The government has released a new set of procurement principles for construction projects based on lessons learned from the London Olympics.

New guidance issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) lays out eight important principles which public sector buyers should use to guide their decisions.

Sustainability is at the heart of the new recommendations, which Defra says are designed both to consider the environmental impact of new construction projects, maintain a suitably skilled workforce and encourage entrepreneurship.

Defra argues that buyers need to be able to find and use responsibly sourced materials with as low an environmental impact as possible, but it focuses more heavily on the relationship between suppliers and procurement teams. Indeed, it suggests that organisations should be able to work together while enjoying the freedom to challenge each other on sustainability. Suppliers should feel they have something to lose by failing to meet targets, the report says.

According to London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games The Legacy: Sustainable Procurement for Construction Projects, buyers should seek a clear and public commitment to sustainability at the highest levels of the organisation. When senior managers at the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and ministers made it clear that sustainability would be high on their agenda, the report says, a clear message was sent to the whole supply chain that the issue would prove vital in gaining and keeping contracts.

Early preparation is another important consideration. ODA’s two-year planning period offered the freedom to set out programme-wide objectives before any contracts had been put out to tender, meaning that a sustainable development strategy was already set out. Investing in expert advice during the earliest stages allowed better decision-making later in the programme, Defra says.

Similarly, the guidance points out that specific and ambitious targets should be set out clearly from the very start of the building programme so they can be worked into the design briefs for specific projects.

Public sector procurement teams also need to act as “intelligent clients”, the report finds, setting out a vision and clear goals for a project as well as understanding exactly what could be achievable in the circumstances. Using the right staff and ensuring that they are properly educated on sustainability is crucial to success, the report claims. Similarly, the issue needs to be embedded throughout the supply chain to ensure that all operations are working towards the same sustainability goals.

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