Sustainable Procurement Tools


Sustainable requirements can be incorporated into technical specifications, award criteria or contract conditions; however, the principals of equal treatment, non-discrimination, transparency and proportionality are essential and require clarity and precision.

In the case of conflict minerals procurers should consider their relevance for the product in question as well as the relevant market.

For example, if ICT equipment is to be procured this may be from a manufacturer or reseller (who may be in partnership with a manufacturer or offering a catalogue of equipment from various manufacturers).

Manufacturers should be able to provide details of what they are doing to minimise the use of conflict minerals, while resellers should be able to obtain detail from the manufacturer(s).

To highlight the requirement to meet such criteria the following wording could be included in a specification:

‘The supplier shall supply products that minimise and where practical eliminate the use of conflict minerals, and continually improve.'

‘Throughout the term of the Framework Agreement, the Contractor will be required to demonstrate how they assess the likelihood of conflict minerals within products, and what measures they have undertaken to minimise and eliminate, where practical, such minerals. The Contractor will be required to comply with any new and emerging legislation and/or self-certification system.’

Technical specifications must relate to the characteristics of the particular work, supply or service being purchased, and not to the general capacities or qualities of the bidder.

All central government departments and their related organisations must ensure that they meet the Government Buying Standards (GBS) - a set of product specifications for public buyers when buying goods and services for those product groups covered.

They are mandatory for core Scottish Government and their use is encouraged across the wider public sector.


A buyer can ask for what they are buying to have been given an independently verifiable label which certifies that it meets specific environmental, social or other characteristics, for example Fairtrade.

The use of labels needs to be approached with care as if a buyer does ask for a label, it must be:

  • linked to the subject of the contract (and all criteria must be relevant)
  • clear to judge in an open and fair way which does not discriminate
  • open to anyone who meets the standards
  • certified by a third party

This means that a particular label should only be requested where all of its certification characteristics correspond to a procurement.

Where not all of a label’s certification characteristics apply to a procurement, it would be more appropriate to provide a full description of the requirements in the tender documentation, instead of asking for the label itself.

Additionally, if a specific label is requested evidence of compliance with an equivalent standard or label must also be accepted.

A buyer could also just use the criteria behind labels to help draw up contract conditions in order to define the conditions in which the products originate, and then for checking compliance with these requirements, by accepting the label as a means of proof of compliance with the technical specifications.

The European Commission published a fully revised version of the Buying Green Handbook in April 2016 which contains further guidance on using labels.

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