Sustainable procurement standards comprise three dimensions:
1. social,
2. environmental and
3. economic sustainability

The aims to reduce the adverse environmental, social and economic impacts of purchased products and services throughout their life.
Sustainable procurement looks beyond the up-front cost to make purchasing decisions based on the entire life cycle of the goods and services, taking into account associated costs, environmental and social risks and benefits, and broader social and environmental implications.

Social benefits: Being sustainable is also considering the social factors of a good or service. Suppliers can be socially responsible by adopting ethical practices and being compliant with legislative obligations and other actions that benefit society including inclusiveness, equality, diversity, regeneration and integration. Social impacts that can be taken into consideration across sustainable procurement activities include:

  • Supporting suppliers to government who are socially responsible and adopt ethical practices;
  • Considering human health impacts;
  • Supporting the use of local and emerging small businesses;
  • Supporting socially inclusive practices, such as employment and training focused on disadvantaged groups;
  • Assessing the impact of occupational health and safety concerns (both here and abroad); and
  • Ensuring compliance with relevant regulatory requirements.

Environmentally preferable goods and services are defined as those that have a lower impact on the environment over the life cycle of the good or service, when compared with competing goods or services serving the same purpose. There are significant variations in the sustainability impacts associated with different commodities. In order to ensure that damage to the environment is minimised, it is necessary to determine the impacts that are most significant for a particular commodity.

Key environmental issues which might be considered over the life cycle of the goods/service include:

  • Energy use, and type of energy utilised;
  • Water use and water quality impacts;
  • Resource use, including the use of non-renewable resources;
  • Volume and type of waste;
  • End-of-life options, e.g. recyclability, resource recovery;
  • Impact on natural habitat;
  • Level of toxic and hazardous substances/waste; and
  • Noise, pollutants and emissions.

Desirable outcomes/benefits (examples only):
• Improved air quality by reducing or eliminating emissions to air (e.g. greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, and other pollutants);
• Reduced use of water (e.g. water saving or efficiency);
• Improved water quality by reducing or eliminating releases to water (e.g. chemical pollution of water courses);
• Improved soil quality by reducing or eliminating releases to land (e.g. chemical fertilisers);
• Reduced demand on raw materials and natural resources (e.g. sustainable forestry, biodiversity);
• Reduced use of energy (e.g. energy efficiency, use of renewable energy);
• Reduced energy emitted (e.g. heat, radiation, vibration, noise); and
• Reduced waste and by-products (e.g. recycling and waste prevention).

Where it is not possible to calculate dollar benefits associated with environmental impacts, they can be described in other quantitative terms, for example:

  • Energy use (Kwh);
  • Usage (megalitres);
  • Resource use (kg per product);
  • Waste production (kg per product, or percent of product);
  • Packaging type and quantity (kg per product); and
  • Wastewater parameters (BOD, TSS, P, flow).
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