The International Organization for Standardization (IOS) has published a new standard for Sustainable Procurement – ISO 20400 Sustainable procurement. The standard applies to the purchasing decisions made by organisations when they choose suppliers. It ensures that a company’s suppliers behave ethically, that the products and services purchased are sustainable and capable of meeting organisation and consumer needs. Consumers’ Federation of Australia representative Gail Broadbent is a member of the Standards Australia Technical Committee, which participated in the development of the new standard.

The purchasing decisions an organization makes have impacts far and wide, from the energy it consumes to the quality of life of the workers who manufactured the products it buys. Procurement in the public sector alone accounts for around 12 % of GDP and 29 % of government expenditure in OECD member countries. Its impact cannot be overlooked.

As public procurement accounts for a substantial portion of the taxpayers’ money, governments are expected to carry it out efficiently and to high standards of conduct that ensure quality service delivery and the advancement of the public interest. The Australian Government has a number of existing documents on sustainable procurement:

  • Sustainable Procurement Guide (2013) to assist Australian Government purchasers to include sustainability considerations in all stages of the procurement process, from identifying the business need to disposing of goods.
  • Guide for sustainable procurement of services (2013) contains more detailed information about the issues to consider when procuring services, such as financial, best practice performance criteria that can be used in approaches to market and possible contract requirements.

Sustainable procurement is a key aspect of social responsibility, thus ISO 20400 will complement ISO 26000, Guidance on social responsibility, by enabling organizations to contribute to sustainable development efforts by minimizing their impact on the environment, tackling human rights issues and contributing to society and the economy.

CFA has representatives on over 50 Standards Australia Technical Committees as part of the CFA Standards Project. If you are interested in finding out more about the Project and making the consumer voice heard as a volunteer CFA Standards Representative please contact the Standards Coordinator standards@consumeraction.org.au

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