The Measurement of Sustainable Procurement

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The Measurement of Sustainable Procurement

A new report commissioned by emda, the East Midlands development Agency (UK) and written by Adam Wilkinson and Associates concentrates on assessing and developing the practical measurement of economic, social, and environmental sustainability, so that these measures can be used within the procurement process.

This is achieved by means of a critical review of existing methodologies that provides a considered base from which to recommend examples of smart indicators to measure key elements of sustainability. These have then been piloted with a subset of emda's tier one suppliers.

Review highlights

Measurement and rigorous methodology are not a substitute for clearly stated policy intentions and prioritisation. A methodology for measuring impact can be applied, but to make it meaningful it needs to be used in the context of achieving the desired objective. This underpins the need for a strategic approach to procurement and is also the reason for the growth in thinking about outcome based approaches.

Any measures or methodologies that are used in procurement practice need to be objective and should therefore be blind to the aspirations of public policy in their application. The suggested solution is that by using a smart Key Performance Indicators (KPI) approach one can use the results of different methodologies across a number of different indicators that encompass the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social, and environmental). This leads to the rejection of monetised proxies such as some of those used by SROI, and new perspectives on environmental measurement. Both are seen as critical if a realistic and practical approach to using smart indicators in public procurement is to be successful.

Recommendations highlights

  • Develop a standardised approach to measuring strategic outcomes across public sector procuring organisations, bringing clarity to markets by better specifying what they wish to buy and supporting suppliers to respond to consistently applied measures.
  • Clearly link the organisation's impact measurement process to its strategic sustainability objectives by establishing a meaningful set of measures that support their delivery.
  • Develop an impact measurement tool that would enable the organisation to monitor all KPIs in contracts and then have the ability to accumulate these to feedback the results against the corporate objectives.

The full report can be downloaded from