Local authorities must re-examine the tender if they truly want to go green

The push to go green is everywhere; and about time, too. We’ve been plundering the planet for far too long. Something (or rather lots of things) needs to give – and judging by COP26, quite quickly, too.

When it comes to delivering sustainability within the supply chain, procurement has the potential to be the driver for change. It’s arguably the engine. Or at the very least it’s the barrier at which sustainable decisions are either given the green or red light. 

Local authorities, which form Egbert Taylor’s main customer base in the UK, have made great strides when it comes to social value. These days, businesses such as ours are not only required to supply products that meet the needs of the local authority, but also positively impact the lives of those who live within it. 

A significant element of the social value model is the introduction of a social value weighting to the evaluation criteria, which can be up to 10 per cent, alongside other, more traditional benchmarks included within a typical tender including price, experience, systems and resource availability.

This is hugely positive and Egbert Taylor fully supports this. Our Green Rewards programme – whereby local authorities, in return for buying our bins, receive points that we convert into money to then be used to fund local environmental initiatives – is testament to this.

The missing piece of the tender puzzle

Yet why is there no weighting in local authorities’ procurement processes allocated to carbon emissions created in the supply chain? 

As it stands suppliers that import cheap materials, or even entire bins, from thousands of miles overseas are treated the same as those who source their materials from within the UK. Carbon footprint simply isn’t measured or acknowledged during the most important part of the procurement process: the tender.

This means that the procurement decision remains hugely influenced by price – and we know that UK companies tend to fail to compete with cheap material imports sourced from abroad.

In our case, 94 per cent of all of our raw materials comes from within 50 miles of our factories. Despite this, other suppliers who primarily source their materials from overseas and who can win on price are in a better position simply because of a failing in the tender process. Yes, the steel imported from China may be cheaper, but the carbon emissions involved in transporting it to the UK are astronomical. 

The price of going green

It’s really not a case of sour grapes and we don’t bear any grudge towards those, including our competitors, who continue to benefit from this blind spot. They’re not doing anything wrong. It’s the tender process that isn’t working. 

Things are changing. The pandemic has highlighted the risks associated with relying on overseas supply chains and the pressure for private and public sectors to go green or get greener is only intensifying. 

But if local authorities genuinely do want the most sustainable option when it comes to procurement, then they need to accept two things. Firstly, they need to be prepared to pay more for UK-produced products. Secondly, they need to revisit and revise the tender framework.

By Kevin Docherty, Area Sales Manager at Egbert Taylor