CCS publishes guidance on the social and environmental factors to be considered throughout a procurement process

CCS publishes guidance on the social and environmental factors to be considered throughout a procurement process. 

The Crown Commercial Service has released new guidance on the social and environmental aspects of the PCR 2015. The guidance has highlighted that contracting authorities may consider incorporating social, ethical and environmental aspects into specifications, contract conditions and award criteria. The flexibilities and requirements "bite" at different stages in a procurement process, as detailed below. 

Early stages (selection/ discretionary and mandatory exclusion grounds)

  • A contracting authority can reserve the right to participate in a procurement process to sheltered workshops or suppliers whose main aim is the social and professional integration of disabled or disadvantaged persons, provided that 30% or more of its employees are disabled or disadvantaged.
  • Tenderers must be excluded if they have been convicted of terrorism, child labour or human traffic related offences. 
  • Tenderers may be excluded if a contracting authority can demonstrate a violation of social, labour or environmental conventions.
  • Where the contracting authority verifies that a subcontractor has breached one of the mandatory exclusion conditions, then the contracting authority must require the main contractor to instruct a new subcontractor. 


  • Specifications may ask for labels as a means of proof that the product/service meets the specified environmental characteristics. 
  • Where the product/service is intended to be used by individuals, the technical specifications must take into account accessibility criteria for persons with disabilities. 

The award stage 

  • The PCR 2015 does not contain an exhaustive list of award criteria. However, provided they relate to the works, supplies or services to be provided under the contract, contracting authorities may take into account:
    • environmental and/or social aspects into its best price-quality criteria
    • fair trade requirements
    • environmental factors such as CO2 emissions and carbon footprint of the manufacturing stage of a product into costings
    • environmental and/or social aspects into its award criteria
  • Contracting authorities are not permitted to require tenderers to have certain corporate, social or environmental policies in place. 
  • An abnormally low tender must be rejected when the contracting authority has established that the cost is abnormally low because it does not comply with international or national environmental, social or labour laws. 

Term of the contract
It is possible to include social, employment and/or environmental contract performance conditions (where appropriate) provided that they are linked to the subject-matter of the contract and had been previously indicated in the call for competition or the procurement documents.
Contract management procedures should include an on-going verification that contractors are complying with the relevant laws.

Government policy is that contracting authorities must ensure that its suppliers comply with social, environmental and labour laws in delivering public contracts. There is a clear aspiration at both national and EU levels for social and environmental factors to be carefully considered by contracting authorities and the guidance supports this position and shows the degree of flexibility afforded to contracting authorities on such issues, particularly in how they should be accommodated in the procurement process and during contract performance. 
It is best practice for contracting authorities to have a good understanding of its supply chain and to analyse and manage key members of that chain. Contracting authorities should implement the guidance on a case-by-case basis and any response to the guidance should be proportionate. 

Article written by Katharine Rutherford and Lucy Woods.

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