, such as eCargo bikes etc.

High embodied carbon in roads, transport operators and charging infrastructure.

Emissions and brake dust that contribute to poor air pollution and public health e.g. NOx and P.M./5.

Microplastics and zinc run off from tyre wear and tear.

Use of finite and high embodied carbon resources when servicing and repairing – consumables and parts – potential use of remanufactured parts where satisfying warranty/ safety/ performance requirements.

Health and safety risks to users and public – e.g. accidents but also personal safety when using public services.

Impacts from use of hazardous materials and parts, such as oils, chemicals, batteries.

High embodied carbon and environmental impact from battery use and replacement.

Congestion impacts, exacerbating public health and environmental risks.

Noise pollution and nuisance.

Roads damaged due to weight of the vehicles.

Climate change and air pollution emissions from transport of new parts/ breakdown services.

Driver behaviour impacting on emissions and safety – driver training.

End of Life Vehicles (Producer Responsibility) Regulations – take back.

High carbon and other impacts from disposal of batteries/ recycling and replacement.

Waste oil and parts; potential reuse, recycling or disposal.

Climate change emissions from recycling/ scrapping of end-of-life vehicles including possible shipping of scrap metal overseas.

N.B.  This focuses on environmental impacts. There may be other socio-economic risks and opportunities that are relevant, according to the scope of the contract.

It is also of course important to focus on those risks that you have influence over, which you would consider when completing the Sustainability Test. While you may have none or very little over the mining or manufacturing process for vehicles you may have influence over whether and which vehicles are used and how you expect contractors to minimise climate change impacts in the delivery of relevant services. Opportunities to mitigate relevant climate change risks may for example include alternatives to the use of vehicles, requiring emissions ratings for vehicles/ use of electric vehicles/ driver training/ idling policy/ route optimisation and others. These are explored in more detail later.

Disclaimer - 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 content 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. Scottish Government is not and shall not be held responsible for anything done or not done by you as a result of this guidance.

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