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First International Standard for Sustainable Procurement Nears Publication

ISO 20400 will help companies achieve sustainability goals, improve supplier relations

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2016 - 12:02

(ISO: Geneva) -- Procurement makes up a substantial budget of any organization, so wouldn’t the world be a better place if it was done in a sustainable way? A new standard in development aims to help organizations do just that, and it has now reached one of the final stages in its development.

A new standard in development, ISO 20400—“Sustainable procurement—Guidance” will provide guidelines for organizations wanting to integrate sustainability into their procurement processes. It has just reached a second Draft International Standard (DIS) stage, meaning interested parties can once more submit feedback on the draft before final publication in 2017.

The purchasing decisions an organization makes have impacts far and wide, from the energy it consumes to the quality of life of the workers who manufactured the products it buys. And when we think that procurement in the public sector alone accounts for about 12 percent of GDP and 29 percent of government expenditure in OECD member countries, it is not something to be taken lightly.

Purchasing sustainably—known as sustainable procurement—should be the goal for any organization as it maximizes its positive social, environmental and economic impacts. This means making smart choices with all purchases, including everything from office supplies to energy providers, caterers, and building materials.

Sustainable procurement is a key aspect of social responsibility, thus ISO 20400 will complement ISO 26000—“Guidance on social responsibility,” by enabling organizations to contribute to sustainable development efforts by minimizing their impact on the environment, tackling human rights issues, and contributing to society and the economy.

Jacques Schramm, chair of ISO/PC 277, the committee developing the standard, said that the procurement function is a key driver of an organization’s level of social responsibility, but up until now there have been few harmonized, international guidelines that can be applied universally, and in sufficient detail.

“For many organizations, sustainable procurement is already featured in their sustainability reports, yet there is a distinct lack of clear guidelines on how to implement and measure sustainable procurement practices,” he said. “Using ISO 20400 will therefore help organizations achieve their sustainability objectives, improve management of supplier relations, improve the sustainability efforts of their supply chain, and give them a competitive edge.”

For more information on the DIS stage and how you can contribute to the standard’s development, contact your ISO member.

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The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 162 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. ISO is a nongovernmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society. View the ISO Standards list.