Ethical considerations are becoming increasingly prevalent within the social dimension of public sector sustainable procurement. Fairtrade ensures that the producers are not disadvantaged and receive a fair price for the products. The commonest view of Fairtrade products are those that are edible, such as coffee, tea, bananas and, of course, chocolate; and whilst their use is increasing in the public sector, the sector could do a great deal more in this area.
For example, Fairtrade tea, coffee and sugar are now regularly used in public sector catering, particularly meetings, but there is huge scope to increase the proportion of Fairtrade products used in all areas of public sector catering, from civic functions to on site vending services. What were once niche products are now mainstream and easily available which makes it even simpler for them to be included in procurement processes.
In addition, an area that is becoming increasingly relevant to public sector procurement is cotton production and garment manufacture; here the public sector can clearly have a major impact through its procurement activities particularly in respect uniforms and workwear procurement. Don't forget Fairtrade footballs as well!
The drive for fairly traded goods was originally driven by consumers, but with the huge spend of the public sector - currently in excess of £175bn per annum - this sector is, therefore, in a position to influence and drive supply markets such as Fairtrade. Currently, including Fairtrade in public sector procurement is supported by the EC, and the UK national government through guidance provided by OGC. In addition both the EC and the UK government cite supporting Fairtrade as contributing to sustainable development objectives.
Fairtrade and public sector procurement in the South West is supported by the South West Improvement & Efficiency Partnership, as part of the South West Sustainable Procurement Network. The SWSPN (which is funded by SWIEP and lead by Bristol City Council) was awarded additional, specific funding to address Fairtrade and public sector procurement in more depth and with greater commitment than has previously been done.
Guidance on including Fairtrade in public sector procurement, directly relevant to the South West, will be developed and provided on this site. In the meantime, for further general information on this issue, take a look at the ICLEI's guidance - www.buyfair.org
For further information, please contact:
Christine Storry: firstname.lastname@example.org
South West Sustainable Procurement Network - www.swspn.org.uk