Sustainable Procurement Tools

Policy and legal context

A focus on materials security may form part of a public-sector organisation’s sustainability strategy, waste or environmental strategy.

The National Outcomes and Indicators within the National Performance Framework focus our activity around ‘creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth’. The National Outcomes and Indicators relevant to materials security are:

  • Environment: We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment
    • Waste generated
  • Economy: We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy
    • Carbon footprint

Scotland was one of the first counties in the world to sign up to the Sustainable Development Goals which have been developed to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The Goals interconnect, and many of them align with the National Performance Framework. The Goal relevant to materials security is: Goal 12 Responsible Consumption and Production.

Procurement regulations

The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 (the Act) places a sustainable procurement duty on a contracting authority before they buy anything, to think about how they can - through their procurements - improve the social, environmental and economic wellbeing in Scotland, with a particular focus on reducing inequality, for example through the appropriate use of the sustainability test and its associated tool, the prioritisation methodology, and the application of relevant and proportionate contract requirements. The Act also requires obligated organisations to develop a Corporate Procurement Strategy and report against its delivery at the end of each year, emphasising the importance of monitoring and reporting delivery of intended sustainable outcomes.

The public procurement regulations allow a contracting authority to exclude companies from tendering for public contracts for not meeting certain conditions that is, breach of any obligations in the fields of environmental, social or labour law; and select the most suitable bidders based on technical ability and previous experience in relation to the subject matter of the contract. This is done through the Single Procurement Document (SPD).   

The public procurement regulations also permit contracting authorities to ask for tenderers to be registered under a certain social label scheme, as long as the circumstances outlined later in Specification development apply.

Circular economy

It is important to consider how through procurement we can maximise the economic potential of materials, creating cycles for materials to flow continually through our economy, without the need to rely on new raw materials that are increasingly becoming financially and environmentally costly. This can be done by applying the waste hierarchy which forms part of the blueprint to moving away from a linear model of production, consumption and disposal.

Making things last: a circular economy strategy for Scotland sets out a plan for transition to a circular economy, which links to the avoidance of and optimum management of waste. The key principles are:

  • reduce: can waste be avoided? Rethink demand specification: what is actually needed? Could a product be replaced with a service and could ownership or access to this product be shared?
  • re-use: if a product is needed, its use phase and end-of-life have to be considered (e.g. take-back schemes)
  • recycle: if product cannot be re-used, ensuring that it is made of recyclable materials, and even better, made from recycled materials
  • recover: can specify design for recovery in tenders, and also procure the recovered products 

A number of targets are contained in the strategy including, an overall target to send no more than 5% of all waste to landfill by 2025, and to cut food waste by a third by 2025.

The European Commission Action Plan for the Circular Economy (2015) also recognises public procurement as a key driver in the transition towards the circular economy. Buyers should consider the opportunities for efficient use and recycling of raw materials in contracts in a relevant and proportionate manner. Further support and guidance on resource efficiency and the circular economy is available from:

Critical raw materials (CRMs)

CRMs are materials known to be scarce or unsustainable and include timber, water and minerals. CRMs are particularly important for sectors / industries and emerging innovations such as ICT, furniture, automotive, renewable energy, defence, high tech products and construction. 

The EU publishes a critical raw materials report, examining the materials that are crucial to Europe's economy and quality of life. It highlights a number of measures including the importance of critical raw materials for the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and more circular economy.

A 2018 EU report on critical raw materials and the circular economy contains useful market research on the supply and demand of critical raw materials for key sectors.