sustainable public sector, net zero

Creating a sustainable public sector requires going net zero, instilling a circular economy, and increasing assurance in the supply chain

Sustainability has gripped many industries in recent years as pressure grows to tackle wider planetary challenges such as resource preservation and climate change, explains Steve Haskew, Head of Sustainability at Circular Computing.

It has also become a guiding force for organisations that want to be better operators, not just to meet targets, but to futureproof our society and the environment.

We’re now seeing public sector departments, from health to defence, being mandated to update their approach to procurement and engagement with suppliers. Technology vendors are at the forefront of this and are a key means of meeting ambitious sustainability targets and transitioning towards digital operations.

So, with the amplified focus on instilling a sustainable public sector supply chain, the rapidly growing technology sector can become the perfect partner for public sector departments, if utilised correctly. With reports showing that the industry itself is growing 2.5 times the rate of the rest of the economy, the UK is primely placed to ensure that such relationships are stronger and more seamless than ever.

Futureproofing the supply chain while continuing to meet ESG targets

We’re already seeing the government recognise this potential and establish guidance focused on achieving best practices towards forging and nurturing relationships with technology suppliers. Ultimately, this means we are futureproofing the supply chain while continuing to meet ESG targets (Environmental, Social, Governance targets).

The Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) Playbook recently issued by the Government is one such procedural guidance, highlighting best practices in procuring the IT and services the public sector needs.

The playbook is aimed at professionals across the sector, from commercial to finance, project delivery and policy, ensuring there is alignment in the planning and delivery of public sector DDaT contracts.

With the Government contracting thousands of suppliers for DDaT products and services, sustainable working practices are key to long term success. The sustainability of suppliers’ organisational practices will continue to come under scrutiny to make sure they are working towards better outcomes for citizens, as well as supporting the long-term health of the industry.

Rules of engagement and best practices for sustainability

To help guide tech suppliers towards becoming more sustainable and meeting the sustainable standards of government contracts, the Greening Government ICT and Digital Services Strategy 2020 – 2025 is an essential resource. It sets out how the government will work in partnership with the tech industry to provide ICT and digital services to help achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, implement the UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and help meet the Government’s net zero obligations and commitments.

Within the greening government ICT policy, there are three business rules outlined that suppliers are asked to follow in order to support the public sector and foster healthy, sustainable relationships.

Rule 1: Going net zero in carbon emissions

With the government setting targets for other businesses to follow, ensuring it raises its own standards is essential. The current government message around reaching net zero is a target of 2050, however, continued monitoring of progress is likely to mean a growing focus as years go by.

By eliminating Scope 3 emissions where possible through its supply chain, the public sector can make huge steps towards carbon neutral processes on the way to net zero.

Suppliers can help the public sector go net zero by decarbonising their own processes and using innovative procedures such as remanufactured hardware is a  key way the IT channel can do so. By adopting carbon neutral processes, suppliers can assist the public sector in reducing Scope 3 emissions by cleaning up its supply chain, as well as assisting with knowledge and expertise on their specific industry.

Using IT hardware that minimises it’s impact to the planet is a good first step, with remanufactured technology now a leading alternative to brand new.

Rule 2: Creating a circular economy

The long term success of a sustainable public sector will ultimately depend on the development of a circular economy within its supplier base. Reducing carbon emissions in the short term is a priority but the long term success will depend on a developed circular economy to reduce the stress that carbon reduction has on processes. Protecting natural resources is also a growing concern and carbon offsetting can only go so far in the long term.

Resource perseveration should be the number one overall goal of a sustainable public sector, ensuring that the natural environment is exploited as little as possible, while proloning the already scarce resources that the planet has. The circular economy is central to this by re-utilising already produced resources and materials. By creating a circular economy that the public sector can operate within, suppliers in the IT channel can improve time to delivery, reducing the growing pile up of e-waste and positively impact their own bottom line by taking in old technology to be re-used.

Rule 3: Increasing assurance in the supply chain

Lack of assurance is often a key barrier to healthy supplier relationships, with public sector organisations demanding transparency over supply chains and needing the confidence that they can meet demand.

While sustainability targets might be the most widely reported focus, cleaning up the supply chain goes beyond the E of ESG targets. Social and Governance initiatives will be looked at to ensure that forced, bonded and modern day slave labour is eradicated from supply chains, as well as assurance that products are not made from conflict minerals.

Operational resilience remains a key factor in assured supply chains to protect the critical services supplied by the sector. The global chip shortage and pandemic delays showed supply chains aren’t bulletproof and can’t always meet demand.

With global disruption likely to continue, utilising the existing resources sat in the mountain of e-waste created over the last few decades is a good place to start. And with the technology available to us to create good-as-new second life hardware, this should be at the top of every supplier’s priority list. 

Collaboration is key for sustainable, long term success

Ensuring the public sector’s DDaT services are sustainable is essential for long-term success. Contracting authorities should ensure products and services comply with obligations to improve environmental, economic and social sustainability and organisational strategies must be put in place and regularly assessed to measure progress against these.

For suppliers, the road to becoming more sustainable starts with following the rules of the Greening ICT Strategy laid out above, making sure that supply chains are resilient, brand new technology is not procured for the sake of it and that a circular economy is developed to support second life technology, reducing e-waste.

There is a huge opportunity for the IT channel to be the frontrunners in sustainable engagement – the public sector needs effective, up to date technology as it undergoes digital transformation, but needs to do so sustainably and on a tight budget.

The latest innovative technology and processes, such as remanufacturing, allow resellers and suppliers to support the sector across its three rules of net zero, the circular economy and assurance. It has both short term returns of cost-saving and reliability of supply as well as long term investment into the sector through sustainability and circular economy processes.

The technology industry contributes £149 billion to the UK economy and supports almost three million jobs, making the sector a pivotal part of the nation’s future growth. By working with the public sector in a sustainable manner, tech suppliers can foster long term, healthy relationships, helping meet ESG targets and protect the longevity of their own business.


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