What can Public Sector organisations do to support a greener society?

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We want the organisations we interact with to be sustainably aware, as much as we want our governments, and public sector bodies to put sustainability at the heart of their agenda

Sustainability and ensuring the planet’s eco-recovery has never been more important. Governments, businesses, and individuals are becoming more aware of their impact on the environment and the steps needed to reduce this; indeed Capgemini has recently announced its own vision to become a net zero business by 2030.

Last year, the UK government released their ambitious plan for investing and generating growth in the green sector; the aptly titled Ten Point Plan for Green Industrial Revolution. The plan identifies where investment in specific Green Industries will accelerate the UK towards net zero. Although focussed largely on the private sector, there are numerous areas where public sector funds and collaboration can drive us towards our collective goal of a more sustainable society.

The UK is also hosting this year’s UN COP conference, COP26, and the government has set out its main themes to support it; Adaption and resilience (for climate change), Nature based solutions (preserving biodiversity), Energy transitions (accelerating the use of clean energy), clean transport and finance; all of which support their ten point green revolution plan.

Focussing on supporting the Government’s plan for a Green revolution should be a priority for the public sector, and I believe the following three examples represent the simplest way for the public sector to achieve this:

Converting to Zero emission or electric public sector vehicles
Adoption of greener technologies in public sector buildings
Engaging in ‘green friendly’ financial investment models

Converting to Zero emission or electric public sector vehicles

The adoption of Zero emission or electric vehicles within the public sector is one vital way to support the government’s green ambition. Did you know that 28% of net greenhouse gas emissions in the UK were estimated to be from the Transport Sector, so not only is the switch to electric and low emission vehicles supporting the government, it is a key component of improving our air quality and reducing carbon footprint.

Public sector bodies can look to their operational fleet as a good place to start the switch to electric vehicles. This can be any vehicle used by staff to interact with the public; be it emergency service vehicles, community care or local government activities. This switch has already begun within this sector with Gloucestershire Police now boasting 21% of its entire fleet as fully-electric vehicles with other police forces following suit.

The use of electric vehicles can go beyond operational use. Each public sector body could promote the use of electric vehicles throughout its procurement and supply chain process, by either internally controlled movement of goods or third-party contractors. Incorporating transport carbon reduction criteria into the procurement process, or supplier code of conduct, would be an effective way of achieving this.

Adoption of greener technologies in public sector buildings

Whether at home or in the office, we all need to consider how we can reduce our impact on the environment. Retrofitting existing infrastructure and buildings to make them more energy efficient is a simple way of reducing carbon impact. This can include anything from utilising smart building services, installing light sensors, or updating existing technology. Likewise, for any office updates or moves, consideration should be given to reducing waste of office furniture.

Using the network of government bodies to trade furniture and maximise recycling of equipment or partnering with an organisation adept in office furniture recycling can help the Sector reuse and reduce the waste they accumulate.

The Government Buying Standards supports sustainable procurement, specifically around office furniture, and promotes reuse & refurbish as the first mandatory steps of procurement:

Figure 1: Procurement procedure from Government Buying Standards guidance issued by DEFRA
Figure 1: Procurement procedure from Government Buying Standards guidance issued by DEFRA

Engaging in ‘green friendly’ financial investment models

Green Finance aims to support research and innovation within the green sector by utilising specific green policies, supplemented by public funding, to encourage the financial and private sectors into innovation. Whilst most of the green finance initiatives and policies will be coordinated and delivered from central government, the public sector can engage with these policies to drive innovation and boost sustainability.

Recently, the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme allowed public sector bodies to apply for a grant to finance up to 100% of the costs of capital energy-savings projects. The scheme was set up to provide finance for projects focussed on energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation, with the aim of delivering significant carbon savings within the public sector.

The private sector can drive investment, innovation, and growth in the green sector with support from public sector bodies. Private and public sector partnerships can sometimes prohibit innovation, due to policy and internal restrictions, which impacts profit margin and return on investment. The public sector needs to support the private sector, by working to understand and mitigate these success barriers, thereby empowering the private sector towards green innovation.

Author


Natasha King

Natasha is a Senior Consultant in Invent’s Government & Public Sector unit. She has over 10 years’ experience of working in policing and security, specialising in digital and operational transformation. Natasha also leads Invent for Society’s sustainability offer in the Public Sector workstream, and is committed to helping organisations find green solutions to the challenges they face.

 

 

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