Sustainable procurement and whole life costing

Each year, we spend over £20 million on goods and services, much of which has a significant environmental impact. We try to minimise the negative environmental and social impacts of the purchases we make and look for ways to make positive impacts through our purchasing choices.  


There are several Fair Trade schemes (PDF, 200kB) in existence at present. At the University we are committed to purchasing in a way that benefits the 

communities and economies of producers. We are striving to become a Fairtrade Foundation-accredited Fairtrade University. To achieve this accreditation, we are working to meet the five goals set by the Fairtrade Foundation:

  • passing a Fairtrade policy,
  • stocking and promoting Fairtrade goods across the University,
  • using Fairtrade products at University and Students' Union meetings,
  • organising Fairtrade campaigns,
  • establishing a Fairtrade steering group.

Find out more about our commitment to sustainable and ethical food.

Environmental considerations

When we make purchasing decisions, we always consider the life-cycle of the product. This involves considering all the environmental impacts associated with manufacture, usage, and eventual disopsal. Considering life cycles in this way helps to reduce waste and pollution, while conserving natural resources.

Economic benefits

By carefully considering what we buy - and who we buy it from - we also benefit from cost savings.

Introduction to whole life costing

John Maynard Keynes once said:

“It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.” 

We all make decisions on a daily basis and we base our judgements on the information we have at hand at the time. We often need to make decisions quickly and usually need to consider competing priorities. We do the best we can. 

However, quick decisions can sometimes prove costly. Longer-term implications not fully considered can result in unintended consequences that impact on resource or capacity; with hindsight, we would have made a different decision. 

Whole Life Costing is simply a way of making the best possible decisions on behalf of The University. It offers an approach that supports critical thinking before a final decision is reached using practical examples. It is intended to help staff feel supported when making decisions. 

These pages offer an outline of the ethos and approach in addition to tools and techniques that can be used to help improve decision making. We accept that no decision will be perfect but we are keen to employ a consistent approach to allow us to improve.

Did you know?

Our new furniture contract includes 10% of purchases being re-manufactured. 

University wins three Fair Trade awards

In March 2019, the University of Bristol won three silver South West Fair Trade Business Awards! The awards recognised our achievements in the categories of Best Fair Trade University or College, Best Fair Trade Café or Restaurant, and Best Fair Trade Accommodation or Conference Centre. Read the full news story here!

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