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The State must set a good example by promoting sustainable purchases

At a historic United Nations summit in September 2015, world leaders adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). [iStockphoto]

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.

It is a national governance principle in our Constitution and a public procurement principle in Section 10 (2) (d) of the Constitution and Section 3 (i) of the public procurement and disposal of assets (PPADA, 2015).

At a historic United Nations summit in September 2015, world leaders adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Globally, governments have gradually implemented various economic, social, legislative and other measures to achieve the SDGs, including public procurement laws and regulations, considering that 10 SDGs are directly or indirectly driven and achieved by public and private procurement policies and expenditure representing 30-60% of their annual budget.

In addition to compliance with relevant laws on these objectives, a collaborative and innovative broad-spectrum approach is needed between the public and private sectors. Kenya’s business sector has the “Code of Business Ethics” where some 575 companies have so far pledged to promote and improve ethical business conduct in line with the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact on human rights, labor standards, the environment and the fight against corruption.

Sustainable sourcing is a conscious process where organizations meet their needs in a way that optimizes resources throughout life by generating benefits for spending organizations, society and the economy, while minimizing damage to the environment. Public procurement is a key economic activity of global governments, accounting for up to 25% of their gross GDP globally.

As a large consumer of privately produced products, government, through public procurement practitioners, should therefore take the SMART lead in promoting sustainable sourcing to be emulated by procurement from the private sector.

This includes purchasing products that are energy, fuel, water and resource efficient, substitutable, reusable, repairable, disposable, recyclable and biodegradable.

The production of these items should use environmentally friendly chemicals and other substances to reduce or eliminate pollution and waste from the air, soil and water. Wood products must be made from renewable forests. Government operations should be virtually paperless through automation to reduce printing, energy consumption and paper usage.

Sustainable procurement goals can never be achieved with the current fragmented and redundant procurement in the public sector. Concerted consolidation and standardization of the supply portfolio is inevitable to make research and production investments economically viable and to ensure supplier buy-in.

Fortunately, the Constitution, PPADA 2015, Public Procurement Regulations 2020 and Best Practices already contain innovative guidelines such as Procurement and Disposal Services Agencies, Sector Agencies, Procurement in consortium and purchases with forward commitment.

A SMART enforcement mechanism will be required, including supplier relationship management, monitoring and evaluation, product content restrictions, eco-labeling, disclosure requirements, insurance certifications quality, compliance audits, rewards and penalties.

These should be clearly incorporated as mandatory specifications and contractual requirements in the tender documents.

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