Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Business Services Association (BSA)


  The Business Services Association is a policy group for major companies providing outsourced services to companies, public bodies, local authorities and government departments and agencies. The combined annual turnover in the United Kingdom of its 19 member companies is around £14 billion. Member companies employ directly and indirectly more than 500,000 people.

  BSA member companies are among the leaders in providing services across the public sector. They are actively involved in the majority of PFI and PPP projects across the whole range of Government Departments and Agencies, NHS Trusts, Local Authorities and Local Education Authorities. As such they are engaged in implementing Government's agenda for modernising public services.

  The Association itself is closely involved in working with Government to develop and deliver the principles for modernising public services. As well as representing the providers of relevant services, all employees of BSA member companies are users of these services. This gives them and member companies a clear perspective on quality and end-user requirements. Those views are reflected in those of the Association in its submissions to Government across a whole range of issues.

1.  General Principles

  After the recent open consultation on corporate social responsibility, BSA welcomes the renewed focus on social and environmental considerations in an international context.

  Undoubtedly, the UK government is committed to the principles of sustainable development set out at the Rio Summit in 1992 and its practical policy consequences on environmental and social issues for public as well as private organisations in this country. This can be seen in the "Greening Government Third Annual Report 2001", published to demonstrate the monitoring and progress of government departments in introducing sustainable development practices into their management strategies.

  BSA will focus in this submission primarily on this document for presenting a business perspective to the relevant issues. However, BSA agrees fully with the key elements of sustainable development as being a need for social progress according to Agenda 21, protection of the environment as outlined in the climate change convention, the responsible use of natural resources and the necessity for continuous economic growth and stable employment levels.

  From a private sector position, sustainable development has become an increasingly influential issue in the procurement procedures of public bodies. Thus, it is in the area of public private partnerships that leadership and promotion of strategies and good practice are best developed.

2.  Awareness and Information

  At the current stage of awareness and implementation of the concept, the collection and evaluation of information as well as publication of targets appears to be a reasonable way to progress. Furthermore, BSA welcomes the emphasis of training as method for "greening government procurement processes" as shown in such exercises as energy benchmarking workshops, environment training courses and seminars on waste minimisation. Ideally these are organised in co-operation with the private contracting partner in order to make most efficient use of sharing information and establishing best practices.

  However, BSA would like to stress that raising awareness still has to be a parallel development to business principles and economic targets that need to be set in the context of competitive markets in which private organisations have to survive.

3.  Implementation and Management

  Similar to corporate social responsibility, sustainable development has to become embedded in organisational management, culture and hence policy-making both in the public as well as private sector in order to be an effective concept on an international level.

  Therefore, BSA supports the introduction of policy screenings for potential impacts on social and environmental sustainability. Especially in the process of public procurement, these factors can play an important role in determining the level of compliance. In this context, BSA wholly approves of steps taken by, for example, the MoD in carrying out environmental policy appraisals for all new policies and projects and cross-government schemes for targets for the purchase of renewable energy and the reduction of water consumption and waste levels.

  Regarding energy target management, the biggest obstacle to good performance is the lack of available data, whereas issues of waste centre around affordability and productivity of recycling and recovery methods.

  In all these pioneering departmental projects, BSA stresses the need to include private sector service providers in their efforts. The value of incorporation is currently seriously underestimated and needs to change if sustainable development should development into general business practice.

  A specific are of interest in this discussion is procurement, where collective government purchasing power is estimated at over £25 billion. Thus, the potential impact on transforming markets through establishing new factors such as environmental and social considerations as part of the procurement process seems more than obvious.

  Therefore, BSA accepts the effort of government departments in setting up environmental assessment tools as part of contract management. As long as criteria and monitoring mechanisms are clear and well defined, BSA welcomes the environmental progress in procurement. However, audits and reviews have to be undertaken in a joint manner and BSA would strongly disagree with different standards set for public and private service providers on this subject.

4.  Sustainable development and wider markets

  This section refers primarily to the management and maintenance of publicly owned properties and land. Especially NHS Estates Agency has shown considerable awareness for environmental implications of its assets. Energy efficiency and waste management are the key elements and again private sector involvement in providing services in this area should not be undervalued.

  Efforts for greening government and its agencies undoubtedly have wider implications for market development and national policy direction, thus affecting businesses and consumers in every sector of industry. Therefore, BSA sees it as a positive sign of realistic government commitment to continuous progress that business needs and perspectives are incorporated into the development for sustainable development strategies.


  Undoubtedly, there remains great scope for improvement and expansion of projects on sustainable development in the public as well as in the private sector. Nonetheless, BSA acknowledges the serious efforts of government departments introducing more efficient ways of managing resources, in particular through innovation and new considerations being included in the procurement of government services.

  As concepts like sustainable development require large scale, international implementation to be effective, the UK government progress should then be seen as part of a long term, ongoing concern rather than measured in short term changes and policies.

  With the long term ambition of the EU to become the most competitive, dynamic economy in the world bases on sustainable growth and greater social coherence, environmental issues have become an increasingly important factor in policy making. Thus, awareness and training in sustainable development are imminent in business and government areas. However, in the private economy the majority of the practical implementation will follow a market based leadership.

  BSA fully supports the government's contribution to raising awareness and training in its department through a whole variety of projects and the appointment of senior officials dealing with these new issues.

February 2002

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