Commercial and Procurement Services


Checklist for responsible buying

See below for a list of questions to support and guide you in making responsible procurement and buying decisions.

UCL has a commitment to environmental sustainability as one of our core values. We are also working with suppliers to identify risks of and eradicate modern slavery in the supply chain, and work with a number of social enterprises. Check our responsible procurement section for more details.

Before making a purchase or starting a procurement process, go through our checklist for responsible buying.

Additional information on responsible buying is available for specific goods/services through the find a supplier pages.

What does responsible procurement mean?

UCL has a commitment to environmental sustainability as one of our core values.

Commercial and Procurement Services work closely with Sustainability to ensure that ethical, social and sustainability standards are maintained across all of our supply chain.

  • We report our carbon emissions resulting from items that we purchase – this includes the materials used to build goods, manufacturing processes, packaging, shipping and ultimate disposal at end of life.
  • We are working with suppliers to identify risks of and eradicate modern slavery in the supply chain.
  • We also work with a number of social enterprises.

For more details, visit responsible procurement.

How can I help? How can I be a responsible buyer?

Ask questions of suppliers.

  • What materials are used in the goods? Is the supplier accredited with any of the sustainability charter providers? C&PS and Sustainability teams are willing to support any discussions.
  • Where and how are the goods manufactured? How are they packaged and shipped?
  • Does the supplier operate a recycling scheme? Is it possible to source goods that are made closer to site?
  • Does the supplier operate a carbon offsetting programme if they are unable to reduce their carbon footprint?
  • What are the most sustainable operating methods and can the goods be used by other types of customer once it is no longer economic for UCL to use the goods?
  • If buying clothing (uniforms, merchandise, Personal Protective Equipment) is the supplier able to provide details on place of manufacture? Is the supplier registered with bodies such as Open Apparel Registry?
Do I actually need to buy it?

The most environmentally sustainable option is to avoid unnecessary purchases.

Can you find an alternative elsewhere in the university? We have a number of reuse portals to help unwanted items find new homes.

Visit our page on Circular Economy.

Even better, do you have an idea on how to reuse items? If so UCL would like to hear from you. – Contact procurement@ucl.ac.uk

What is it made of?

As a consumer, you should question the materials that products are made of. On each of our guides you will find useful information on standards and labels that demonstrate sustainable material usage for these areas.

Under what conditions was it made?

You should question how the product was made.

UCL is engaging with all contracted suppliers to ensure they pay their staff a real living wage and committed to ensuring that there is no Modern Day Slavery or human trafficking in our supply chains or in any part of our business.

UCL publishes its Modern Day Slavery Statement annually outlining the steps we have taken to address this risk.

All suppliers with annual turnover of £36m+ per annum are required by English law to publish a statement on steps they have taken to reduce/remove modern slavery from their supply chain. This can normally be found at the bottom of the home page on their internet.

How far has it travelled?

You should seek to source products from as near as possible to minimise the distance travelled. This causes less harm to the environment.

Ask yourself, can you get this product from a supplier nearer to UCL?

UCL supports buying locally. Local suppliers may be, although not always, small and medium size enterprises (SMEs).

Promoting the use of local suppliers demonstrates investment in the community, close proximity makes it far easier to travel to them for supplier development and contract management purposes, supply chains are generally shorter leading to greater certainty and predictability of delivery times.

How can it be disposed of?

Nearly all products will come to the end of its life. If the item still has value, you may want to consider putting it on WARPit. This way, somebody else will take it hassle free, the item is reused and UCL saves money.

Suppliers may have take-back schemes. For example this is commonplace with IT hardware. It may even be mandatory as with white goods products. In the product guide for product category you will be able to find out if this applies to the product.

If you are unsure about to how to dispose of an item you should visit UCL's waste page.

What is it packaged in?

Products are often packaged heavily. You should understand what the packaging is made of. Is the packaging made from recycle materials and can it itself be recycled? You may even be able to request the supplier to reduce the packaging. You should plan ahead, and find out how to sustainability dispose of waste packaging.

Visit our UCL's waste page.

How will it be used?

Understanding a product’s intended use can help steer your purchase.

  • Is it sufficiently durable to meet the rigours of work?
  • How often will it be used? For example if a computer is intended to be on for a long period of time, it may be cheaper in the longer run to buy a more energy efficient computer despite having higher purchase costs.