Part 3 – Quick Procurement Wins & a Circular Economy

What are the Practical Steps Schools & Academy Trusts can take to reduce Carbon emissions and move towards a NetZero future? – Part 3 Quick Procurement Wins & a Circular Economy

This is the third part in a series of blogs, where we aim to answer this question by examining a different aspect of NetZero/de-carbonisation each week and hopefully we will provide some contextualised practical information and guidance for Schools and Trusts. In this weeks blog we will be focussing on perhaps the most difficult area to get a grip on, Indirect emissions or Scope 3 (as defined by the Kyoto Green House Gas Protocol) and this takes us into the realms of Sustainable Procurement and the Circular Economy.

So to recap the GHG Protocol classifies Carbon Emissions into three categories as follows:

  • Scope 1 (direct emissions) – emissions linked to combustion in boilers, machinery & vehicles
  • Scope 2 (energy indirect) – emissions linked to purchased electricity
  • Scope 3 (other indirect) – accounts for all other indirect emissions. These occur as a consequence of the activities of a School or Trust, but not within its ownership or control. (e.g. purchased goods & services, sold products, transportation (up & down stream) business travel, commuting, waste and leased assets).

A typical emissions profile for a School or Academy Trust will see indirect Scope 3 emissions accounting for between 40-50% of the total and so it’s clearly important for this to be addressed. But where to start? Well most Indirect emissions in a School or Trust can be tracked back in some way to Procurement, and therefore also by association policies and behaviour. However measuring and establishing a baseline, is notoriously difficult for indirect and procurement related emissions so following the normal logic of trying to quantify the current position as a starting point is probably not realistic for most organisations and the reality is that even big resource rich organisations are struggling with this. Help is at hand though and in my opinion, having a high level understanding of your current Scope 3 emissions breakdown is all that is needed to inform decision making and make a start.

In the first instance, simply by understanding the size and breakdown of organisational spend viewed from the perspective of sustainability and lifecycle will be enlightening and will reveal the areas of your supply chain to be prioritised and focussed on. Each product or service purchased has a Carbon Footprint associated with each stage of its production, delivery, use or disposal and so by being aware of the emissions impact of each stage will enable changes in setting more sustainable requirements, evaluation criteria and procurement decision making, through adopting a Circular Economy Procurement approach based on three principles: designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use at the highest possible value, and regenerating natural systems. There are some great resources and thinking that has already been done in this area and I would point you towards the Ellen Macarthur Foundation where you will find an overview of the change points organisations can use to make their purchasing choices more circular and engage their suppliers in conversations and collaborative circular partnerships.

For those who are keen to work out a more accurate procurement estimate of emissions then this has been done by some Universities, sizing the money flowing through procurement under different headings and converting this spend into carbon equivalents using Defra 2011 Guidelines GHG Conversion Factors. At enFrame we also hope to be in a position to help through the work we are doing with our Pathfinder Trusts, where we are looking to develop and share some calculation tools to assist Schools and Trusts with this process.

Despite the challenges of establishing a detailed baseline, there is clearly a great opportunity to shrink Scope 3 indirect emissions by reducing overall spend (buy far less stuff), reducing spend on the products and services considered most environmentally damaging and by prioritising environmental gains over pure cost savings.

The benefits should result in saving money by purchasing fewer goods, and reducing the goods that need to be disposed of as waste and hopefully a growing awareness and change in buying habits to support a more circular economy.

So in parallel with carrying out a spend review then one of the first steps to be taken, is to develop a sustainable procurement policy that will drive down Scope 3 emissions. This policy should enshrine a commitment to improving the sustainability of all aspects of the organisation and one that defines the process of sustainable procurement as meeting the needs for all goods, services and utilities to achieve value for money measured on a whole life-cycle basis and in terms of generating social value, whilst significantly reducing negative impact on the environment and GHG emissions.

Procurement ultimately underpins all operations across a School and Trust, and it is also where key decisions can and must be made to prioritise environmental gains, carbon reductions and lifecycle costs over the more traditional approach focussed on simple cost savings. This level of prioritisation needs to be applied not only to large tenders and contracts, but also at the macro level where individual purchases are made at department level or by individual budget holders.

But as we all know, a policy in place does not necessarily translate through to a change in practice. So along with a new sustainable procurement policy, there needs to be encouragement and examples of visible change demonstrated from the top, with communications and commitments led by senior leaders, to engage students and staff and get buy in through events, awareness, training, tracking and incentivising at every level and across every department to ensure lasting change happens.

Whereas establishing an indirect emissions baseline and developing a robust new Sustainable Procurement strategy will take time, there are quick wins to be had and plenty of places to make a start straight away! Wherever you have a large or strategic/long-term contract in place then arrange to speak with your suppliers, tell them about your new sustainable procurement goals and find out what they are doing to support NetZero. If they are a good supplier then they will take the opportunity to understand your new requirements and work with you to gain a positive position in readiness for your next procurement round. This will provide leverage and an incentive to renegotiate current supply contracts and consider options and alternatives your suppliers can offer straight away. You can also agree to new improvement targets for the remainder of the contract term and a useful by-product will be better information to inform your future tender requirements.

The following are a few obvious examples and areas to consider:

  1. Buildings Maintenance – review and audit consumable supplies and as things reach the end of life don’t just do the same thing and
    replace with a like for like make sure you consider the whole life cycle and energy footprint of each product and project.
  2. Paper – firstly switch to paperless where possible! and then carry out a paper audit asking suppliers to provide options for sustainable products including the supply chain carbon footprint as well as sustainable sourcing.
  3. Catering – is there a sustainable food policy in place that captures priorities for local, seasonal and better social/environmental practice alongside minimising food miles, meat, carbon, plastic waste and the efficient use of water. If not what changes can be made for next term?
  4. Water – have you ever thought about your water supplier as a Carbon emitter? each litre of water used has an environmental footprint, have you done all you can to reduce usage and stop leaks? The water industry as a whole has committed to reaching NetZero by 2030 UK Water NetZero plan, what is your supplier doing to achieve this and could you swap suppliers?
  5. ICT – is one of the biggest consumers of electricity on any educational campus and one of the biggest contributors to electronic waste. What are your IT team and suppliers doing to choose and design energy efficient solutions? have you considered re-manufactured devices What happens at the end of life can your equipment have a second life and be re-used Computer Aid for IT re-use?
  6. Grounds maintenance – what are the environmental and carbon credentials of materials, tools and the labour used? Do you have a management regime that encourages biodiversity? What opportunities are there for tree planting and carbon offsetting Earthwatch tiny-forests?

At enFrame we are doing our bit through ensuring that all our Innovative Procurement Frameworks have Social Value and NetZero built in by design, we are helping our Schools and Trusts, buy better and reduce their Carbon Footprint at the same time. We are also working with a number of Pathfinder Schools and Academy Trusts to develop resources, guidance and best practice guides so that we can share best practice and help all Schools embrace a NetZero future. If you want to find out more please contact us today.