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Sustainable and Ethical Procurement

Sustainable and Ethical Procurement

As a major contributor to the North West economy, Manchester Metropolitan University's purchasing needs are bigger than most. As a result, there is significant scope to minimise our negative impacts and enhance the positive environmental, social and economic impacts.

By making the right purchasing decisions, we can have a positive impact in general by:

  • Reducing whole life costs
  • Conserving natural resources
  • Reducing pollution
  • Reducing waste for landfill
  • Reducing congestion
  • 'Future proofing' supply chains and investments
  • Driving "green innovation" in suppliers
  • Improving the local economy by supporting local suppliers as well as Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME's)
  • Increasing fair employment opportunities

Sustainable Procurement

“A process whereby organisations meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole life basis in terms of generating benefits not only to the organisations, but also to society and the economy, whilst minimising damage to the environment” (Sustainable Procurement Task Force).

Ethical Procurement

“A procurement process that respects fundamental international standards against criminal conduct such as bribery, corruption, fraud and human rights abuse, and responds immediately to such matters where they are identified” (Ethical and Sustainable Procurement, CIPS).

Our Sustainable & Ethical Procurement Policy sets out our targets and ambitions to improve and use the University's spending power in such a way that best serves the students, staff, community, economy and the environment.

Manchester Met requires key suppliers to adhere and operate to a set of ethical values- see our Supplier Code of Conduct

Get in touch

Jenny Lever, Procurement Manager

Flexible Framework

The Flexible Framework was released in 2006 along with the National Action Plan for Sustainable Procurement to enable public sector bodies to measure sustainable procurement progress. We assess our sustainable and ethical procurement performance against the Flexible Framework as set out by the Sustainable Procurement Task Force.

The Flexible Framework measures the sustainable and ethical procurement performance against the following five areas: People, Policy, Strategy & Communications, Procurement Process, Engaging Suppliers and Measurements & Results. Within each area, there are five levels (Foundation, Embed, Practice, Advanced and Expert) to advance along as the performance improves.

Our aim is to achieve level 4 of the Flexible Framework by 2018-19.

Case Study: Supplier Engagement

To better understand the processes and needs of our suppliers, we have recently purchased the NETpositive Supplier Engagement Tool, which enables suppliers to generate their own bespoke Sustainability Action Plan, free of charge. These plans form part of our ongoing contract management discussions and addresses issues raised by the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Case Study: Understanding our Suppliers - Gresham Office Furniture LTD

Upon conducting a risk assessment, which focuses on Equality & Diversity, Environmental Sustainability, WEEE Disposal, Social Issues, Reputation, Health & Safety and Bribery Risk, furniture was identified as one of our high-risk commodity areas. As a result, our NETpositive Supplier Engagement Tool was shared with our key furniture suppliers in order to gain a deeper understanding of our suppliers' procedures and carry out supply chain mapping.

One of the actions identified from the tailored Sustainability Action Plan at Gresham Office Furniture LTD, was to have a supplier vetting system in place to ensure all suppliers comply with all relevant legislation.

Local suppliers are used where possible, supporting the local economy and helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. All proposed suppliers are asked to complete a detailed supplier questionnaire and provide evidence of Quality, Health & Safety and Environmental procedures/accreditations. This questionnaire is evaluated and the score forms part of the suppliers rating, which in turn ranks them as either a primary or secondary supplier.

Supplier performance is measured on a monthly basis. All suppliers are based within the European Union and work in accordance with all current European legislation, including workers' rights. The Purchasing Department is responsible for sourcing all products. As a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain of Custody accredited manufacturer, all forest based material suppliers are also required to carry FSC accreditation. All FSC accredited suppliers are checked quarterly to ensure certificates are still valid and not suspended.

In addition to having an effective supplier vetting system in place, other actions identified from the Sustainability Action Plan included; monitoring customer feedback, training staff on equality, diversity & social inclusion, joining an apprenticeship scheme, supporting disadvantaged local communities, investing in resource efficiency and offering sustainable travel options to staff etc. Some of these actions have already been completed and most are in progress.


Fairtrade University

Fairtrade is a global movement with a strong and active presence in the UK, represented by the Fairtrade Foundation. It is a movement for a change, which works directly with businesses, consumers and campaigners to make trade deliver for farmers and workers.

All across the UK, students, university and college staff are doing great things to make their campuses more ethical. Manchester Metropolitan University is proud to be an official Fairtrade University. Find out more about Fairtrade at Manchester Met by reading our Fairtrade Policy.

Our Fairtrade Steering Group seeks to develop, co-ordinate and oversee the implementation of an action plan to maintain Fairtrade accreditation at the University and The Union.

Sustainable Procurement Hints and Tips

Reduce Your Impact

Is the purchase really needed?

Think about the possibility of doing more with less. Goods and services use resources, by not buying them in the first place you will reduce the impact significantly.

The purchase is genuinely needed?

  • Are there sustainable alternatives available or can the need be meet in a more efficient way? For example, can you reuse or repair current equipment/products instead of buying new products?
  • Is it possible to hire the product?
  • Can you borrow a suitable product elsewhere at the University or share with other departments?

Don't just think about the initial purchase price

Ensure value for money

Value for Money not only measures the cost of goods and services but also takes into account factors such as quality, efficiency, effectiveness and fitness for purpose. Protection of the environment can be one of these factors and can therefore act as an equal consideration amongst others for the award of the contract.

Factors for consideration include:

  • Costs over the lifetime of the goods/services
  • Status and standing of suppliers
  • Exact details of equipment, goods or service offered
  • Financial aspects including payment terms, basis of contractual price, transport etc.
  • Operating costs
  • Extent of support through life
  • End of life disposal costs

Green products may have a higher purchase price in many cases (that is not always the case). However, if analysing the costs over the working life of the product the greener alternative might well prove to be cheaper over time. In the example, the higher initial price of the greener product is more than compensated by the much lower usage and disposal costs.

Value for money

Consider the costs that will occur through the life of the product

Whole Life Costing (or Life Cycle Costing) takes into account all costs of an item throughout its lifetime.

The costs to consider include:

  • Acquisition costs (purchase price, delivery costs, installation, commissioning)
  • Operating costs
  • Maintenance costs
  • Disposal costs

Life Cycle Assessment (Or Life Cycle Analysis) quantifies the environmental impacts at each stage of an item’s life cycle. Examining the impacts of a product over its entire lifetime includes considering:

  • Where do the raw materials come from?
  • How are they transported?
  • How is the product manufactured?
  • How is the product transported and sold to the customer?
  • How is the product used?
  • What happens at the end of its useful life?

Simplified diagram of a products life cycle

Life Cycle Assessment

  1. Extraction of raw materials: The extraction and processing of raw materials – things such as wood, stone, minerals or chemicals, etc, that go into our products generally means the depletion of non-renewable resources, generation of polluting emissions to air and water, and the use of energy.
  2. Design and production: Production requires the use of energy, plants and buildings. Manufacturing and the generation/use of energy can lead to emissions to air and water, as well as the generation of solid waste.
  3. Packaging and distribution: When we buy a product it has been through a distribution process. Distributing goods involve transport by road, rail, air and/or sea. Such transportation requires the use of energy and use resources in the form of petrol or diesel which emit global warming gases such as carbon dioxide. Packaging can be made of plastic, wood, paper, card or other materials and have its own environmental impact through manufacture and disposal.
  4. Use and maintenance: For many products the most significant environmental impact is the use phase. Particularly, for products that require use of energy (electricity, gas, petrol) for running the product.
  5. Reuse and recycling: For some products, the whole product or part of the product may be reusable
  6. Disposal: Waste is generated throughout the life of a product – during extraction of raw materials and processing, production and at the end of its useful life.

Reuse materials/components: In some cases, part of a product can be used in the making of new products. It is therefore important to recycle where possible or take up the opportunity to give back the old product to the supplier/retailer. Using recycled materials in the making of new products/goods will save energy, CO2 and raw materials as well as landfill.

Ensure that people and communities are not exploited in the making and provision of your goods and services

Seek to ensure that the products you buy are not exploiting child labour, or labour and economies in the developing world and that you meet recognised fair trade standards wherever possible. For more information on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) please see:


To assist with the purchase decision a wide range of labels and accreditations have been developed to ensure goods/services and companies meet the required standards in some environmental fields.

View all Ecolabels
  • Energy Saving Trust logo

    Energy Saving

    Energy saving products use less energy and therefore have less of an environmental impact as well as being cheaper to run. For example an Energy Saving Trust recommended desktop computer will use around 40% less energy than an average new computer.

  • Energy Star logo


    The ENERGY STAR program was developed in the USA by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Products with the ENERGY STAR label must meet a set of energy efficiency requirements set forth in ENERGY STAR product specifications. The label can appear on office equipment such as computers, monitors, printers and fax machines.

  • EU Ecolabel logo

    EU Ecolabel

    The official European symbol for non-food products that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle, from the extraction of raw material through to production, use and disposal.

  • EU Organic and Farming Logo

    EU Organic and Farming Logo

    The organic product label indicates that the product has been grown within sustainable cultivation systems. Foods may only be marked as "organic" if at least 95% of their agricultural ingredients are organic.

  • European Energy Label Logo

    European Energy Label

    The European Union (EU) energy label gives information about the energy efficiency of a product rated from ‘A’ to ‘G’, with ‘A’ being the most efficient (‘A+’ and ‘A++’ for the most efficient fridges and freezers). The label is mandatory under EU legislation to be shown on all fridges, freezers, fridge freezers, washing machines, tumble dryers, washer dryers, dishwashers and light bulb packaging.

  • Fairtrade Logo

    Fairtrade Mark

    Fairtrade is a tool for development that ensures disadvantaged farmers and workers in developing countries get a better deal through the use of the international FAIRTRADE Mark.

  • Forest Stewardship Council Logo

    Forest Stewardship Council

    FSC certification ensures that products come from well managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. The forest of origin has been independently inspected and evaluated according to the principles and criteria for forest management agreed and approved by the Forest Stewardship Council.

  • LEAF Logo

    LEAF Marque

    The label indicates that the food is produced by farmers who are committed to continually improving agriculture and the environment for the mutual benefit of farmers, consumers, wildlife and the countryside. Leaf Marque is an independently certified assurance scheme.

  • Marine Stewardship Council Logo

    Marine Stewardship Council

    Indicates that the seafood bearing the label come from certified sustainable fisheries. Assessments against MSC standards are carried out by independently accredited certifiers.

  • Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Logo

    Oeko-Tex Standard 100

    Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is an international independent test and certification system for textiles and garments covering all stages of production. Certification ensures the product is tested for harmful substances by independent institutes belonging to the international Oeko-Tex Association.

  • On-Pack Recycling Label Logo

    On-Pack Recycling Label

    This label provides advice on how to recycle packaging and helps to identify how different parts of the packaging can be recycled. More than 160 organisations already signed up to the scheme and the label can now be found in over 75,000 product lines. Whenever you’re ready to throw packaging out, take a look at the label and see if it can be recycled. You can check the recycle now postcode locator to see what you can recycle in your area,

    The On-Pack Recycling Label scheme is developed by British Retail Consortium and WRAP (Waste and Resource Action Programme).

  • Rainforest Alliance Logo

    Rainforest Alliance

    The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit organisation that works to conserve biodiversity and promote the rights and well-being of workers, their families and communities. In more than 70 countries around the globe, the Rainforest Alliance works with farmers, foresters, hoteliers and carbon project managers to produce goods and services responsibly and to bring them to a global marketplace.

  • Soil Association Logo

    Soil Association

    The Soil Association (SA) label indicates the product is certified to high standards in organic production and processing. SA organic standards have the EU organic regulation as their baseline. In many cases the standards are more robust than those set by EU regulations. The standards by SA include areas for Farming, Food & Drink, Textiles, Health & Beauty, Catering and Woodmark.

  • TCO Development Logo

    TCO Development

    Sustainable IT products certification ensuring the manufacturing, use and recycling of IT products is carried out with regard to environmental and social responsibility.

  • Waterwise Recommended Checkmark Logo

    Waterwise Recommended Checkmark

    The label is an indicator of a water saving product. In order to gain the certification each product is assessed on their water usage and water saving claims, and other characteristics may be considered as well.

View Accreditations
  • EMAS logo


    EMAS is a voluntary EU-wide initiative designed to improve companies’ environmental performance.

  • ISO 14001 Standard

    ISO 14001

    ISO 14001 is an internationally accepted standard that sets out a framework of essential elements for putting an effective environmental management system (EMS) in place.

Green purchasing guides

Related purchasing organisations and associations

Poverty Aware Procurement

Manchester Metropolitan University promotes the awareness of poverty issues in procurement practices.

Poverty Aware Procurement is a specific area of focus within the general context of procurement. It specifically centres around the social impact of procurement as it concentrates on activities with the ability of enhancing or reducing poverty impacts upon people around the world.

Take a look at the product/service areas below for more information on how you can act positively to address the poverty issues.