Memorandum from the Business Services
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 20 member companies is around £15 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
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.
In reference to this particular inquiry, BSA
welcomes the opportunity to focus on the required balance regarding
fiscal, regulatory and voluntary environmental initiatives and
the co-operation between business, government and interested parties
to ensure sustainable development.
2. GREEN PROCUREMENT
BSA recognises the increasing importance of
environmentally responsible procedures in private companies and
public authorities. However, in the context of procurement, it
seems that existing market forces of competition and legal requirements
of bidding already form a powerful framework where environmental
and social considerations can be taken into account.
"Green purchasing" as suggested on
the EU level offers undoubtedly some possibilities for performance
improvement and sustainable development.
Nonetheless, it is crucial to see these suggestions
in relation to the fundamental need of businesses to survive in
a highly competitive environment and the necessity of individual,
voluntary business development. Therefore, the inclusion of environmental
requirements in procurement procedures will not only increase
the cost of contracts considerably, especially regarding technical
specifications, but will also restrict the scope of innovation,
development and investment opportunities for many private companies
into the public sector.
Regarding long term advantages of environmentally
friendly policies and the inclusion of social considerations into
business decision making and private public partnerships have
to be based on a voluntary scheme in order to show more than lip
service paid to them. To be effectively applied in practice, private
sector companies have to realise for themselves the potential
value of competitive advantage, that stems from notions of responsible
investment, customer pressure and business reputation. Bureaucratic
and complex systems of legal enforcement via environmental taxation
or financial penalties will not achieve a business commitment
to environmental sustainability.
BSA members are actively involved in creating
strong frameworks for responsible business behaviour as far as
obligations to shareholders and business needs allow. A general
trend towards increased emphasis on corporate social (and environmental)
responsibility also brings to light its advantages for partnership
projects as well as individual business objectives. These range
from competitive advantage to image improvement to market opportunities
and express themselves in the nature of relations between different
actors in the supply chain.
Thus, the role of the Government lies not so
much in putting further legislative restrictions on private companies,
but in offering incentives for voluntary schemes and creating
an overall framework for best practice. It is equally important
to evaluate the public authorities in their performance and procedures
so as not to create unequal terms of competition between the sectors.
A more systematic approach would be welcomed, which addresses
current confusions of eligibility for financial support and contradictions
in policy aims within government departments.
4. BUSINESS INITIATIVES
Practical application of environmental responsible
policies usually originate from business initiatives that aim
at combining the need for profit with a wider sense of community
awareness. Here it is vital to create the scope for voluntary
standard setting, as market forces and attitude changes are often
more powerful and direct factors of influence than government
regulations and taxation.
Business awareness of social and environmental
issues does exist and in this context, corporate social responsibility
is a good example of slow but steady progress. Regarding contract
management, private companies are able and willing to incorporate
any specifications of environmental issues into the contract,
but seem to be more aware than their public partner of the impact
on overall cost and nature of the project.
It has to be acknowledged that the level of
business commitment to these issues is as diverse as the business
community itself. Therefore, standardisation does not present
itself as the way forward and BSA recommends a focus on voluntary
standards, set by the business community with the aim of delivering
high quality services, fulfilling stakeholders expectations and
realising their commitments to the environment and society they