Harnessing the power of public procurement

Carl Nichols

Welsh Assembly debating chamber

The importance of the circular economy, where resources are kept in use for as long as possible, is now recognised more widely than ever.  Most people in Wales are recycling, and manufacturers are responding to public mood by increasing the use of recycled materials in their products.

As well as supporting manufacturers to increase the amount of recycled content in the goods they produce in Wales – via the Circular Economy Fund, for example – WRAP Cymru is also working to drive further demand for such products.

Our research and consultation with the Welsh public sector identified an opportunity to assist public bodies to incorporate sustainability into their strategies and procurement activities.  We are therefore doing just that.  With extensive experience and supply chain links under our belts, we are providing support to help purchasers specify products containing recycled content, and also re-used products.

Our 2018 Towards a Route Map recommends that the Welsh public sector should take the lead when it comes to ‘green’ procurement.  It can use its purchasing power to encourage circularity in material use.  Each year, the sector spends approximately £6 billion on goods and services, so there is significant potential to embed sustainable procurement.  This would help achieve better environmental, economic and social outcomes.  It will also help public bodies to deliver the ‘Wales we want’ goals of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

What’s more, the ‘Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales’ delivery plan sets out a commitment for the public sector to decarbonise by 2030.  This will require a fundamental change in the way goods and services are procured.  The right decisions taken now – in addition to longer-term procurement strategies – will assist the public sector in meeting this commitment.

The Welsh Government is further accelerating Wales’ journey towards a circular economy with their ‘Beyond Recycling’ strategy, which outlines eight proposed actions.  These include prioritising re-used and remanufactured content in the goods that the public sector purchases.  As set out in the strategy, taking the next step requires a substantial ‘shift in how everyone thinks and acts with the products we make and use’.  Everybody has a role to play.  For instance, all organisations should be setting recycled content targets and tracking progress against them.

Since October, WRAP Cymru has helped to ensure sustainable procurement practices have been adopted in over £300 million of Welsh public sector spend, by providing free support and expertise to public sector organisations across Wales, and we are still welcoming enquiries.  We have also published guidance on the procurement of plastics, which is available on our website, along with case studies and more.  If you work for a Welsh public body, please take a look and get in touch so that we can help you harness the power of sustainable procurement and lead the way.