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Firms must commit to net zero to win major government contracts

The UK government has announced that businesses must commit to net zero by 2050 before they can bid for major government contracts worth more than £5m a year.

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Government Net Zero Contract Commitment
Government Net Zero Contract Commitment

Ministers say the rules will support the government’s plan to build back greener post pandemic by ensuring that potential government suppliers publish plans to reduce carbon emissions across their operations to bid for major government contracts.

By September, suppliers bidding for contracts above £5m a year will need to have committed to the government’s target of net zero by 2050 detailed in a published carbon reduction plan. Firms which fail to do so will be excluded from bidding for the contract.

Lord Agnew, minister for efficiency and transformation, said:

“The government spends more than £290bn on procurement every year, so it’s important we use this purchasing power to help transform our economy to net zero. Requiring companies to report and commit to reducing their carbon emissions before bidding for public work is a key part of our world leading approach. These measures will help green our economy, while not overly burdening businesses, particularly SMEs.”

A carbon reduction plan sets out where an organisation’s emissions come from and the environmental management measures that they have in place. Some large companies already self-report parts of their carbon emissions, known as Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (indirect owned) emissions.

The new rules will go further, requiring the reporting of some Scope 3 emissions, including business travel, employee commuting, transportation, distribution and waste. Scope 3 emissions represent a significant proportion of an organisation’s carbon footprint.

Ministers say the new rules drive forward the government’s green agenda, while also striking a balance to not overly burden and potentially exclude small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from bidding for government work.

Tom Thackray, director of infrastructure and energy at the CBI, said:

“The CBI has long supported using procurement policy to ensure government spending supports the UK’s environmental objectives and these changes will encourage more firms across the country to demonstrate their own commitment to net zero when bidding for government contracts. Partnership between the public and private sectors can make the UK a global role-model, not only in delivering vital public services but working together to tackle climate change.”

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