With the UK public sector spending some £290bn a year on procurement, ensuring goods and services are sourced sustainably has become a high priority at Whitehall and beyond. Technology is a key area for public spending and Dr Philip Orumwense, from Crown Commercial Service (CCS), told delegates at New Statesman and Tech Monitor‘s Public Sector Technology Symposium 2021 how his organisation, and others, ensure they buy sustainably.
Dr Orumwense is commercial director and chief procurement officer for technology at CCS, an executive agency of the UK Cabinet Office and the UK’s largest public procurement organisation. He told the symposium about his approach to procurement and how businesses can become suppliers to the public sector.
Dr Orumwense has been in post since February, and has enjoyed a long career in the public sector working at the Department of Work and Pensions and, most recently, as commercial director for IT at Highways England. Now at CCS, he defines sustainable procurement as achieving the “optimal combination of whole life costs and fitness for purpose to meet our requirements”.
“That means generating benefits not only for the organisations that we do business with for government as well, and also to society and the economy whilst minimising the damage to the environment,” he explains.
To ensure environmental sustainability, Dr Orumwense says suppliers have to be able to “accredit the services they provide to government in terms of viability, in terms of understanding how to minimise the negative environmental impact on the goods they supply and in terms of looking at the whole lifecycle costs, including the raw materials and extraction through to end-of-life.
CCS says it has identified dozens of its agreements that can be used to help customers on their sustainability journey – from the obvious areas like fleet and energy to technology hardware.
Regional hubs are key to sustainable procurement
To help more companies, particularly small businesses, become part of public sector supply chains, CCS has created flexible procurement frameworks which make it easier for technology vendors to be considered for government contracts.
He added that newly created regional hubs are playing an important role in expanding the pool of suppliers. “We have the Greater Manchester Buying Authority and the West Midlands Buying Authority, for example,” he says. “These are regional hubs where local providers can engage and see what opportunities exist to deliver services to those and local authorities and encourage them to provide opportunities for them to continue to engage with us in [central government] in terms of understanding their capabilities, understanding the innovative capacity, understanding their funding regime in a way that we can perhaps create even more access for them.”
Dr Orumwense said these buying authorities should be a first port of call for technology businesses looking to do business with the public sector. “My advice is reach out to them, and to look out for all of the commercial solutions that we’re putting in place in the centre, in terms of which aspects of them appeal to the capabilities that you have and talk to us about how we can create that enabling platform for you to participate in that supply chain ecosystem,” he said.
Opportunities for SMEs and established businesses
Major system integrators (SIs) have traditionally dominated when it comes to government contracts, but Dr Orumwense said one element of sustainability now being embraced across government is the establishment of relationships with local suppliers.
“We have to provide the opportunity to leverage the capabilities that sit with the big SIs, largely embedded in our legacy IT environment where the biggest SIs were dominant for a long period of time,” he said. “But we also balance that against the innovative capacities of the SMEs and their ability to be able to move very swiftly.”
This ability to respond rapidly means smaller companies are often able to develop solutions more quickly, and Dr Orumwense said that in the past he has worked with SMEs that have created prototype systems in a matter of days. “It’s that level of agility that you’re looking for,” he said.