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Responsible procurement

What is responsible procurement?

Responsible procurement is a buying process that considers social, environmental and economic impacts to support sustainable development. Within our context, the University’s Head of Procurement, Kevin Casey, explains our approach as:

"How we ensure that the environmental, social and economic impacts of what we buy are considered within the procurement process. Where the goods or services we purchase have negative impacts we will reduce them and where we have positive impacts, we will enhance them."

Some organisations refer to sustainable procurement, ethical procurement, or green purchasing; we chose responsible procurement because it covers our approach, rationale and embraces the whole scope of what we do and how we do it.

We believe that a responsible procurement approach contributes to delivering excellent procurement.

Why is Responsible procurement important to us?

Increasingly organisations are being asked how they consider a wide range of environmental and social issues within their purchasing practice to clearly demonstrate they are responding to a variety of important issues including, amongst others: social value, modern slavery and the climate emergency declaration. Our responsible procurement approach enables us to recognise these challenges and adapt our processes, approaches and contracts to help us and our suppliers to contribute positively to them.

Responsible procurement also supports the University’s objectives on social responsibility and helps us respond to changing expectations around supply chain transparency and visibility. It assists in meeting our legislative obligations, as well as our civic commitments as a Manchester anchor institution, whether measuring our impact or assisting local and/or SME suppliers to access contracting opportunities.

We have a long-standing commitment to delivering responsible procurement and we have done much to raise the profile of this way of working within the HE Sector. However, we still have a long way to go in supporting supply chain initiatives to stop forced labour, reduce plastic use and work towards carbon neutral deliveries. We are committed to continue sharing our experiences; you can find out more about these and modern slavery below.

Our journey

When we started our responsible procurement journey, we had a simple ambition: to demonstrate how our team could contribute to The University of Manchester’s goal to be socially responsible.

We are now recognised as responsible procurement leaders for our sector.

We use the University’s position and profile to actively share our approach with other procurement professionals so we can maximise impact by raising awareness of our activity.

We also know colleagues are interested in sustainability and are keen to understand our approach; we hope that the information on our webpages provides a good overview of our approach and progress.

Here is an overview of our journey and approach to delivering responsible procurement. We will continue to strive for excellence, contribute the organisational objectives and respond to challenges such as modern slavery and the climate emergency.

Engaging and developing our suppliers

Working initially with NETpositive Futures we developed a supplier engagement tool which helps suppliers develop sustainability action plans for free. Since work was completed, over 40 universities and Purchasing Consortia are now using the tool and it has expanded into the Blue-light Services and local authorities.  To date, the approach has meant over 60,000 actions have been committed to by our suppliers, covering everything from modern slavery to climate action.