Memorandum from Business Services Association
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
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
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
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
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
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.