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There are different ways in which open data can be used to drive and measure progress against sustainability goals.

So as part of the toolkit put together by Open Contracting Partnership, Public, and ourselves, we've identified ten different ways in which you can gather and use data to measure and monitor sustainability in procurement.

Option 1: Assign tags to procurements

As we introduce in our Green Flags guide, one of the key ways in which you can use data to measure sustainable public procurement (SPP) efforts is by tagging all the procurement processes which are classified as sustainable public procurement. At the simplest level, this can be achieved through a tag for procurements signposting sustainable public procurement. This can be expanded, such as having specific tags for carbon, women-owned, or SME contracts. This can also be applied retrospectively through machine learning analysis of specification documents.

Doing this will require establishing a clear definition of which contracts fall within each of these categories. For example, if you have created standard sustainability specifications for the procurement of paper, then you can establish that all contracts which include these specifications should be tagged as “SPP”.

Option 2: Boost performance through alerts

Through manual or programmatic analysis of data, alerts can be created and used by contracting authorities to encourage uptake of SPP initiatives and performance. Analysis can be compiled into dashboards to show data on sectors, buyers, suppliers, and categories, including top and bottom 10 rankings, as in this example from Lithuania.

Option 3: Analyse contracts awarded

Buyers can measure the value and number of sustainable public procurement-related contracts awarded to suppliers according to location, size, industry, or otherwise. This will help to build a firm evidence base relating to SPP outcomes and impact as a whole (evidence that can be used against claims that it delivers less value for money, or it only favors larger companies). Analysis can also extend towards categories, such as whether health and social care are more equitable in gender pay or analyses of regional trends such as unemployment and demographics.:

Option 4: Forecast contract impact

Estimating the potential impact that a contract might have can help shape the requirements set for suppliers. This can include for example estimating carbon emissions associated with the contract, the predicted waste generation, or the associated life cycle costs of the asset you are procuring. This data can be gathered through existing mechanisms for measuring impact (e.g. predictive carbon emission calculation) or by looking at historic contract data to forecast life cycle costs. You can then use this forecast as the basis for setting a carbon “budget” (i.e. permitted emissions associated with a contract), or to calculate a tender value based on life cycle costs.

Option 5: Request sustainability suggestions

This is as simple as giving your buying teams the capacity to flag a contract opportunity as a competition in which suppliers are encouraged to detail how they will deliver against specific sustainability goals. This can include, for example, how they will reduce carbon emissions, how they will support gender equality through a commitment to recognised schemes (e.g. grants to women in tech, etc.), or how they will support the local economy through job creation.

Option 6: Measure the use of certifications

Some industries already have standards for products and principles that lead to more sustainable impacts. These standards can be co-opted for use by buyers when specifying and reporting on sustainability performance. Including the need to meet standards can be added to specifications and their impact can be calculated using publicly available models.

It is important to note that there are different types of environmental labels and certifications. For example, certifications that provide a more detailed account of the carbon emissions associated with a specific product are those categorized as Type III eco-labels by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). In this group, we find Environmental Product Declarations (EPD). See, for example, this EPD for a product made of steel. Other types of certifications, such as Type I ecolabels, are helpful to identify environmentally preferable products but don’t usually provide concrete data on carbon emissions. Similarly, certifications that attest to the supplier’s sustainability efforts, such as ISO or B Corporation certifications, don’t provide information on the associated emissions of the procured service or product. For more information on the different ways in which these certifications can be used within SPP see this section.

Option 7: Monitor contract performance

Organisations can publish performance updates on contracts, such as the carbon emitted either during or at the conclusion of a contract, the number of jobs created as a result of the contract, etc. This information can be used to measure progress against sustainability goals, but also to monitor performance against SPP specifications. This is especially relevant to ensure fair and efficient implementation of SPP, minimizing green-washing risks: giving carbon contracts out to sub-companies of polluters, handing out SME-friendly contracts to non-SMEs, gender equality contracts to male-dominated boardrooms or organizations with pay skewed in favor of men.

Option 8: Record supplier data at tender submission

Buyers can ask suppliers to provide data related to sustainability goals at tender submission. This can include data regarding the ownership of the business, where it is based, or any information regarding sustainability certifications they might hold.

Option 9: Create SPP supplier registries

Buyers can ask suppliers to provide data related to sustainability goals at tender submission. This can include data regarding the ownership of the business, where it is based, or any information regarding sustainability certifications they might hold.

Option 10: Use national or statewide data

One way to gather the data needed to measure the sustainability impact of your contract is by referring to available national data. This can include for example linking SPP contracts with company ownership data (if reporting of this is mandated by the state), or with data from national statistics around growth sectors to measure economic impact.

You can access and download the table with the whole set of data use options depending on your capacity, here.

Get in touch if you’d like to talk to us further about our government procurement data, our data API, or our research capability.

Image courtesy Michael Jasmund

Post by Fiona Hunt
July 5, 2022