Sustainable Procurement in Birmingham

Hasan Wazir joined Birmingham City Council in 2007 and has worked on a wide variety of projects and programmes across the City. He is currently working in the Sustainability Team where he has responsibility for a number of Public Procurement of Innovation projects.

How is the City of Birmingham implementing sustainable procurement?

Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK and has the youngest population of any city in Europe. It’s also one of the greenest cities in the UK and in Europe, thanks to its 571 parks. Sustainability has been a key issue for the City for a number of years and we recognise sustainable procurement as a powerful tool to move towards a more low carbon and resource efficient society. The city has significant buying power: our annual procurement budget is approximately £2billion. By taking social and environmental factors into consideration – alongside financial ones – in our purchasing practices, we are using procurement as a mechanism to push towards sustainable development.

We are currently updating our Sustainable Procurement Strategy. There are around 25 qualified procurement professionals working in the council. A Green Commission was set up as a collaborative structure in the area of procurement and energy.

Sustainable procurement is also supported through the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility, by ensuring all contractors working for the City Council have considered sustainability as a bare minimum. One of the Charter’s six principles is ‘Green & Sustainable’, looking at how organisations aim to protect the environment, minimise waste and energy consumption, and use other resources efficiently. This amongst other tools will help us measure our impact on the environmental, social and economic indicators for the City.

Birmingham is more and more committed to sustainable procurement and we are trying to make as much progress as possible. This is why we have also joined the Procura+ European Sustainable Procurement Network, to exchange with other cities, discuss ideas, learn from others and share our experiences.

Are you also using procurement of innovation?

Birmingham is involved in a number of public procurement of innovation (PPI) projects in order to stimulate innovation. By acting as a launch customer, we boost new markets. We have been one of the cities in the Smart Procurement European Alliance (SPEA) project that promotes the procurement of innovative solutions in municipal buildings.

Birmingham is co-ordinating the CEPPI project, which aims to demonstrate how European cities can achieve energy-related objectives through strategic use of public procurement and specifically through adoption of proven innovation procurement methods.

Can you explain more about the CEPPI project and its expected outcomes?

Coordinated Energy Related Public Procurement of Innovation Action for Cities, more commonly known as CEPPI, is a three-year H2020 funded programme which began in April 2015. The five cities involved in the project are Birmingham (UK), Budapest (Hungary), Castelló & Valencia (Spain) and Wrocław (Poland). The cities will intervene in scheduled public tenders to achieve a more sustainable energy outcome. Our concrete objective is to save at least 33 GWh/year. Other expected outcomes are to increase the production of renewable energy, to create a market for innovative energy goods and services, to build capacities in smart, sustainable and innovation procurement, and to inform other public organisations in the CEPPI cities or regions so that they can replicate the actions and outcomes.

What steps have you taken so far?

The cities have undertaken a Public Procurement of Innovation Gap Analysis to assess our current and potential capacity for PPI. This analysis will help in deciding which support actions can better contribute to our goals. The expert partners in the consortium – Jera Consulting, Optimat, Steinbeis-Trasferzentrum EGS and ICLEI European Secretariat – will deliver these trainings and guidance. By doing the analysis, we identified our strengths and weaknesses relating to PPI and set baselines for improvement
Another step taken has been the identification of energy hotspots, that is, product and service sectors where PPI has significant potential to save energy. The energy opportunity reports highlighted a well-developed range of supporting policies and strategies already in place at the City level of the five CEPPI cities. These focused on low carbon, energy efficiency and renewable energy, very much aligned with the EU 2020 climate and energy agenda.

Cities have also shortlisted some upcoming tenders in which PPI could be potentially introduced.

What possible areas of PPI intervention have been identified?

Street lighting looks like an area of interest for most of the cities, including Budapest and Wrocław who are exploring optimum ways to reduce light pollution whilst ensuring safe and well lit urban areas. Birmingham City Council might likely intervene in procurement related to its waste strategy and Multi-Function Devices contracts. Castelló will introduce PPI recommendations in its copiers and prints’ tenders. Valencia will focus on the fountain systems and the sports centres.

What are the main challenges of the CEPPI project?

The main challenge for the CEPPI project is to leave a lasting legacy which will enable Cities to incorporate PPI methodologies/ principles as standard working practices. This will require a significant level of work to move individuals/departments away from their usual modus operandi to a situation where they fully appreciate and realise the benefits of PPI. We are hoping that by intervening in real public tenders with expert involvement supporting, the procurers and commissioners coupled with bespoke PPI training sessions, will create a strong foundation which the Cities can then build upon.