Design in the Public Sector – Green procurement webinar blog

16 July 2021

Cllr Neil Prior, Cabinet Member, Pembrokeshire County Council, Deputy Chair of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board (Chair)

Cllr Neil Prior set the scene and emphasised that with COP26 on the horizon procurement had a big part to play in reaching our climate emergency targets and goals and that the third in the series of Design in the Public Sector (DIPS) webinar would showcase the brilliant work local authorities and public sector organisations were undertaking in the procurement and commissioning sphere.

In this session, we heard first hand experience of different local authorities about how their innovative approaches to procurement, early market engagement, collaborating with stakeholders and suppliers, and the use of design and technology is being used to overcome and mitigate climate challenges, reach carbon targets and embed sustainable, green procurement into our everyday lives.

  • The Design Council explained its programme of work with the LGA to explore net zero challenges with councils using design skills.
  • Philip Duddell, Director of Sustainable Procurement Ltd, introduced the LGA’s new Sustainable Procurement Toolkit that’s been developed for the local government sector.
  • Surrey County Council, who have just finished the DIPS programme, shared the key learning from the team’s journey and how they have taken a design approach to develop and implement their sustainable procurement strategy.
  • Powys County Council – discussed its Home-Grown Homes project which has sought to increase the use of locally sourced timber into their construction supply chain.
  • Transport for London (TfL) introduced the Mayor’s Responsible Procurement Programme and how TfL can utilise its significant procurement influence to reduce the environmental impact of their goods and services through best practice examples.

Elisa Valarani, Programme Manager, Design Council

Design Council was set up in 1944 by Winston Churchill’s wartime government to support Britain’s economic recovery. The ambition was to put design on the global map and they are now the Government’s advisor on design. Services offered include public services and innovation which is the centre of the partnership with the LGA.

Design Council has recently launched a systemic design approach for ‘Beyond Net Zero’. The Systemic Design Framework, launched in April 2021, has been developed to help designers working on major complex challenges that involve people across different disciplines and sectors. It places our people and our planet at the heart of design.

The Design in the Public Sector Programme with the LGA builds design skills and capabilities in local government. This year’s programme supported 13 councils in tackling local climate change challenges. They shared and connected with one another and created a sustainable network.

If you are interested in finding out more about the programme, please contact

Philip Duddell, Director, Sustainable Procurement Ltd

The LGA has commissioned a Sustainable Procurement guide which is due to be published as a toolkit, hopefully by the end of September. The toolkit is intended to be practical and give council procurement teams the foundations to help mobilise commissioning and procurement to deliver local and national strategic economic, social and environmental priorities.

It has been positioned to align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as well more localised Social Value principles, community wealth-building, inclusive growth and Climate Change objectives and is intended for councils with varying levels of maturity which is reflected through the guidance.

The toolkit builds on the key principles; focusing on pre-procurement, early market engagement and project specification as crucial factors to ensure that procurement can be used as an enabling mechanism to innovate and help reach our Net Zero targets and mitigate the damage we are doing to the environment through the good and services we responsibly and sustainably procure.

Robert Gilmour, Strategic Procurement Manager, Surrey County Council

Surrey has just finished the DIPS programme where its challenge looked around why officers and members were not consistently taking into account sustainability considerations in third party spend decisions in order to address the climate emergency.

Surrey County Council alone has an annual budget of over £1 billion in a county-wide economy of around £40 billion and therefore should be able to apply influence on its local supply chains.

Initial outcomes included:

  • embedding environmental/sustainability considerations in all procurement decisions whilst maintaining quality and value of service
  • developing project design capability in our organisations
  • developing a network of local authority green procurement experts throughout the UK.

After extensive stakeholder engagement with residents, local suppliers, industry and businesses the project team decided to reframe the scope of the challenge to:

  • finalise the Sustainable Procurement Policy based on previously developed principles
  • assess Scope 3 supply chain emissions with the help of experts
  • align the new Sustainable Procurement Policy with Social Value Strategy, embedding into corporate decision-making and service design right from the start
  • identify tools and guidance material, including carbon calculator tools.

This represents a fundamental change to Surrey’s approach and their current development work will see:

  • a fully documented and enforceable policy across the Orbis Partnership
  • the policy will develop further as the supply chain, technologies and opinion/demand pressures from residents continue to increase
  • Orbis as a thought leader in this area.

Vince Hanley, Commercial Services Lead, Powys County Council

Powys County Council developed the UK’s first Wood Encouragement Policy in the UK to stimulate the local timber supply chain and disrupt the Welsh timber supply chain to create employment in the growing and processing of timber and in the manufacturing of low carbon housing.

This included the planting, forestry, processing, manufacturing right through to the use of timber in construction.

The policy set out to encourage local supplier to use timber, change the perception of timber as lower value timber by products to high value timber to be used in house building, and also to address the sheep, beef, dairy and steel culture in Wales and inspire a wood culture; with the ambition that with all new council housing projects Powys will look to use wood as the preferred material for both construction and fit-out purposes.

This pioneering approach has been developed as part of the Home Grown Home Partnership which was set up to encourage forestry and product manufacturing, retain and create new jobs and build better.

Collaborating with Cardiff Met University and research partners at TRADA and Coed Cymru and applying Innovative Research Methods, engaging with all the constituent parties in the supply chain; the suppliers, growers and buyers they have developed a framework for delivering Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Homes in Wales with four key takeaways:

  • delivery of a project that has helped to fundamentally change the way that Welsh social landlords view the construction of homes, putting a greater emphasis on decarbonisation, and using a natural Welsh resource to benefit the economy and people of Wales
  • changes to the Design Quality Requirement for Affordable Homes which now include for timber requirements
  • design of a zero-carbon build solution free to use by developers, architects, contractors, and clients that beats the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge Target
  • delivery of 18 behaviour change tools for developers, architects, contractors, clients, and Welsh Government that together will help to turn Wales into a high value forest nation through greater use of Welsh timber in construction projects.

Matt Galvin, Responsible Procurement Manager, GLA Group, Transport for London

The GLA Group revised its Responsible Procurement Policy in March 2021 in response to the nine socio-economic and environmental challenges the capital faces:

  • Poverty: 590,000 children (37 per cent) live in poverty
  • Inequality: Minority ethnic groups earn 21.7 per cent less on average than white employees. In 2015 only 21 per cent of SMEs were majority women-led and only 18 per cent minority ethnic group-led in 2015.
  • Fair wages: one in five employees are paid below London Living Wage rate of £10.75 per hour
  • Unemployment: c20 per cent of 16-24 year olds are unemployed. 15 per cent of population are economically inactive.
  • Accidents on roads: Vision Zero Action Plan - no fatalities or seriously injured by 2041.
  • Modern slavery: forced labour exists in low paid sectors, in tiered supply chains, such as construction, waste, cleaning, textiles.
  • Waste: Only half of the 7m tonnes of waste London’s homes and businesses produce each year is recycled.
  • Climate change: 2050 Net Zero target (and London 2030), flooding, supply disruption, connectivity, transport infrastructure, price volatility, reputation
  • Air quality:  thousands of Londoners die prematurely each year because of toxic air pollution.

Early consideration is key……

If you are a sponsor, commissioner, or a business unit lead, then you need to involve procurement as early as possible to be able to challenge specifiers and sponsors – particularly for environmental considerations where scope and budget is key

Circular Economy

Our current position is a linear economy – we use and then throw away. We need to be moving towards a recycling economy and ultimately a circular economy where we look to reduce; re-use; recycle and recover

Circular procurement: recycled plastic sleepers on LU’s network

The scheme is replacing old wooden sleepers with 99 per cent recycled plastic replacement, from plastics reinforced with glass fibre which would be taken back by manufacturer at end of lifetime for further recycling. Technical innovations led to an 20 per cent improvement in reliability and a 30 per cent reduction in Life Cycle Cost due to less maintenance, they are also lighter and easier to handle than timber or concrete sleepers.

Innovative lighting: PRO-LITE pre-procurement process

PRO-LITE project partners implemented a novel Early Market Engagement strategy with the aim of driving competition and stimulating innovation within the lighting market across Europe.

Using the whole life cost (WLC) analysis of products allowed TfL to consider a range of information beyond unit price, including installation, maintenance, energy use, carbon, and cleaning costs. This approach demonstrated that the biggest savings were not from short term material costs, or to a greater extent energy costs, but from longer term labour costs (including cleaning, installation and maintenance).

The business case for TfL examined how WLCs can differ for the same product installed in different locations across the Underground network (such as above escalators, on subway platforms, in high and low access areas and at the back of house).

The calculation of WLC led to a massive increase in confidence among the TfL management to invest in innovative solutions, as the long-term savings outweighed any additional upfront costs of LED solutions, generating total cost savings of up to 50 per cent.

Innovation: Northern Line Extension: Designing out Carbon

A sustainable innovation workshop at the design phase to review the sustainability appraisal enabled the team to incorporate a number of changes including; rearraigning ticket halls maximise light and a reduced diameter of piles in shafts and reduced tunnel lining led to an overall net reduction in carbon emissions of 16 per cent.


Have you or do you plan to provide resources for procurement officers, to aid them in incorporating carbon specifications into tenders and contracts?

Is Transport for London’s Circular Economy Procurement Guidance published?

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been published yet but contact who is happy to discuss the topic offline with delegates.

Engaging with your suppliers - have you offered them any support to provide the right information and low carbon goods, works and services for tendering exercises? What has been their response? Some have a concern that we already find it difficult to get local SMEs to supply, so this will add an extra burden.

  • Powys collaborates with local supply chains, universities, Business Wales etc – good example, reducing packaging of their goods, had input from all quarters.
  • Surrey has seen that suppliers are keen to provide low carbon solutions, incorporating whole life costs – need educate commissioning officers to look beyond VfM and include WLC in their budgeting and spend. We won’t meet our targets if not.
  • There’s a need to bring along SMEs, upskill – include fair living wages throughout the supply chain and ensure local authorities are good customers, ensure the living wage is paid beyond the tiers we directly engage with and try to provide a level playing field.

Is the supply chain ready for this?

  • The supply chain is certainly well advanced enough, this isn’t an issue.
  • The market is ready, the challenge we face is possibly more about educating those internally, changing the way we think and the way we are going to factor all these considerations into our procurement and the way we spend our money in future, ensuring the Living wage is paid throughout our supply chain.
  • Surrey is working with DWP to try and ensure contractors use local Surrey employees, work with the local economy post pandemic. Through this work DWP will also be able to measure training, development, and how progress is being made in upskilling the local workforce.

Have Powys experienced any pushback on the use of timber in construction in response to Grenfell?

Powys hasn’t faced any push back so far and there have been no insurance implications or issues for constructors or homeowners so far which would have flagged up the issue. All the homes are built to  Passivhaus standards

When timber comes to the end of its useful life, how is it disposed of to maintain carbon capture, e.g. biochar, rather than allowing to decompose?

  • Powys are at the start of their journey, this hasn’t been seen as a consideration or concern so far but it is certainly something we’ll take away and think about.
  • At TfL the railway sleepers are a good example of how a product at the end of life can be used/re-used for other purposes (using these in domestic furniture and garden projects) and linking in with innovative SMEs to use. Need to factor in transportation costs though, logistical and environmental challenges are also a consideration.

If you could give one piece of advice for officers to ‘up their game’?

Early engagement with the market, absolutely critical to inform the process with commissioners and the whole procurement process.