Imperial has committed to integrating sustainability into its procurement practices and supply chain. We are working to upskill our staff and collaborating closely with our suppliers to improve the social and environmental impact of the products and services the university procures.

Procurement is one of our biggest contributors to our scope 3 emissions, as is the case for many organisations.


The importance of sustainable procurement at Imperial

Imperial’s procurement activities have been shown to be one of the largest contributors to the university’s total carbon footprint. Addressing these procurement related emissions is crucial in reducing Imperial’s overall carbon footprint. Additionally, it is also important to consider the broader environmental and societal impacts of our procurement decisions and how we at Imperial can work to mitigate it.

Sustainable procurement: policy, strategy, and guidance/toolkit

Our new sustainable procurement policy, strategy, and guidance/toolkit documents are an important step in formalising Imperial’s sustainable procurement practices. These documents are designed to align our procurement practices with the university’s broader sustainability goals. They are aimed to serve as a valuable resource for all staff members at Imperial involved in procurement.

Responsible procurement

Imperial College London is a member of the Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (SUPC).  SUPC supports the principles of Electronics Watch, an independent monitoring organisation working to achieve respect for labour rights in the global electronics industry through socially responsible public purchasing in Europe.

You can read Imperial's Modern Slavery Statement here.

Frequently asked questions

The new sustainable procurement policy, strategy, and guidance documents are designed to align our procurement practices with Imperial College London’s broader sustainability ambitions, particularly our goals of achieving Net Zero for Scopes 1&2 by 2040 and minimising our wider Scope 3 emissions. These documents outline our commitment and provide guidance to reducing the environmental impact of our procurement activities and promoting social responsibility.

As mentioned, Imperial measures its carbon emissions across three different Scopes (as set out in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol), with Scope 3 covering our external emissions, accounting for 80% of the university’s total footprint. Half of the scope three emissions come from our procurement activities – in other words, the impact of producing and disposing of the goods and services we buy. This highlights the significant impact that our purchasing decisions have on our overall carbon footprint and underscores the importance of integrating sustainability into our procurement processes.

Any member of staff involved in the procurement of goods or services will need to be aware of the new sustainable procurement strategy and considerations they need to take. Guidance on this can be found in the Sustainable Procurement Guidance Pack and Checklist document. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the central procurement team: 

No, it should not make the purchasing of goods or services harder, it will just mean that a greater focus will need to be put on the sustainability credentials of the vendor and their products and services to ensure alignment with Imperial’s broader sustainability ambitions.

No, this is about building sustainability into existing procurement processes, not adding extra processes.  The toolkit provides a simple guide on how to do this in a proportionate way, with a range of approaches to choose from depending on what is relevant to what you are buying. The central procurement and sustainability teams, alongside major purchasers, will lead the supplier engagement work and support colleagues as needed.

We are increasing the sustainability weighting for tendering new contracts to ensure that environmental and social criteria are given greater consideration in our procurement decisions. Major suppliers will now have sustainability criteria accounting for 20% of the evaluation criteria, while smaller suppliers will have a 10% weighting. We define major suppliers as any vendor with specific terms or a contract with Imperial, minor suppliers are those that Imperial deals with on an ad hoc basis but have no preferential treatment. This change in the weighting reflects our commitment to prioritising suppliers who demonstrate strong sustainability performance and encourage broader improvement within our supply chain.

Not necessarily, sometimes the sustainable option means buying less and getting the cost right at a lower cost. Furthermore, those engaging in sustainability may see additional efficiency savings that can equate with more competitive pricing when going to tender. Finally, sustainability will be weighed alongside other criteria and considerations in the procurement process.

This year, we will engage with the top 100 – 150 of our largest suppliers to discuss sustainability ambitions and our expectations. This work will be led by the central procurement team and major purchasers in faculties and operational teams, who have already been given training on sustainable procurement. We believe that this is initially where we can have the biggest impact and likely where there are likely a lot of activities taking place that are not being reported. In time, we plan to reach to more of our suppliers and support our smaller suppliers who may not yet have fully thought about how they can reduce their environmental and social impact.

Not everyone may be familiar with sustainability and procurement concepts, so we are committed to providing resources and support to staff across the college. The Supply Chain School is a great resource for those looking to develop their understanding of developing sustainable supply chains.  For those wanting to know more about sustainability and climate science, the sustainability hub holds several climate literacy courses throughout the year. If you would like to register for the course or have any further questions, please the Sustainability Hub at:

We expect our suppliers to cooperate and support us in our sustainable procurement ambitions. We will be writing to all our suppliers to inform them of this new strategy and highlighting how their support is critical to its success. We will also be informing them of the new sustainability weighting for the tendering of new contacts.

Our suppliers form part of the wider success of Imperial as a leading educational institution. While bigger suppliers will likely have sustainability monitoring process in place, some of our smaller suppliers may not know where to start. At this time, we are thinking about how best we can support them through the knowledge and expertise we have at Imperial. This could be in the form of a supplier conference/education days on sustainability, support with developing life-cycle assessments for their products or ‘how to’ conduct carbon footprints for their organisation.

This work will be led from the central procurement and sustainability teams. We are currently in the process of hiring an in-house sustainable procurement specialist who will be responsible for leading our sustainable procurement efforts. This specialist will work closely with internal stakeholders and external partners to develop and implement sustainable procurement strategies, conduct supplier assessments, and drive continuous improvement. In addition, the Sustainability Hub is currently loaning resource two days a week to the central procurement team to help embed their sustainable procurement practices at Imperial.

We will be launching the procurement tool this summer and it will allow staff to track carbon emissions by faculty and department. This tool will provide valuable insights into the carbon emissions of different procurement activities, enabling staff to make more informed decisions and identify opportunities for reducing emissions.  The tool uses the standard Higher Education sector approach of multiplying spend by relevant emission factors for that type of spend, as used in our Annual Sustainability Report.