Green procurement offers 'quick win' for circular economy
The systematic adoption of green procurement (GP) policies will provide the UK with its single biggest 'quick win' in its transition to a circular economy, a new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) has found.
According to the report - which incorporates an essay collection on driving resource efficiency across supply chains - procurement departments within Government and UK businesses now play a pivotal role in resource efficiency as they are the “gatekeepers of purchasing decisions”.
“GP is one of the few policy levers that influence all aspects of the circular economy, from product design to innovation in service models and management of post-consumer discards”, the report reads.
The APSRG used food waste as an example of the way better procurement could improve resource efficiency. A traditional farm-to-fork food supply chain operates on a forecast based on market trends and consumer demands, it says.
However, rarely do these forecasts pass fully ‘upstream’ to the producer of raw material - i.e. the farmer. Taking a more specific example of planting oats for UK cereal producers, the APSRG points out that the forecast lead time is habitually 18 months in advance of harvest. But during this time, consumer tastes can change, prices due to other commodities such as oil can differ and weather events can affect a harvest.
If such a supply shock occurs in the current linear economy, little is done to inform the farmers of the change in demand, creating surplus supply and waste, the report concludes.
As one potential solution, the APSRG suggests that retail procurement departments could share ‘real-time’ information on supply chain activity with farmers; reducing avoidable waste, mitigating food security challenges by diverting or finding alternative uses for food stocks, and easing price shocks.
The report adds that Green Public Procurement is a “particularly potent policy measure promoting resource efficiency”, since the UK’s public authorities are such major consumers.
Green procurement is one of 12 recommendations made by the APSRG report, which details how each stage of the UK supply chain can become more resource-efficient and cut waste. Other recommendations include more funding for remanufacturing research, trade bodies reviewing the inbound and outbound flows of materials and goods within their sectors and Government issuing a call for evidence on the state of play of resource efficiency in UK companies.
APSRG senior researcher Anne-Marie Benoy said that communication and collaboration were vital if gains were to be made across sectors.
Benoy said: “The greatest challenge, but also potential, of improving material resource efficiency across various stages of the supply chain will be in linking the value chain – e.g. designers, manufacturers, logistics, consumers, waste managers – both practically/professionally and in terms of communication and sharing innovation."
Earlier this week, a major report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation detailed how the Internet of Things would facilitate the transition to a circular economy.
WRAP has previously estimated that a European transition to the circular economy could create three million extra jobs by 2030 and reduce unemployment by 520,000.