The United Nations (UN) has launched a brand new guide designed to improve sustainability in its procurement practices.

In the Practitioner’s Guide to Sustainable Procurement, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Compact (UNGC) have compiled a set of principles to be followed at every stage of the tender process, including separate sections for the request for proposal and invitation to bid. Another section is also given over to advice on putting together terms of reference, as well as ways of assisting potential vendors.

“UNDP is committed to sustainable procurement and will maximise environmental, social and economic considerations in the procurement process wherever and wherever possible,” the Practitioner’s Guide says.

Sustainability ties into the UN’s chief procurement principles, according to the guide, which include finding the best value for money alongside fairness, integrity and transparency.

However, the guide does acknowledge that sustainability must be implemented in a progressive manner that still offers suppliers in emerging markets and developing countries the chance to bid for UN contracts. Even so, sustainable procurement will play an important part in the sustainable development that is at the core of UNDP’s mission.

To ensure that the UN’s aims are met, the guide says it is crucial that sustainability is brought in at the earliest possible stage of project planning. This will ensure fairness and transparency from the outset. Procurement teams might consider carrying out risk assessments, for example, or analysis of the market to work out how easily sustainable goods or services can be found.

But suppliers will also have to be examined carefully to make sure they are capable of meeting expectations. This could mean looking for previous experience or the right environment management systems to guarantee firms have suitable technical capacity.

The move appears to tie in with a broader trend at the UN. Supply Management reports that UNDP is bringing in a policy which rewards suppliers who show they are committed to sustainability, as well as teaming up with UNGC to produce a “vendor outreach programme” of online resources to improve sustainability among prospective suppliers.

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