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Embedding sustainability into procurement at Sport Wales

4 minutes
Policy specific advice

To realise the Vision for Sport in Wales that everyone can have a lifetime enjoyment of sport, Sport Wales needed to consider the impact of climate change and what they needed to do to reach net zero as an organisation.

Their recently launched Sport Wales Environmental Sustainability Plan is centred around five key themes and one of them is ‘procurement’.

They knew that within Sport Wales, purchasing goods and services (i.e. ‘procurement’) was the highest contributor to their carbon footprint. They also knew that the Welsh Government has set a target for the public sector to be net zero by 2030.

With both of these points in mind, there was a clear rationale to tackle their procurement practices and ensure that they can become more sustainable.

This is their journey so far:

In late 2022, we agreed on the following problem statement as the basis of a new project:

“How can sustainability be embedded into procurement at Sport Wales?”

The word ‘sustainability’ would include environmental, social and economic sustainability.

An agile approach to learn from internal and external stakeholders

We decided on an agile approach for this project. It started with a discovery phase, running through November and December 2022. That period was used to explore a couple of questions:

  1. What is the current procurement process and are there barriers or opportunities associated with that?
  2. How can we learn from other organisations’ good practice?

Using two high-spend areas, construction and digital/IT, user research sessions took place with relevant colleagues within Sport Wales.

We also carried out desktop research and had meetings with other organisations (including the NHS and Future Generations Office) to understand what they were doing to address the problem.

We’ve found that hosting a ‘Show & Tell’ is a popular way of updating colleagues on project work, so this was used as an approach for people to hear about what had been discovered during the first phase of the project.

Discovery learning  – current good practice and challenges related to the existing process

Starting with current good practice within procurement at Sport Wales, we found that:

  • “We are autonomous and have ownership” – staff can take decisions when procuring.
  • “The way procurement is setup means we can go for the proposal that might not be cheapest price but the best fit for what we need.” This was in reference to the fact that ‘quality’ questions can be built in a project specific way.
  • Staff make decisions efficiently; there aren’t too many steps which can result in hold ups.
  • There is a team effort feel. Staff feel that colleagues are ready and willing to provide their expertise to aid the process.
  • There are existing examples where sustainability has been considered during a procurement exercise e.g. through use of local suppliers and labour or choosing sustainable products.

Challenges and barriers included:

  • Whilst there are examples of sustainability featuring within procurement exercises, expertise/guidance on how to use appropriate scoring and evaluation criteria is missing.
  • It’s harder to make a difference in some areas/sectors within procurement e.g. IT and digital v construction. Reference was made to the lack of locally produced equipment.
  • Resource implications of procurement exercises; it can be a burden on time.

Discovery learning – opportunities to embed sustainability!

We heard some positive thinking relating to ways in which sustainability could become a key feature when procuring. The following were highlighted:

  • Adjust existing procurement policy and guidance to support colleagues with when and how to consider sustainability.
  • Explore the potential of collaborating more with other WG sponsored bodies e.g. to consolidate procurement where there is overlapping requirements.
  • Potential to use procurement as a tool to embed additional topics such as equality, diversity and inclusion i.e. from a socio-economic sustainability perspective.

What next?

There’s been plenty of initial learning which we can use to inform our next steps and plans. The user research has demonstrated that there’s already some good work happening and that there’s an appetite to progress the work to embed sustainability into our procurement practices. We’ve also learnt that there’s a lot of best practice already out there and we want to ensure we don’t try to ‘reinvent the wheel’.

Our next step will be working with WRAP Cymru to review our existing processes and identify where we can make improvements.

Subsequently, we will refresh our procurement strategy and change some of our processes so that our staff are better equipped for sustainable procurement, whilst also ensuring that our current and future suppliers understand our sustainability aspirations.

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