Central Procurement Office

Responsible procurement: A NETpositive approach utilising the Flexible Framework


The University of Manchester Central Procurement Team have worked hard to develop our understanding of Responsible Procurement. We have also committed to sharing our approaches and learning with the wider sector and so this document has been created for procurement practitioners in other institutions to provide an overview of our activity to date.

We chose to take a NETpositive approach to our procurement practices; exploring our processes and practices as they related to our social, environmental and economic impacts, both positive and negative. As well as providing a useful basis for our thinking we have found this particularly useful for engaging effectively with both our internal and external stakeholders. We have come to regard our approach to responsible procurement simply as excellent procurement and it has become part of our business-as-usual, we believe this is a true measure of its embeddedness.

Why we used the Flexible framework

Our core approach has been built around the Flexible Framework which offers a well-established mechanism for procurement professionals to embed sustainability into procurement practice. We found it useful for the following reasons:

  1. It provides a logical and consistent overview of how to embed sustainability
  2. We could start with our own particular expertise (procurement process)
  3. Its flexibility enabled us to ensure a good ‘fit’ with our existing strategic commitments

The Flexible Framework focuses on key areas of procurement; policy and strategy, people development, the procurement process, supplier engagement and measurement of impact, and provided our starting point; our procurement process.

A couple of key points to note:

The importance of ambition:

Establishing a starting point is essential, what is also very necessary is having the whole team engaged and bought-in to this process. We deliberately set ourselves a challenging target, to reach Level 4 of the Framework within 6 months, to ensure we maintained focus and the tasks remained high priority.

The importance of collaboration:

This work has been a collaboration between the Central Procurement team and the Office for Social Responsibility and Environmental Sustainability teams. This has been key to its success.

What we did and how we did it

Governance and strategic commitments

Materiality analysis

Risk and impact analysis

Training and development

Supplier engagement

Staff support and guidance

Measuring and reporting

The University of Manchester was supported on this journey by NETpositive Futures (http://www.netpositivefutures.co.uk/)

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