Innovation in Sustainable Procurement – Common Sense, Collaboration and Circular Thinking
In association with Orangebox
Last Thursday Cynnal Cymru held a shared learning event in Bridgend College looking at sustainable procurement. The event had come together following informal discussions with a few of our members about the importance of procurement in ensuring a responsible and sustainable business. The supply chain is where most of the risks, challenges and opportunities lie for any organisation that aims to achieve success through responsible practice. The Well-being of Future Generations Act is already influencing the way that public bodies procure goods and services and some of the most innovative businesses and social enterprises are following suit. Cynnal Cymru aims to showcase best practice in business in all aspects of sustainable development and provide a network where organisations can learn from each other and support each other in their goals. This event brought together some of our most active and passionate members and was hosted by one of our long standing members Bridgend College and sponsored by one of our newer Premium Members Orangebox to talk about what they are doing to ensure a more sustainable supply chain.
Orangebox – Shifting to a Circular Economy Model
Gareth Banks from Orangebox was the first speaker at the event. Orangebox are one of the world’s biggest office furniture producers and suppliers with their factories and designers based here in South Wales and a showroom in London. Products manufactured in Hengoed and Nantgarw are being shipped to their clients such as HSBC all across the UK, Europe and even to the USA. Orangebox has a huge supply chain worth £25 million a year and over 1000 suppliers. Central to Orangebox’s ethos however is the idea of localisation – with 45% of everything purchased here in Wales, 25% in the rest of the UK and the other 25% that can’t be sourced here comes from Europe or further afield. Orangebox understands that localisation is not only good for their local economy and reduces their environmental impact but makes their business more agile, ensures that their products can get to market quickly as well as the fact they can deal mostly in the pound. Localisation also means they can be surer of the quality of materials being provided and the conditions in which their products are produced.
To Orangebox – localisation is just common sense; what they see as more innovative, is their commitment to the circular economy. Orangebox are committed to making products that last, with the aim of reducing the energy and water used to make a product and only using the resources that are needed. As an example, their new Eva chair is designed to last much longer than a cheaper chair and in the long run save on energy and resources. They are also exploring the concept of remanufacturing which can be a longer and more complicated process but is doable. Working with partners such as the Ministry of Furniture, old furniture is sourced from clients and remanufactured to look and work to the same standards as new and sold on to new clients. The Well-being of Future Generations Act is encouraging the public sector in Wales to look at new ways of doing things in a more environmentally friendly way and therefore is developing a new market for remanufacturing. Remanufacturing products saves 60% of the CO2 and 75% of the water that would otherwise have been used to make new products. Eva, the task chair, is their first product in the Orangebox Remade range, which has been designed to be remanufactured as all the components of the chair can be taken apart and replaced or fixed to make another chair as good as new. This is the beginning but Orangebox believes it will become a much bigger aspect of their business. Working with their local supply chain can help make this happen.
Melin Homes – Sustainable Procurement with Added Value
Trish Hoddinott from Melin Homes was the second speaker of the day who shared with the group some of the brilliant services and initiatives run by Melin Homes which has over 250 staff and 4000 houses and do so much to support their residents. Melin Homes has a sustainability team of four, headed up by Trish which has recently taken on responsibility for co-ordinating procurement activities across the large organisation. In the past, individual small teams within Melin Homes procured things themselves but as the organisation grew there was a lack of co-ordinated activity with contracts being provided to numerous different organisations which provided varying levels of quality and support. What became clear was that some teams had a clearer understanding of sustainability criteria (such as Health and Safety, Living Wage and community benefits) while others were not. The Sustainable Procurement team decided to standardise the procurement process to get the most from their contractors. The process requires a department to fill out a simple business case form if they want to tender for a contract. The sustainable procurement team then bring relevant people in the organisation together in a short meeting to identify whether the work could be done in-house and whether extra value for their residents, the community and environment could come from this tender.
This system supports reporting through the “Value Wales Toolkit” which aims to demonstrate Melin’s contribution to the Welsh economy. The system also enables the sustainable procurement team to identify the companies that provide added value through, for example, work experience for residents or time supporting a community project. These companies then set the standard which others must meet in order to work with/for Melin. A potential consequence is that all future contractors will pay the Living Wage. Trish leads the Sustainability Team in Melin Homes and was a finalist in the Sustain Wales Awards 2017 for Sustainability Champion. The work on sustainable procurement is just one of her projects.
Public Health Wales – Applying the principles of the Well-being Act to the Procurement Process
Public Health Wales told us about the initiative they took to procure differently when a large amount of staff had to move to new offices. Public Health Wales have around 1700 staff in ten buildings across Cardiff. The move to the new building in Capital Quarter in the centre of Cardiff affected 550 staff. The organisation is funded through public money so it was important that the move delivered value and followed legislation on how the money was spent. There was a £400,000 budget with clear aims to avoid waste, reduce the environmental impact, use local welsh businesses and gain social benefits while ensuring that the office space was modern, sustainable, airy and fit for purpose. Despite there already being procurement guidelines and process in place through the national procurement framework the options currently available did not fit with the new offices aim of being sustainable and following the principles of the Well-being of Future Generations Act. To encourage innovation in the procurement process, a supplier engagement day was held and the standards required were explained to potential contractors. The procurement process took six months and the tender was finally provided to a consortium of suppliers including Greenstream Flooring and Orangebox.
Orangebox were able to source office furniture that was destined for landfill from another client. These items were repaired and modernised. The social enterprise Greenstream Flooring which employs and trains disabled and disadvantaged individuals, was chosen to supply the recycled carpet tiles for the new offices to help reduce waste and ensure social benefits came from the process. Wrap Cymru undertook a case study of the project and discovered that using this consortium saved 134 tonnes of CO2 and prevented 41 tonnes of waste going to landfill. It has also provided social benefits to individuals working for Greenstream Flooring who have gained permanent employment through the success of the process which has raised the profile of the social enterprise. The project was completed this year and Public Health Wales have since won a number of national awards. The team involved in the tender are now supporting other staff across Wales to follow suit and inspiring other organisations.
Ed Evans from CECA Wales summed up and concluded that all three speakers had illustrated the importance of engaging with staff and employees within the organisation and the supply chain to be able to deliver more innovative, sustainable and sensible projects. Current systems do not seem to meet the new desire for organisations and people to be more innovative and support local businesses. Delegates at the event discussed how the public sector are encouraged to use the National Procurement Framework which while it promotes value for money, small SME’s are alienated and innovation which benefits society is not rewarded. There is a need for dynamic leaders in organisations to take the first step to challenge the norm and encourage innovation to produce more sustainable supply chains. The Well-being of Future Generations Act will hopefully inspire others to follow Public Health Wales’s lead and encourage the use of local organisations which are doing good for society and the environment. A cultural shift is very much needed both in the public sector working closely with the private sector.
As with all Cynnal Cymru events there was time for networking and discussion between our members and delegates interested in the topic. It is clear that this is a huge topic and the conversation will continue to help foster improvement throughout Wales. A follow up event will be held later in the year or in 2018 to continue the discussion around innovation in sustainable procurement.