Sustainable Procurement

Our commitment

The union’s Responsible Procurement Policy establishes our commitment to embed sustainable procurement into all our purchasing processes and to consider the social, environmental, and economic impact of everything we buy. We recognise that we can’t do this in isolation and changes won’t happen overnight. We need the commitment of our suppliers, industries, and global supply chains to share a more sustainable approach. Sustainable procurement can involve a higher degree of engagement and collaboration with suppliers so we do prioritise where we are able to make the largest impact. By creating a demand for sustainable goods and services we are playing our part in working towards achieving a more sustainable approach and limiting the union’s negative impact on people and the planet.

Responsible Procurement Policy

The scope of our Responsible Procurement Policy covers national and regional procurement. Branches are encouraged to adopt this policy. Applicable NDC motions are referenced in the appendix of the policy. Branches should follow NDC decisions which impact on procurement decisions. The Responsible Procurement Policy is reviewed and ratified annually by Finance and Resource Management Committee.

UNISON’s Supplier Code of Conduct

Our Supplier Code of Conduct sets out our expectations and minimum standards required of our suppliers. You can ask your suppliers to sign up to our supplier code of conduct.

UNISON’s Modern Slavery Statement

UNISON was the first trade union to publish a modern slavery statement after the Modern Slavery Act came into force in 2015 and we’ve published a statement every year since. This document sets out the internal actions we are taking to meet the Modern Slavery Act. You can read UNISON’s latest statement here.

Electronics Watch

UNISON was the first trade union to affiliate to Electronics Watch (we’ve been affiliated since 2017). Electronics Watch is an independent monitoring organisation that monitors the electronics industry using the collaboration and collective power of organisations (mainly universities). We have implemented Electronics Watch’s contract conditions in our mobile phone and IT contracts and our IT and mobile phone suppliers work with us and Electronics Watch to seek improvements for workers in the complex global electronics supply chains. You can read more on Electronic Watch’s work here. By combining branch spend with our national spend we are able use our buying power more effectively to seek changes for workers.

Sustainability Considerations in Procurement

Sustainability should be a key consideration in purchasing decisions, supplier relationships and how we dispose of products once they have reached end of life.

Whole life costing (total cost of ownership) should be used in purchase decisions. This ensures we consider all costs involved in the purchase and life of the goods or service - the cost to maintain, install, training, use and dispose as well as purchase cost.

Environmental considerations

  • Environmentally preferable product – a product that has a reduced negative impact on the environment compared to other available products (e.g. FSC, recycled, recyclable, energy efficient standards).
  • Suppliers with a lower environmental impact – one that uses environmentally preferable materials and reduces their carbon emissions (such as through lower CO2 emission vehicles for delivery, maintenance visits, reduces packaging and recycles packaging), works to recognised environmental standards.
  • Life cycle assessment - analysis of a products environmental impact over its lifetime, including raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, use and disposal.
  • Recyclable – a product that once used can be used as a raw material in the manufacture of another product e.g. Where possible furniture purchased should be designed for disassembly to facilitate reuse, refurbishment, repair and recycling.
  • Reusable Select a product that can be used over and over again instead of a single use product e.g. reusable mugs (instead of disposable coffee cups), refillable pens.
  • Energy – energy efficient options and the adoption of renewable energy.
  • Carbon emissions – reduce and minimise carbon emissions.
  • Waste – limit and reduce waste.
  • Buildings – consider environmental standards in construction and refurbishment projects.
  • Furniture and resources – e.g. FSC wood, recycled materials.
  • End of life disposal – where possible recycle to reduce what goes to landfill.

Social Considerations

Preference should be given to suppliers that demonstrate ethical employment and trading practice and where possible UK suppliers, manufacturers and distributors to support the local economy. Factors to consider are Living Wage employer, fairtrade, commitment to reduce negative impact on workers, diversity and inclusion practices, robust modern slavery statement commitments to reduce their negative impact on human rights in their supply chains.

How we buy can also reduce our negative impact

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle - The first questions we should always ask before we buy is do we really need it? Can we achieve the same or similar outcome in a different way? The most sustainable option is to avoid unnecessary purchases.
  • Consolidating orders where possible to reduce deliveries (but don’t overbuy which may also create waste and cost more to store).
  • Reduce waste through effective inventory management. Not overbuying ensures economic efficiency is maintained and reduces potential waste as the items are used before they degrade, expire or become end of life).
  • Rationalise and standardising items purchased where appropriate can create economic efficiencies.
  • Purchase durable and robust products with a longer lifespan to reduce the frequency of need to replace.

Please visit our resources area for more guidance on buying standards and supplier due diligence.

We will continue to add to our resources and guidance. Get in touch with us if you can’t find the information you need or have a specific query.