Tender (RFx)


Include clear and transparent sustainability expectations and criteria in your calls for tender and RFx processes.

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Integrating sustainability into your solicitation process will clarify your sustainability expectations for potential suppliers and make it easier to evaluate which proposals and bids best align with your sustainability priorities. Build upon key decisions already made at the PLAN stage to ensure sustainable impact in your tender.

Include your sustainability expectations in your solicitation documents

Incorporate a sustainability section in the solicitation documents (Rfx – Request for Proposals (RFP), Request for Tender (RFT), Invitation to Tender (ITT)) to guide bids by outlining sustainable practices and requirements for bidders. Your tender should outline clear expectations for supplier and product/service sustainability, utilising the outcomes-based and technical specifications developed during the pre-qualification process, along with relevant standards and labels. Respect your bidders’ time and resources and try not to repeat questions already asked at the pre-qualification stage and instead focus on additional sustainable criteria. Avoid using criteria for measures or information you or your suppliers can't verify. Dedicate a section to sustainability to demonstrate commitment, including key metrics, eco-friendly materials, standards, or certifications where relevant.

EXAMPLE: Telecom company signals climate commitment expectations to suppliers

The telecommunications company, Ericsson, clearly articulates to all suppliers that the issue of climate is a priority by sharing a Supply Chain Climate Action letter which states that the company “is working in alignment with the 1.5°C ambition, and we expect our suppliers to join us on this crucial journey.”1

Clarify the information you seek and your evidence requirements

In the RFx, clearly and transparently outline the information and evidence you will accept for selection, technical, and award criteria, such as policies, certifications, life cycle assessment results, or external standards and clarify how bidders can demonstrate their sustainability credentials and performance. This may include defining verification requirements for sustainability like publicly available goals or performance data or labels and certifications. Specify the necessary compliance documentation while clarifying the consequences of non-compliance with the documentation requirements, potentially including disqualification. But, be aware that demands for documentation and verification, such as ecolabels, can crowd out SMEs and diverse suppliers. Make verification reasonable and where possible, eligible for a process of continuous improvement (e.g., within contract clauses). Consider providing smaller suppliers with access to verification experts who can answer questions and guide the process.

Transparently outline what sustainability criteria you will use to evaluate bids

Provide bidders with guidance on how sustainability will be evaluated. Clearly and transparently outline how you will evaluate the submitted evidence, including your scoring rubric, and your award criteria weightings so bidders know how much effort to put into meeting each sustainable criterion. This transparency will help bidders understand the evaluation process and prepare bids that more clearly demonstrate their sustainability credentials.

Help ensure your procurement is accessible to diverse suppliers

Make sure to understand your supplier diversity baseline and targets, such as a spending threshold for diverse suppliers so that you can appropriately target the right suppliers in your RFx. Define small and diverse suppliers in the tender documents (e.g., BIPOC majority ownership or a social enterprise). Make solicitations accessible to diverse suppliers for sustainable solutions. If expecting smaller bidders, modify advertising, simplify documents and selection criteria, or allow joint tenders, bearing in mind that you may have social and environmental value factors that you still need to uphold that are non-negotiable. If dealing with larger bidders, consider including requirements, evaluation criteria, or contract clauses that the primary supplier must subcontract a percentage to smaller or diverse suppliers or provide a supplier diversity plan in the proposal. 

EXAMPLE: Vancouver's social value business exploration

The City of Vancouver is actively reaching out to social value businesses to understand their capabilities and promote diversity. Businesses can share insights about their goods and services through a brief questionnaire, contributing to the city's inclusive approach.2

EXAMPLE: CBRE’s supplier diversity program

CBRE's global supplier diversity, social and economic development program presents a business commitment to create an equitable procurement and contracting process that encourages diverse supplier participation and the growth of underrepresented groups in CBRE's procurement process.³

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Circular Procurement in 8 Steps

This eBook by Copper8 offers practical guidance on integrating circular principles into your procurement cycle by outlining eight steps you can take to minimise waste and maximise value retention of the resources and materials you procure.

Prepare: Step 1 (pages 44 to 55) offers practical guidance on how to get started, including why circular procurement is valuable, what it means to your organisation, and how to get started with a low-risk pilot.

Tender RF(x): Step 5 (pages 86 to 93) focuses on the selection stage of your tendering procedure, including the legal principles you can apply to ensure your sustainability ambitions are reflected in your tender.

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Circular Economy Procurement Framework

This framework by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation outlines circular intervention points at each stage of the procurement cycle.

Pre-Qualify: Stage 3, "Go to Market", covers the need to consider pre-qualification questions and organise a pre-tender briefing on the circular economy before moving forward. 

Tender (RFx): Stage 5 provides a short checklist of questions to guide your selection process.

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How to Source Diverse Suppliers

A step-by-step guide by The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) offering advice on sourcing diverse suppliers, with examples of race and gender diversity that can be broadly applied to any protected characteristic, such as: age, sexual orientation, disability etc.

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Sustainable Procurement Toolkit

This free, open-source workbook from Sustainability Advantage includes tools that will support procurement specialists with selecting the most sustainable suppliers and the most sustainable products. This resource is a good starting point for companies shifting towards responsible sourcing, and includes a Request for Proposal (RFP) specifications template, a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) tool, and a Bid Evaluation tool.

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Sustainability Issue Snapshots

This tool by the Embedding project provides a comprehensive overview of sustainability issues. For each issue it curates a set of resources to help you better understand and address it.