ISO 20400 International Standard for Sustainable Procurement

The ISO 20400 International Standard for Sustainable Procurement is now open for public comment, hosted by BSI, through January 12th, 2016. SPLC has been tracking this work via our liaison status to the ISO/PC 277 Committee for the past year-and-a-half, and we are excited to see this major milestone reached. The Council will be submitting comments during this period, and we encourage everyone to review the draft and contribute feedback.

The ISO 20400 Standard and SPLC’s programs are complimentary and have several aligned features.


The ISO 20400 Standard is based on several principles, many of which share the intent of SPLC’s Principles for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing. These include accountability, where organization’s are responsible for understanding and addressing the impacts within its supply chain; transparency, of the organization’s procurement decisions and activities as well as encouraging supplier transparency; and transformative and innovative solutions, to address sustainability objectives and encourage innovative procurement practices to promote more sustainable outcomes throughout the supply chain. Requirements outlined within the standard also address the Council’s two remaining Principles, committing to action and reporting results.

Stakeholders can expect to find the following concepts addressed by ISO 20400, where there are several similarities with the process-related recommendations offered in SPLC’s Guidance for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing:

  • Fundamentals – deals with the scope and principles of sustainable procurement and examines why organizations should undertake sustainable procurement. Important considerations include prioritization, exercising due diligence, exercising influence and avoiding complicity.
  • Policy and strategy – provides guidance on how sustainability considerations should be integrated at a strategic level to ensure that the intention, direction and key sustainability priorities of the organization are documented and understood by all parties involved in sustainable procurement. It especially helps top management define policy and strategy.
  • Enablers – describes the organizational conditions and management techniques for successfully implementing and continually improving sustainable procurement. Conditions and practices should be in place to help individuals responsible for procurement of goods and services integrate sustainability considerations into the procurement and management of contracts.
  • Procurement process – describes how sustainability considerations should be integrated into existing procurement processes and emphasizes that the creation of a parallel process should be avoided. It addresses the procurement process and is intended for individuals who are responsible for the actual procurement carried out within their organization.

The ISO 20400 standard can be a strong foundation for organizations to incorporate the processes necessary to incorporate sustainability into the procurement function. SPLC’s programs can build on this foundation to further define leadership processes and sustainable purchasing strategies in priority purchasing categories.

How might SPLC’s Rating System Relate to ISO 20400?

In terms of how the two programs could work together, think of the relationship between the US Green Building Council‘s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (USGBC LEED) rating system and both the ASHRAE/ANSI/IES/USGBC Standard 189.1 and the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). USGBC has developed a program focused on leadership, while Standard 189.1 and the IgCC are specifically designed to be floors that could be easily adopted into code. In the same way that the USGBC could cite compliance with Standard 189.1 or the IgCC as contributing toward achieving LEED certification, SPLC could reference compliance with parts or all of the finalized version of ISO 20400 as contributing toward a future SPLC rating system recognizing and rewarding leadership in sustainable purchasing. Additionally, ISO 20400 could be referenced in the process-related chapters of the Guidance for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing. 

If you have further questions about ISO 20400 and how it relates to SPLC’s programs, please contact me by email at christina[at] to discuss.

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