That was the verdict of a report published by the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum (WSBF) following a year-long inquiry into public sector procurement – a sector worth £150bn a year.

Government wants the UK to be a leading nation for sustainable procurement in the EU by 2009, but the WSBF report said progress has been patchy at best and big opportunities are still being missed.

It said Government pressure to make efficiency savings was driving many officials to opt for short-term affordability instead of looking at whole life costs.

The report made 30 recommendations to improve performance, including:

  • Government should produce and promote clear guidance for public sector procurement

  • The Treasury should provide clear leadership on sustainable procurement in its own practices

  • Government must establish realistic budgets for sustainable procurement and provide the necessary funding to achieve it

  • More research into how building design can achieve better efficiency
  • The inquiry was co-chaired by Labour MP David Kidney and Barbara Morton, director of the not-for-profit company Action Sustainability.

    Mr Kidney said: “There have been encouraging steps towards embedding sustainability in the procurement process, but there must be no complacency.

    “We need implementation at every level of government and this report provides key recommendations for how we can make this happen.”

    Speaking at the launch last week, he added: “I believe this report is going to lead to very significant changes to public sector procurement in the future.”

    Shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth said the report was a “truly excellent and timely document that deserves to be listened to, studied, read, and acted upon by Government”.

    He added: “We need to see a huge revolution in culture and attitudes and this report takes that agenda forward.”

    Kate Martin

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