Sustainable public procurement

This paper has been produced at an important juncture in discussion of public procurement in Wales. Procurement services have been criticised by both the Wales Audit Office and the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, and following a year of consultation, the then Cabinet Secretary for Finance announced the cessation of the National Procurement Service in its current form over time, and the development of a new procurement strategy.

In parallel, there has been a growing appetite to generate greater social and economic return from the approximately £6 billion annual public procurement expenditure across Wales. Numerous Welsh Government initiatives now call for procurement to be used to lever broader social, economic and environmental outcomes, including generating fair work, boosting local economies, lowering the carbon footprint, and preventing human trafficking in supply chains. Procurement has also been identified as an opportunity to drive a range of outcomes by experts working with the Wales Centre for Public Policy; including efficiency, effectiveness, inclusivity and equality.

It is therefore timely to consider the outcomes public bodies can hope to achieve from procurement and the approaches they can adopt in order to do this. The evidence suggests that there is real potential to ‘get more’ from procurement and that it offers the opportunity to address some of the most persistent social, economic and environmental issues we face, globally, nationally and locally. In this report, we present evidence-based insights that we hope will inform debate and decision-making surrounding procurement and sustainability.

We consider what is meant by sustainable public procurement; the key approaches to achieving it; how these can be implemented, including a discussion of some of the challenges and trade-offs; and we conclude with key messages for public bodies in Wales.