Responsible and Sustainable Procurement action plans. Review and lessons learned

CE Delft was commissioned by the Dutch ministry of Infrastructure & Water Management to review existing action plans on Responsible and Sustainable Procurement (RSP). This publication describes how various organizations have gone about drawing up an RSP action plan and implementing RSP. It brings together the main lessons learned, successes and tips that organizations are keen to pass on. The publication’s aim is to help organizations draw up a new RSP action plan or improve an existing one.

Responsible and Sustainable Procurement means that in their procurement of products and services, organizations endeavour to include environmental and social impacts alongside considerations of price. Over the past few years numerous organizations have signed the ‘RSP Manifesto’, most of them local authorities, water boards and provincial authorities, but also several other kinds of organization. By signing the manifesto they commit themselves to taking RSP on board in their organization, at their own level of ambition, and drawing up an action plan to their aims. These action plans set concrete targets for the organization, describe procurement criteria, how these are anchored, and the ambitions for implementation of Responsible and Sustainable Procuremen.

Many organizations have struggled or are still struggling with elaborating an Responsible and Sustainable Procuremen action plan, however. On the positive side, though, this process of getting to grips with an action plan yields numerous valuable lessons. The government is keen to support parties that intend to draw up an action plan or seek to improve an existing one and therefore wants to make these lessons available to others in an accessible format. This publication is the result of the review carried out by CE Delft and brings together the main lessons, successes and tips.

The publication is grouped around five themes:

  1. How do organizations start out on an RSP action plan?
  2. How do they establish the focus of their action plan and their ambitions?
  3. How do they elaborate the issue of ‘anchoring’ in their action plan?
  4. How do they reflect RSP being a continuous process (reviews and monitoring)?
  5. How do they communicate on their action plan?

The organizations interviewed and surveyed are keen to pass on the following main lessons:

  • The RSP action plan is not just an issue for the procurement department: budget-holders play a key role.
  • Simply kick off with a few enthusiasts; it may take time before there is wider support for the initiative in the organization.
  • Free up budgets and capacity; RSP is not something that’s done on the side.
  • Be sufficiently ambitious, but don’t start out too big.
  • Integrate RSP as far as possible in existing processes and structures.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask others for advice; there’s plenty of knowhow and information available.