For smaller organisations these questions are often a major stumbling block for two reasons:
No 1. Many organisations have not got an ISO14001 environmental management system or any evidence to support their claims
No 2. Some organisations are so put off by these questions that they decide not to submit a proposal
This article provides guidance to help you address both these concerns and also have confidence that your answers will score highly when evaluated.
Environmental Tender Questions
Procurement bodies, especially in the public sector, generally include environmental questions in a tender to help them filter out the weaker bids.
The environmental section of the tender usually equates to 10%-20% of the total evaluation mark – enough to tip a bid in your favour if you illustrate the right delivery capabilities and are competitive in terms of value for money.
Here is a typical evaluation criteria matrix from a recent tender I had to complete.
Notice the 20% Mark for sustainability performance – this is significant!
So to make sure you have all the ammunition for a great response, here are the key types of questions and responses that you should be prepared for.
No 1. Do you operate a formal environmental management system (EMS)?
Now, if you have a formal EMS such as ISO 14001 you can go to town here with your description of the system.
In this article we assume that you do not have a formal EMS but have undertaken some environmental activities. So what do you say?
Firstly state that you have reviewed the applicability of ISO14001 for your business (which you should have done if you are reading this blog) and that due to the size of your business and nature of work, concluded that a formal system is not yet warranted.
Then state that as a responsible business you have however taken a number of steps to manage your environmental impact.
Here you can list all the activities that you have done (i.e. measurement of your carbon footprint and waste production, staff training activities, keeping a register of relevant environmental legislation ect.).
Either way make sure you highlight why you don’t have an EMS and what you have done practically to address your environmental impact
No 2. Do you have an environmental policy?
This question is guaranteed to come up so my suggestion is to write an environmental policy that is relevant and robust.
You can find out what to include in your environmental policy here (disclaimer: we believe that this is the market leading environmental policy guide and therefore charge a nominal fee. This is the only paid for resource on the Sustainable Business Toolkit so if you have found the information on the site useful and need a robust policy that you can be proud of we believe you should have a look at our guide).
The policy should really set the tone for your organisations approach to the environment.
Procurement bodies do read then so make sure you take the time to write a good one
No 3. What actions have you taken to reduce your impact on the environment?
Here you should reiterate the actions you mentioned in question 1. Expand on what you have done and what the outcome has been.
Being able to provide facts and figures is key. That is why we really promote the idea of setting targets, implementing KPIs and measuring performance.
A good thing to include here is your carbon footprint measurement and activities you have undertaken to reduce your emissions.
Be specific and detailed instead of woolly (i.e. we have implemented a new recycling scheme that has cut our waste production down by 54%. We now recycle x,y and z. All staff have been engaged in this process of improvement through two clinics that we ran to educate and raise awareness in our organisation. And so on and so on…)
No 4. Do you have a environmental manager?
Again, unless you are a large organisation it is unlikely that you will have a specific environmental manager.
Therefore state that you do not have a specific environmental manager; however do mention staff members who have been instrumental in improving your environmental performance.
You could refer to these people as environmental champions and mention them by name and position. Also mention that your MD oversees all activities and provides senior management support
No 5. What environmental training do you provide to your staff?
It may be likely that you do not provide any specific environmental training to your staff but what you could say is that all staff inductions include a session which reviews the company’s environmental policy and current environmental activities.
If you have provided awareness raising sessions such as emails and other communications to make staff aware of activities then mention that here.
If you haven’t done any training I would encourage you to take the first step and start engaging your staff in the activities you would like to implement. You may be surprised by their enthusiasm and commitment to make improvements. This article explains how you can setup a green team.
There are many ways to reply to environmental questions without having to invest in costly environmental management systems. The key is to ensure you have a bank of evidence to illustrate your environmental commitment.
Further reading recommendations from Amazon:
Written by renowned green business expert Gareth Kane, this practical ‘how-to’ guide contains everything you need to know about making your business green and increasing profits. The Three Secrets of Green Business