Public Procurement and Property

Procurement and the climate crisis: a tool for positive change

September 29, 2022 by No Comments | Category climate change, Guest Blog, Sustainability

Procurement and the climate crisis: a tool for positive change

Guest blog by Steven Menzies, Head of Procurement and Grants, Zero Waste Scotland

As a society, we need to change the way we consume if we’re serious about tackling climate change.

That’s because four-fifths of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from the products and materials we make, use, and throw away – often before the end of their useable life. It’s a massive amount, and one in which procurement professionals play a role. We facilitate our society’s incessant demand for more ‘stuff’ – in the business landscape anyway.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Climate Week is an ideal opportunity to change up the way we do things for the good of the planet and to share learnings from the actions we’re already taking. Targeting circular procurement is one of the most impactful actions we can take.

What is circular procurement?

For those of us who have been in the procurement field for some time it can feel a little obscure to go through a process that does not culminate in a purchase.

But circular procurement opens up ways of meeting the needs of the organisation while reducing consumption and waste. It’s part of driving a circular economy in which resources are valued and made to last. That’s better for the environment, and it makes good business sense too.

Under a circular procurement model, decision-making is influenced by how to maximise the lifespan of materials, resources and products. It may involve renting rather than owning kit, prioritising second-hand items over new for certain purchases, or minimising single use items.

Above all, involving procurement colleagues in high-level decision-making from the outset is the best way to ensure contracts and purchases take a circular economy approach.

It’s already starting to happen; we’re seeing a shift in the procurement role away from the transactional purchase of goods and buying solely based on lowest price and towards a more strategic function. It’s vital that continues if we want to significantly curb the carbon emissions attributed to our consumption.

What tools are available?

When it comes to tracking how assets are used – and planning how they can be kept in good use – there are technologies available to help. These can be used to plan in maintenance and servicing as well as track resource requirements, like fuel and energy use, that can lead to further carbon savings.

Embedding circular principles within procurement frameworks enables organisations to further close in on their climate ambitions. By requiring businesses whose services we contract to do their bit for the environment we can help scale up sustainable behaviour change.

Including a requirement to reduce or avoid single-use items in the execution of a tender is a great example with real potential to drive up reuse. Developing a specification to minimise complicated waste streams is another, helping to ensure any waste can be recycled effectively.

What can I do?

As with the circular economy as a whole, circular procurement involves a fundamental shift in mindset and changes to the established values and processes we have adhered to for a long time.

But by doing things differently we can make procurement a catalyst for positive change – and help curb Scotland’s contribution to climate change in the process.

For more information on circular procurement and why it’s good for business, as well as for the planet, visit the Zero Waste Scotland website.

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For further information on public procurement in Scotland please visit

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