Managing sustainability throughout the contract
After you have introduced the sustainability criteria to be met by suppliers, you have to decide how you will monitor compliance against it. As introduced in the previous section, details regarding the process should be openly discussed with the supplier, and agreed upon as part of the procurement contract.
How can you monitor performance during contract implementation?
There are different mechanisms that can be used to monitor performance against the agreed sustainability criteria in your contract. Below, we have included some of the steps that can be taken to gather the needed performance data, framed around performance vs compliance.
We are all still learning what works to improve sustainability and enable a fundamental shift in the way the government buys goods, works and services to achieve better social and environmental outcomes, so this exercise should not be seen a ‘gotcha’ to catch out contractors and punish them, but rather as a way of learning, iterating, and improving on what works. Tim Cummins, President of the World Commerce and Contracting Association, discusses this in his article: If saving the world depends on contracts, is it time to give up?
One way to monitor implementation of SPP benchmarks during a contract is by distributing questionnaires to suppliers at agreed points during implementation, especially if you are trying to get at behavioral or practice changes. For example, if as part of the contract it has been agreed that suppliers would conduct a specific amount of audits of their supply chain, or that they would not exceed a certain target of CO2 emissions, questionnaires can be sent to request information regarding these requirements. Questionnaires could be ‘sent’ at agreed points, require specific information, and include instructions regarding what verification documentation should be attached to assess performance.
There are different ways by which suppliers can verify performance against sustainability requirements. These include:
- Accreditation certificates against the standards of a specific accreditation scheme, which can include, for example, an environmental label. As explained throughout this toolkit, most enabling frameworks do not allow to reference specific ecolabel schemes without accepting means of verification other than the ecolabel certificate. This includes means of verification such as laboratory reports, testing, or technical documentation.
- Laboratory reports can be presented by suppliers to verify, for example, the composition of certain products, and testing reports can be used to verify factors such as noise emissions, or energy use.
- Technical documentation includes, for example, manufacturer reports which might include relevant data regarding the performance of certain products.
- Company documentation to verify criteria such as MSMEs status, or supplier codes of conduct.
Depending on the contract type, it can be difficult to gather all the relevant documentation (e.g. gathering verification documentation for all the materials used throughout a construction project, or the waste generated throughout the duration of the contract). In order to facilitate this process, an option could be to set material or waste management registries, where suppliers can import relevant data at agreed stages throughout the contract.
Engaging third parties to conduct auditing activities can be a useful way to monitor implementation. This might be especially relevant in contracts with longer durations, and which might require resources beyond those available to the procurement authority, or the supplier. For example, NGOs could be engaged to monitor working conditions throughout the supply chain, or environmental consultancies could be hired to monitor factors such as CO2 emissions during construction projects.
Public authorities can organize task forces to verify and monitor sustainability requirements from suppliers, especially those related to workers’ rights. This task force could then, for example, plan intermittent and unannounced on-site inspections, or coordinate other performance measures in this list.
Another important way to gather needed data to monitor performance could be by engaging civil society or the users/beneficiaries of a service. Citizen or beneficiary collaboration could then be enabled to collect data, for example, on health and safety measures, impact of projects on the communities, etc. This can be done by using community forums, opening online platforms, assigning civil organizations to gather information, apps, etc. Read more about the role of procurement monitoring here, and check out Integrity Action’s Development Check app for additional inspiration.
With the establishment of the ProZorro e-procurement system in Ukraine in 2016, Transparency International Ukraine established a network of civil society procurement monitors, called DoZorro. Within three years this had swelled to two dozen organizations, and over 2 million people had visited the website.
What’s more, in that time frame the DoZorro community uncovered violations in over 30,000 tenders with an estimated value of $4 billion. More than 100,000 people use their procurement monitoring system each month, and violations have been fixed in 14% of cases.
This monitoring is officially embedded in the government e-procurement system, and the inspiring results have inspired similar networks in other countries in the region and beyond.