Sustainable Procurement Tools

Specification Development

Environmental considerations may be included in the technical specification of a procurement; requirements must be relevant and proportionate to the particular procurement. In the case of waste, buyers should consider whether products or services could be substituted before creating the specification, for example could waste be avoided through a focus on durability and re-use or alternative replacement cycles or a focus on re-use of otherwise redundant equipment?

For instance, if the buyer wishes to ensure that a product’s life can be extended both the design and the availability of spares may be important. Further details are available from Procuring for: Repair, Re-use and Remanufacturing - Category and Commodity Guidance.

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. For example, the GBS for furniture includes requirements for reuse, refurbishment, repair, recycling, and recycled content in components and packaging.

The GBS for food and catering includes requirements for reducing landfill and food and packaging waste. It is important to establish that the market for a particular product can meet these requirements before incorporating them; if using the GBS criteria, they have been tested against market capabilities.

The EU Green Public Procurement Criteria also provide some specifications that include a focus on waste management including re-use, repair and remanufacturing.



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, which may include waste production, for example the Revolve quality label for re-use.

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.


Specification wording

To highlight the requirement to minimise waste, waste re-use, reconditioning, and remanufacture the following wording may be useful:


‘The Contractor will be expected to support the contracting authority’s commitment to deliver whole life value for money, including by applying the waste hierarchy; this includes meeting [Scottish Government] construction and demolition waste recycling targets and applying relevant re-use and recovery of materials and equipment’.


‘The contractor will be expected to have a food waste minimisation plan in place as part of this contract, including actions and estimated quantifiable reductions, and will ensure appropriate best practice food waste minimisation training is given to staff.’


‘The contractor will be expected to adhere to all packaging and waste regulations where applicable and ensure that plastics used for product packaging do not contain halogen containing polymers. Packaging should not contain single use plastics, should contain recycled content, or be sustainably sourced packaging. This may include minimising packaging use, while ensuring safe and effective delivery of products, using reusable packaging and arranging take back of packaging and the use of sustainable and innovative packaging materials’.


‘Please provide details of how waste arising from delivery of the contract will be minimised, and where practical eliminated, while dealing with any waste that does arise in accordance with the waste hierarchy and all relevant legislative requirements.'


 ‘The supplier shall demonstrate that their product has been designed to enable easy repair, disassembly for recycling and, preferably, for reuse, in part or whole.’


‘Please provide details of the services which could be made available in the management of [furniture] so that its useful life may be sustainably extended.’


'Please provide details of any end to end innovative packaging solutions which could be made available at no additional cost to [the Customer]; include details of your plans and proposed initiatives to reduce and eliminate packaging and waste under this contract including re-use.'


‘XYZ public body is committed to sustainable ICT services / equipment while enabling SMEs, third sector and supported businesses to compete for contracts. Bidders are required to demonstrate in a method statement how they will extend the useful life of ICT equipment supplied / used in the delivery of this service, through relevant durability, repairability and upgradability features of the equipment, and through repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and re-use, during or after the contract period. This may include lease arrangements, sub-contracting arrangements, the supply of remanufactured product and other innovative solutions. This should include suggested performance measures which are capable of monitoring and reporting through contract management.’


‘Pre-owned, refurbished and remanufactured electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) should be supplied with an appropriate warranty [which may be shorter than the original warranty, unless fully remanufactured in which case it must be supplied with a warranty which is at least as long as the original warranty] and must have been supplied by an appropriately certified company. In addition, all relevant waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and / or data security regulatory requirements must be complied with’.   


‘Supplier(s) will be expected to offer solutions throughout the life of the contract to extend the useful life of the [garments] and [goods] through relevant durability, repair, re-use, refurbishment or remanufacturing including, but not necessarily restricted to, repair, recycling and re-use, including through sub-contracting arrangements and innovative solutions. Where practical, supplier(s) should demonstrate how recycled content is included within [garments] supplied’. 


'Our sustainability targets include a commitment to reduce life cycle costs of the service [by x%] over the lifetime of the contract, while delivering effective capability. Life cycle costs to include equipment, associated consumables, servicing and maintenance, upgrading, licensing and energy, carbon, WEEE and other waste costs and all other relevant costs during the lifetime of the contract.

Please describe your suggested methodology, including timeline, milestones, outcomes and responsibilities for developing an appropriate service Resource Management Plan which aims to:

  1. Help us achieve our target for reducing life cycle costs through the appropriate maintenance and repair or reconditioning of products and equipment, re-use of otherwise redundant products, and use of remanufactured products or equipment resulting from [insert service] services, in accordance with all relevant safety, performance and quality standards; and
  2. Providing data / information to support claims that life cycle cost and resource savings have been made'.

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