BSA and LGA Greening Procurement webinar – blog

The Greening Procurement webinar, jointly run by the Business Services Association and the Local Government Association, was an online workshop to explore the climate emergency and how local government and businesses can work together on meeting local carbon reduction goals

During the session, the following was covered:

  • The climate emergency and the work of local authorities in helping to prevent climate change and mitigating its effects
  • The ways in which councils have worked to reduce carbon emissions in the communities they represent
  • The role of the private sector and Voluntary and Community Sector stakeholders in working with councils to these ends
  • Best practice in incorporating sustainability as a factor in the public procurement process, including through the Social Value Act

This overview provides a summary of what each speaker presented on, followed by the conclusions and next steps moving forward.

Thirty one people attended the workshop (15 local authorities and 15 businesses) with seven speakers, each providing short pieces on their experiences and thoughts going forward. This facilitated an energetic discussion and the “chat” functionality allowed for open dialogue and questions to be presented without reservation.

The session was jointly chaired by Councillor Neil Prior, Deputy Chair of the LGA Improvement and Innovation Board and Colin Murray a Partner of DWF Law LLP.

To kick start the webinar, Councillor Neil Prior posed a question about how we should move on from the COVID-19 crisis. The majority of attendees replied to a poll saying we should head towards ‘civic renewal’meaning that local authorities are able to use learnings from the crisis response to embed new ways of working, engage residents in decision making, and form partnerships with local businesses, VCSEs and communities. Opportunities for locally driven change was the order of the day and set the scene for the rest of the session.

Colin chaired session one which provided an overview on the climate emergency and the local response.

Martin Budd, Climate Change Manager at Hull City Council was first up to speak. Having declared a climate emergency in April 2019, with a carbon neutral target in 2030, Hull have identified eight areas of work to decarbonise. These include: innovation, heat, power, mobility, consumption, fair transition, carbon sequestration and skills and jobs. Hull have identified that their carbon emissions are generated in the main from consumption activity.

Martin and his team are working with suppliers to embed social value into procurements, and are keen to work with them on their adaptation and resilience plans. Enabling and supporting the business sector was a priority for Hull and he recognised that this would need to be something to improve upon going forward in many local partnership arrangements.

Mike Sewell, Chairman of the BSA Energy and Environment Committee, and Managing Director Energy and Compliance Interserve Support Services identified that businesses want and need to work with the public sector. All types of organisations have a role to play in this crisis and now is an opportunity for innovation to emerge. This is not just because of the momentum for the climate emergency, but also because of opportunities presented to us in the green recovery from COVID-19. He spoke about buy well, use well, make well in procurement. By this, he meant: negotiate the best price, use what you need and effectively use low carbon technologies to create more.

Colin introduced the recently published DWF report. Pre COVID-19, LGC and DWF teamed up to identify international case studies describing what local authorities globally are doing on the climate emergency. Key findings from DWF and LGC report suggest that:

  • Local government is leading the way and is ahead of national government in many instances – for example, local authority pension funds are looking at how they invest
  • Take a global approach to learning and collaborating
  • Develop a sound and supported climate emergency strategy
  • Make the right people accountable for delivery
  • Focus on what makes most impact
  • Act on community behaviour
  • Be brave and relentless – it’s a once in a life time opportunity!

Session two, chaired by Cllr Neil Prior, examined the climate emergency and partnership working

Elsa Colonna, Business Development Manager, Veolia UK spoke about their partnership with Leicestershire County Council (LCC) who have a target to be carbon neutral by 2030. It has been identified that 34 per cent of carbon emissions come from buildings. The Midlands Energy Performance contract outlines the many technologies which LCC are looking at using to reduce consumption and generate low carbon energy: LED lighting, roof solar PV, solar carports, large scale solar farms, battery storage, EV charging and heat pumps. The council are working with Veolia as their delivery partner who are guaranteeing energy savings - so far projects implemented are saving 525 tonnes of CO2 over their lifetime. The contract is open to Public Bodies in a 50 miles radius from Leicester.

Nathan Goode, Director, Head of Strategy at The Social Value Portal explained how the portal signals to the supplier base what the buyer’s intent is on social value, and simultaneously functions as a measurement tool. It focuses on economic, social and environmental wellbeing of societies and in 2020, have created a set of climate emergency themes, outcomes and measures. They are a practical tool for embedding climate action into commissioning and procurement.

Director of Strategy and External Relations at ENGIE UK, Karl Limbert, spoke about the organisation’s mission statement - ‘making zero carbon happen’. He emphasised that in order to do this, we will need to invest in low carbon infrastructure to support local clean growth and development. Given the historic levels of public debt following the pandemic, there may be an increased call on private sector investment to support this. Local authorities will have a prominent role in leading the transition to net zero places especially in priority areas, including the local decarbonisation of heat and power, the growth of onshore wind and solar, the development of low carbon housing, particularly in the social housing sector, and the deployment of electric vehicle infrastructure. ENGIE has published a thought leadership piece on the role of local authorities in leading the transition to net zero entitled: “How to solve a problem like net zero: a guide for local authorities”.

Katie Sargent, Environment Commissioning Group Manager, Surrey County Council spoke practically about how Surrey have embedded their green procurement ambitions into their contracts. For example, the council have committed to having a green procurement policy, part of which has a feature for providers to disclose their carbon emissions and carbon reduction targets. The Social Value Charter has been applied to all procurements over £100k. For example, in Surrey’s extra care housing contract, the use of energy and water must be a consideration in the design requirements.


What can businesses do?

  • Publicly commit to own a net zero target as soon as possible
  • Be clear about short term plans to deliver on that – the next five years will determine whether we are on the right trajectory
  • Decarbonising goods and services

What can local authorities do?

  • Let businesses know what they need
  • Promote social value
  • Share good practice with one another

How will we take this network forward?

With very many thanks to all the speakers for providing such rich information, and to all the attendees for contributing to a lively and collaborative discussion. We look forward to working with the wealth of knowledge and expertise in this group again. One opportunity for this may be to feed into and be a sounding board for the LGA sustainable procurement guide, to be produced in 2020/21.