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The Path to Net-Zero Government Procurement

In the era of heightened environmental awareness and sustainability imperatives, the landscape of government procurement is undergoing a transformative shift. Our recent webinar unveiled critical insights surrounding the Net Zero in Government Operations Strategy. Let's embark on a comprehensive exploration, unpacking the essential revelations and takeaways from the webinar.

There has been a monumental shift in government procurement towards sustainability and net-zero operations. This profound transformation is spurred by new legislation and reporting requirements, creating ripples across businesses and global supply chains. In June 2023, the Australian Treasury made a significant announcement, mandating climate-related financial disclosure for companies with over 500 employees. This directive, set to be implemented by the end of the financial year, marks a crucial step in aligning business practices with environmental considerations.

Net Zero in Government Operation Strategy:

Further reinforcing the commitment to sustainability, the Department of Finance unveiled the Net Zero in Government Operation Strategy in late November 2023. This strategy outlines the government's ambitious path to achieving Net Zero by 2030, providing a framework that extends its influence across various industries.

The legislative changes are not generic; they are tailored to have industry-specific impacts. Sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, construction, infrastructure, and defence are all under the purview of these changes, emphasising a holistic approach towards achieving Net Zero goals. The legislative shifts underscore the global significance of sustainable procurement practices. Regardless of a company's size or industry, aligning with these new standards is becoming a necessity. This approach positions sustainability as a crucial element for businesses, emphasising its role as a licence to operate.

Challenges and Opportunities

The legislative changes come with both challenges and opportunities. The Australian government's allocation of $75 billion adds a financial impetus to sustainable practices. However, businesses are urged to be prepared for an increase in inquiries and pressure across supply chains as they adapt to these new expectations. The legislative changes also underscore the imperative for companies to report their emissions accurately.

Shifts in Tenders and Sustainable Procurement

A focal point of the legislative changes is the impact on tenders and sustainable procurement practices. Emphasising environmental, social, and economic considerations in awarding contracts, Australia is aligning itself with global standards set by the UK and EU. The positive aspects and opportunities for businesses embracing sustainability are at the forefront of this shift.

Suppliers are encouraged to prepare for upcoming changes in government procurement policies, particularly those related to sustainable practices. Proactive measures, such as implementing sustainability policies, measuring emissions, and adhering to circular economy principles, are essential components for businesses looking to align with these evolving standards.

Case Studies Illustrating Success

Examining successful case studies, including examples from the City of Melbourne and AstraZeneca, provides insights into the practical implementation of sustainable procurement frameworks. These case studies underscore the importance of aligning reports with expected methodologies and the need for businesses to address sustainability measures in their operations.

City of Melbourne:

The City of Melbourne prioritises local economic implications, focusing on supporting local businesses and communities. This approach not only bolsters the regional economy but also ensures that procurement decisions contribute to the city's broader sustainability goals. Furthermore, the city's policy delves into social impacts, emphasising considerations such as job creation, fair labour practices, and community well-being. By incorporating these social elements into procurement decisions, the City of Melbourne is actively contributing to the welfare of its residents. Environmental sustainability is another key pillar. The policy addresses carbon emissions, promoting reuse, recycling, and end-of-life considerations. This holistic approach to sustainable procurement aligns with the city's commitment to minimising its environmental footprint and fostering a more resilient and ecologically conscious community.

AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca's case study provides a noteworthy example of how a multinational corporation can actively engage its supply chain in achieving ambitious sustainability goals. The pharmaceutical giant has committed to mapping its entire scope three emissions and reducing them by 50% by 2030, underscoring the significance of aligning carbon assessments with relevant methodologies.

AstraZeneca's engagement with 95% of its suppliers is a strategic move that demonstrates the company's commitment to science-based targets. By requiring suppliers to align with specific reporting standards, AstraZeneca ensures that its entire value chain actively contributes to the company's overarching sustainability objectives.

This case study highlights the influential role that large corporations can play in driving sustainability throughout their supply chains. AstraZeneca's approach goes beyond internal initiatives, recognising that a comprehensive reduction in carbon emissions necessitates collaboration with external stakeholders. This proactive stance positions AstraZeneca as a leader in the pharmaceutical industry's sustainability efforts.

Government Procurement in the UK

The UK government took a significant step in demonstrating leadership in sustainable procurement in late 2021, by implementing new measures requiring companies bidding for government contracts worth over £5 million per year to commit to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The UK became the first country in the world to enforce such a requirement, reinforcing its commitment to combat climate change by driving sustainable business. This move aligns with the government's manifesto promises to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay emphasised the government's bold agenda to achieve net-zero emissions, leveraging its £290 billion annual procurement spending to drive a greener economy.

These rules, were implemented effective immediately, which preceded the COP26 international climate conference hosted by the UK, where officials aimed to inspire other countries to adopt similar measures. While in hindsight, it would be a stretch to say that the rest of the worlds leaders were “inspired” to take action on climate change, the bar was certainly set and countries like Australia have began to follow.

The requirements include a commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, covering both direct and indirect emissions, such as business travel, employee commuting, transportation, distribution, and waste. The new regulations aim to advance the government's green agenda while ensuring that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not overly burdened or excluded from government contract bids. Public sector procurement is identified as a crucial tool to drive progress toward net-zero goals across various sectors, encouraging public-private partnerships and fostering collaboration among government, businesses, and the voluntary, community, and social enterprise (VCSE) sector.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the legislative changes in Australia's Net Zero procurement landscape signify a paradigm shift towards sustainability. These changes, aimed at achieving Net Zero by 2030, bring both challenges and opportunities for businesses. Adapting to these new standards is not only a legal requirement but also a strategic move towards securing a sustainable future.

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