The shift to net zero has shaped procurement immensely and increased the value of sustainability responses. Amina Tazim, a bid writer, completed a carbon literacy training day early in 2023. The training, which was certified by the Carbon Literacy Project, is extremely valuable in helping us to continue to support our clients in their net zero and environment commitments.
“As I entered the session, I was hoping to build on my knowledge and find my way through the carbon jargon. Instead, I finished the day with a deeper understanding and awareness of climate change and the impact of our everyday actions. This incredibly thought-provoking day delivered by Positive Planet resonated with me, especially given the rise of greenwashing, whereby companies make misleading claims about their environmental sustainability. Although this is more prevalent across the advertising industry, with buzzwords such as ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘nature positive’ being thrown around with no supporting evidence, this also applies to tender commitments. The EiB Way provides strategic challenges to our clients, and we can use this understanding to strengthen our clients’ environmental statements, avoiding greenwashing with vague commitments or exaggerated statements.”
The WWF’s guide to greenwashing is a useful reference point to evaluate and understand if commitments are green and avoid greenwashing. The guide is used across our team to challenge our clients’ solutions, looking at the four key areas below.
Buzzwords: Does carbon jargon add value in the context of the response, and is it relevant to the subject matter? As a lot of key terms sound very similar, it is important to understand the distinction between them to facilitate correct usage. For example, the waste management hierarchy framework (waste) differs from the mitigation hierarchy framework (biodiversity).
Evidence: Can you demonstrate capability in delivering your commitments? A good place to start is to consider the best practice and existing policies in place and success in implementing these to create a culture with tangible evidence of the benefits delivered. In addition, highlight the targets in your sustainability policy, demonstrate the experience of the expert leading this and share any environmental management systems in place to showcase progress towards achieving targets.
Verification: Have the commitments been reviewed and verified by an internal (e.g., Head of Sustainability) or an external sustainability expert? As most sustainability commitments can be numerical targets, it is important to ensure that these are science based and achievable. For example, before committing to safeguarding a percentage of protected species along a railway route, ensure appropriate discussions have taken place with licensed ecologists to understand the context.
Three pillars of sustainability: To display an authentic culture of sustainability, it is important to establish a balance between the three pillars of environmental, social and economic sustainability and to understand how they interact. This means rethinking the concept of value for money and delivering improved efficiency through increased social value. For example, supporting carbon reduction across the industry (not just in the bidder’s workplace) by upskilling small and medium-sized enterprises.