The carbon footprint of the NHS, published by the NHS Sustainable Development Unit shows that procurement accounts for some 60% of emissions – a real opportunity to make significant cuts.
I've come across two major challenges in making this happen. Firstly, it's difficult to find a definition of low-carbon services or products that encompasses includes the whole supply chain. Secondly, taking the most of the NHS's incredible buying power and the economies of scale requires that it take a common approach.
Take pharmaceuticals, for example. They account for about a third of the carbon impact from NHS procurement, and yet when I recently submitted an enquiry to two of the biggest drugs companies in the UK, they told me that they had no knowledge of any efforts by the NHS to procure lower carbon products.
Despite this apparent lack of, progress there are some very positive steps being taken at a more local level. Trevor Payne at UCLH has embraced low carbon procurement within his Trust and is working with suppliers to footprint their products and drive down emissions. You can read more about Trevor’s inspiring work here.
Another excellent example is from a PCT. NHS Bristol has recently finished updating their procurement documentation for their Patient Transport Service specifically to include sustainability. They have very kindly agreed to share their documents with us which provide the perfect transition from Travel Month to Shopping/Procurement Month.
The Green Issues section of their PQQ (Pre Qualification Questionnaire) includes questions on environmental management policy and systems, selection of low CO2 vehicles, monitoring of mileage/fuel by driver/vehicle and training in fuel efficient driving. It is great to see such a comprehensive approach. They have also incorporated low-carbon requirements in their specification and in their KPIs. The service provider will be rewarded for a cut in emissions and penalised for an increase.
The next step: take a look at my green procurement resources round-up for more help.