Navigating public sector frameworks for a more sustainable future

It’s not just about considering price, but also the eco-credentials of suppliers and their products

Public sector frameworks can sometimes feel like a ‘black box’ for educational institutions; yet, they’re crucial for collaborative, quality and fair procurement, and enable more sustainable technology investments.

While it can be possible for education decision-makers to perform their own tender/contract process to find a supplier, it can be lengthy and time consuming. Centralised frameworks bring a pre-vetted choice of reputable suppliers that can serve the multiple requirements of education institutions, such as ICT, office supplies, facilities management, utilities etc. The process of procurement for essential equipment or services is quicker and more efficient.

Within the education sector, frameworks range from ‘one-stop-shops’ such as the Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC), to specialist areas, such as the NEPA 2 (National Education Printer Agreement), which specifically covers print production hardware and print management solutions and services.

Such frameworks provide collaborative procurement expertise and guidance, and ensure agreements support educational establishment’s needs and values.

The efforts by the UK government’s Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) to save money and transform the way public services are delivered is also making the use of frameworks particularly important.

As ever, educational institutions are under pressure to deliver high standards of teaching. Frameworks help institutions to create the engaging learning environments that are needed to support this goal, from the equipment used in the classroom to the printers in the bursar’s office.

Here are some of the reasons why frameworks, work:

Contracts are scrutinised

All framework suppliers and their contracts are thoroughly scrutinised to ensure they meet all public sector regulations and are protected by procurement law. This includes business strategies, quality standards, sustainability policies, device location management and more, and results in a single agreed document.

Contract notices and procurement notices valued over a certain amount must also be posted through Find a Tender or the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) process, that adds further assurances and a neutral point of contact.

Any contracts signed outside of a framework leave educational institutions on their own if they go wrong, so carry great potential risk.

Measurement is clear

Choosing a supplier through a public sector framework with set contracts means pre-determined terms and conditions, timeframes and strict Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

Both service providers and educational institutions benefit from SLAs, which define the expected service standards, outline the metrics by which that service will be measured, and outline the consequences should that not be the case. As a result, supplier performance can be managed in a structured manner.

Value for money is guaranteed

Whether a school is publicly funded or self-managed, budgets must be spent diligently, and frameworks come with the added benefit of clear pricing schedules.

The choice of established and experienced framework suppliers also means there is no ‘solution shoe horning’ so funds are spent only on what’s required.

Once schools or colleges have chosen a supplier, they can also save time and resources and make repeat purchases easily.

Sustainability can be prioritised

Frameworks are a key enabler for more education institutions to take advantage of sustainable technology. With set suppliers and SLAs, public sector buyers can compare not only the purchase price, but environmental considerations such as logistics, energy consumption and disposal/recycling processes of goods.

“Frameworks are a key enabler for more education institutions to take advantage of sustainable technology”

While sustainable procurement has been part of the agenda for some time in the public sector, it continues to be pushed further due to eco-demands from parents and students alike. The FridaysForFuture school strikes for climate change movement led by Greta Thunberg, for example, really pushed sustainability to the top of the cultural agenda, increasing the pressure on educational institutions.

Investing in the future

Through frameworks, there is no need for procurement leaders to find goods, services, works and utilities themselves. They can shift operations and investments to meet the needs of their institution, reduce their environmental impact and answer the societal needs of our times. That’s a worthy investment in our future.

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