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A new International Standard for sustainable procurement best practice – ISO 20400 – was launched in April, which replaces the 2010 British Standard BS 8903. Since 2013, experts and industry bodies from more than 40 nations, including Europe, USA, Canada, Central and South America, Australia, Japan, China, Africa and others, have contributed to its development to make it the first international standard for sustainable procurement. This is not a ‘requirement’ standard, but a ‘guidance’ standard, which any organisation, in any sector, that wants to embed sustainability into its procurement processes can adopt to increase transparency in the supply chain.

Any organisation can commission an evaluation by an independent expert to measure how well they comply with the standard, then accept recommendations on how to improve and comply more fully. This is what the London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC) has just done. The not-for-profit professional buying organisation has completed its initial assessment against the standard, making it the first to be assessed in the UK public sector and in the education sector globally. LUPC achieved a score of 3.71 out of 5 in an evaluation conducted by Action Sustainability – the lead technical authors for BS 8903 and the UK delegation for ISO 20400 as appointed by the BSI.

The standard incorporates the latest developments in sustainability thinking including the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business and ISO 26000 on social responsibility. Human rights in the supply chain is a principle that LUPC works very hard to adopt and promote. It was the first purchasing consortium to publish a Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement in December 2015, to satisfy the requirements of Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. And last year it submitted recommendations for tackling human trafficking and rights violations in public sector supply chains to the Joint Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into Human Rights and Business. In fact, LUPC director, Andy Davies, has been one of the leaders around sustainable and responsible procurement in the UK public sector for many years, and has been instrumental in Electronics Watch becoming an important force in terms of improving the working conditions of staff in that industry.

Action Sustainability’s Lead Consultant said of the assessment that “LUPC has clearly and unambiguously adopted ‘responsible procurement’ as its methodology for procuring the goods and services its Members may require.  LUPC’s culture and approach, not least in relation to social issues and matters around modern slavery and the like, are forward thinking and fully embrace best practice and set a good example for many organisations to emulate.” High praise indeed, but deserved. We have had many dealings with the LUPC director, and can add that as an individual he is fully committed to human rights, supply chain transparency and promoting responsible procurement, and he does like to challenge the accepted norms. See this article he wrote for Spend Matters to get you thinking!

We hope that more organisations will take up the mantle of being assessed against this latest standard. Commitment to responsible procurement is essential if we want to eradicate the misuse and abuse in the supply chain. BSI advises that between 40% and 80% of an organisation’s revenue is spent in the supply chain, suppliers are therefore likely to listen to what their customers want. So taking steps to comply with sustainability and responsibility standards, through procurement, is an ideal way to promote best practice and for organisations to exert influence over their supply chain partners and demand transparency.

We hope to catch up with Andy Davies of LUPC soon to gain some further insight into the assessment and what it means for them, and responsible procurement as a whole.



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