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ISO 20400 - everything you need to know

13th June 2017

Liz Watson

Comply Direct's sustainability expert Liz Watson brings you an all you need to know guide to ISO 20400 the new Sustainable Procurement Standard

What is ISO 20400?

The world’s first standard for sustainable procurement. The aim is to drive sustainability in the supply chain. The standard shares some parallels with ISO14001:2015 which unlike the 2004 standard introduces the ability of an organisation to control and influence the supply chain through a life-cycle approach.

What exactly is sustainable procurement?

The committee behind the ISO 20400 standard defined sustainable procurement as:

“Procurement that has the most positive environmental, social and economic impacts possible over the entire life cycle”

What are the benefits for business?

There are a number of benefits for businesses to move towards sustainable procurement, these include:

  • Customer pressure
  • Cost reduction
  • Risk mitigation
  • Legal Compliance (e.g. Modern Slavery Act)
  • Competitive advantage

How is the standard structured?

The standard is structured into 4 sections:

  • Fundamentals
  • Policy and strategy
  • Enablers
  • Procurement process

What are the fundamentals of sustainable procurement?

Fundamental principles include: life cycle approach, ethical behaviour and transparency. 

In the past, it’s been easy for businesses to ignore sustainability in the supply chain. However, with increasing pressure from customers it is becoming more difficult to say “I don’t know”. The standard advocates due diligence and encourages the avoidance of complicity.

Can I get certified?

ISO 20400 is a guidance standard, therefore you can’t get certified against it. However, you can still be audited and advised by a third party; this removes the audit process, and opens up opportunity for open and productive discussion. 

Balfour Beatty is the first company to have been assessed against the standard.


If you would like to talk to our sustainability experts please contact us or to find out about our consultancy service including ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 please click here