Written by Josh Glover
06 Jul 2023

17 Questions to Ask When Procuring Sustainably

Are you ready to take your procurement strategy to the next level and make a real impact on the environment? Procurement teams have an important role to play in today’s fast-paced healthcare environment, where waste reduction and sustainability are critical priorities. The NHS Clinical Waste Strategy highlights the immense potential these teams have in the drive towards Net Zero, holding the key to the first step of the waste hierarchy – prevention.

But what exactly is sustainable procurement and how can it benefit your organisation?

It’s much more than a buzzword or tick-box exercise, it’s a game-changing strategy that goes beyond the traditional approach – choosing products and services with proven environmental value. To help you get more out of this strategy, we’ve put together this non-exhaustive list of questions, but first, let’s take a look at the essence of it and how it works.


1 / What is sustainable procurement?

2 / What are the 5 ‘R’s’ of sustainable procurement?

3 / 17 Questions to ask when procuring sustainably

4 / Procurement on the route to Net Zero 

What Is Sustainable Procurement?

Picture this: a healthcare system where every purchase you make becomes an opportunity to protect the planet – contributing to a cleaner environment and a brighter future. Sounds far-fetched right? Well, not at all! It’s well within reach with the aid of a solid sustainable procurement strategy.

It’s the process of procuring goods and services that meet your organisation’s needs AND make a profound difference by creating environmental and social benefits. Imagine, a process that aligns with the principles of the circular economy and waste hierarchy – an approach that prioritises solutions to minimise waste and maximise the use of resources, leading to a win-win situation. It’s high time to step away from the traditional mindset and rewrite the rules, one conscious decision at a time.

So, it all sounds nice, but how does it work?

It’s all about collaborating with suppliers and contractors to establish a new set of guidelines and contractual measures. Together, you can design measures to deliver environmental benefits such as waste reduction, minimised packaging, and even enabling the reprocessing of end-of-life products. It’s a comprehensive strategy with the potential to drive positive change every step of the way. 

What Are the 5 ‘Rs’ of Sustainable Procurement?

The updated Health Technical Memorandum (HTM) 07-01 outlines the 5 ‘Rs’ of sustainable procurement which should serve as a guide for considering waste reduction and minimisation when making purchasing decisions. This framework lists the purchasing options in order of most to least favourable.

  • Reduce: Purchasing the correct amount of products and only when necessary.
  • Reuse: Choosing reusable products over single-use disposable options whenever possible.
  • (Buy) Reprocessed: Choosing reprocessed or refurbished products when appropriate, and repairing those already in use when possible.
  • (Buy) Renewable: Purchasing products from renewable sources.
  • (Buy) Recyclable: Purchasing recyclable products if the previous options aren’t practical for your procurement needs.

Following the 5 ‘Rs’ framework enables procurement teams to reduce consumption and its resulting waste. 

17 Questions to Ask When Procuring Sustainably

How can you make this strategy work for you? One crucial method is to ask questions when you’re procuring, and ask a lot. This allows you to gain a better understanding of the environmental and social impact of the products and services you’re considering. This knowledge can inform purchasing decisions, allowing you to choose the solutions best fitted to the needs of your organisation in line with your Net Zero objectives.

  • Is the product or service necessary, or can we eliminate it to reduce consumption?
  • Can we reduce packaging waste by specifying minimal or reusable packaging requirements?
  • Is the supplier willing to reduce waste and minimise packaging?
  • Are we purchasing the correct amount?
  • What can we do to eliminate waste or reliance on single-use items?
  • Are there reusable options instead of single-use?
  • Can we extend the lifespan of existing products or equipment through repair or refurbishment?
  • Can we purchase reprocessed or refurbished products instead of new ones?
  • What materials are used in the product – are they from renewable sources?
  • Is the product designed for recyclability or made from recycled content?
  • Can we verify the environmental claims of the supplier?
  • Can we conduct a trial or pilot scheme to test the efficacy of the product or service before fully implementing it?
  • Does the product or service align with our organisation’s sustainability goals?
  • What are the social and environmental impacts of the product or service we’re considering?
  • Can the supplier take back the product at end-of-life for repurposing?
  • Are there good examples of other organisations sustainably procuring similar products or services?
  • Have we considered the entire product or service lifecycle, from raw materials to disposal? 

17 questions, that's a lot to remember! Thankfully, you don't need to store this all to memory right away, you can download our free sustainable procurement checklist here.

Procurement on the Route to Net Zero

Remember, procurement can control the first step of the waste hierarchy – prevention. By embracing sustainable procurement, your organisation can become a catalyst for change with the power to create a ripple effect that resonates far beyond your own day-to-day operations. It’ll also enable you to make a real impact on your organisation’s environmental impact even before introducing any new solutions.

Are you ready to reduce the carbon footprint of your organisation? Get in touch to learn more about how we can help you procure sustainably within healthcare waste and help you and your organisation on the route to Net Zero.


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Josh Glover

Josh Glover

Content Specialist

As a natural storyteller driven by curiosity, Josh aims to educate and engage through informative and thought-provoking content; working towards a safer and more sustainable healthcare system.