Clear About Carbon: Leading Sustainable Procurement in the Public and Private Sector
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Exeter
Unit of AssessmentBusiness and Management Studies
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services: Business and Management
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
Summary of the impact
Research at the University of Exeter Business School (UoEBS) has embedded
low carbon practice into the procurement policies and supply chains of
several Cornish private and public sector organisations — including police
and health authorities, education and council institutions. Through the
Clear About Carbon (CAC) project, innovative methods to nurture leadership
qualities which advance sustainable practice locally have led to those
models being replicated both nationally and Europe-wide as part of the
global drive to meet emissions targets. The research has contributed to
sustainability initiatives led by the Department of Health and Defra, and
boosted economic competitiveness of participating organisations.
The UK government's pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 has
heightened the importance of fostering a high level of carbon literacy
within private businesses and the public sector. Interdisciplinary
research at the UoEBS has been central to the CAC project, which is part
of a European Social Fund (ESF) financed programme to develop leadership
and management skills in order to reduce carbon in organizational
procurement and supply chains. In collaboration with Cornwall Development
Company, Duchy College Rural Business School and the Eden Project, the
research team has worked with staff in Cornish organisations to create new
management and leadership models that could be replicated nationally.
The UoEBS research team, led by Professor Annie Pye (joined Exeter,
2007), has combined different research disciplines to work with Cornish
organisations to bring about change in management practice. These include:
leadership, purchasing and supply chain management, and environment
management and sustainability. The team has also made innovative use of
Action Learning Set (ALS) methodology — a structured process of
experiential group learning, and developing action, through discussion and
reflection — successfully and effectively to bring about change in
In devising the ALSs, the academics drew on previous research by Pye,
exploring leading and organizing, and collective sensemaking. Pye (i)
reframed leadership and organizing in terms of sensemaking throughout
organising, highlighting how all employees play a part in shaping
direction and decision making within organisations, i.e. as shared
leadership. The study was also underpinned by research carried out by
Howard (joined Exeter in 2009) into lean process mapping, procurement and
supply chain leadership (ii), and research into environmental
management and sustainability (iii).
The participants in the CAC research were typically middle to senior
managers or procurement specialists. Participating organisations included
the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary, NHS Peninsula Purchasing &
Supply Alliance (PPSA), and Chaffins Foodservice plc. Forty two
participants from seventeen different organisations took part in six,
monthly workshops in which they were encouraged to help each other to
devise ways to lower the carbon content within their supply chains.
Workshops exploring process mapping also raised awareness of the potential
scale of changes to existing processes, heightening participants'
motivation to engage in action learning and develop change in practice.
The academics gathered data on how leaders learn to solve problems and
processes related to developing low carbon procurement practices, and have
presented their findings in papers (for conferences and publication
between 2010-2013) on the enablers and obstacles to leading such change in
References to the research
Publications (i), (ii) and (iii) describe the underpinning
intellectual framework which has contributed to the theoretical basis on
which this empirical study has been developed. Publications (iv), (v) and
(vi) reflect the outputs from the ongoing work.
i. Pye (2005) Leading and organizing: sensemaking in action. Leadership,
1(1): 35-50. (new journal). This paper has been recorded by the journal as
the most downloaded paper from Leadership in 2012-2013.
ii. Johnsen,T, Howard M and Miemczyk, J (2009) UK defence change and the
impact on supply relationships, Supply Chain Management: An
International Journal, 14(4): 270-279.
iii. Correia (2010). The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in
Protected Areas: different perspectives and experiences. In Lopez, D. ed.
Turismo y Gestion de Espacios Protegidos. Valencia: Tirant
Editorial lo Blanch. pp. 149-166.
iv. Correia, Howard, Hawkins, Pye and Lamming (2013): `Low Carbon
Procurement: An Emerging Agenda', Journal of Purchasing & Supply
Management. 19: 58-64. (2* in ABS).
v. Hawkins, Pye, Correia and Howard (2011), `Ethical Complexities in Low
Carbon Leadership'. Peer reviewed paper presented to the International
Studying Leadership Conference 2012, Bristol.
vi. Howard, Correia, Hawkins, and Pye (2012), `Clear About Carbon? Using
Lean in Low Carbon Supply Chain Implementation'. Peer reviewed paper
presented to British Academy of Management Annual Conference, Cardiff.
Research Grants (in ascending chronological order)
(a) Prof Annie Pye: European Social Fund `Clear About Carbon `.Project
Value: £799,581. April 2009 — March 2012. Also granted a 12 month
extension award Project Value: £189,484. April 2012 — March 2013.
Details of the impact
In a climate of budget cuts, sustainability policies and practices often
slip down organisational priority lists. However, research at the UoEBS
has resulted in several public and private organisations in Cornwall
implementing low carbon procurement practices, some of which are being
used as exemplars elsewhere within the UK and also Europe.
Collaboration between the UoEBS and Cornwall Development Company (a
and 5) shaped the development of a free carbon literacy e-learning
resource for private and public sector employees (http://sd.defra.gov.uk/advice/public/nsppp/carbon-learning/).
Supported by the Department of Health, it was launched by the Defra-led
National Sustainable Public Procurement Programme in September 2011 and
has currently processed over 580 e-learners, including participants from
several UK county councils (e.g. Blackburn) and from as far afield as
Australia, South Africa and India.
The UoEBS's research (iv, v, vi) shaped part of a new
national NHS carbon reduction strategy — Procuring for Carbon Reduction
(P4CR) — which seeks to reduce the organisation's carbon footprint, of
which 60% comes from procurement. Academics used workshops to help senior
managers from the NHS-PPSA (1) (which manages £700m of expenditure
for 17 NHS trusts) to embed low carbon criteria into its procurement
strategy. Several PPSA cases studies were included in DEFRA's carbon
literacy e-learning resource, which was incorporated into the P4CR. With
advice and discussion with the UoEBS, the PPSA developed a Benefits
Tracker Tool that compares cash savings, carbon savings and time savings
for public contracts. Since April 2012, the tool has been used to
calculate financial and carbon savings in all PPSA procurement contracts.
Via a programme of ALSs, the UoEBS has helped prioritise sustainability
at Devon & Cornwall Constabulary, despite the force losing over 1200
staff in 2011/12. The Constabulary confirmed that the research project has
enabled them to implement changes far quicker than if working
independently. For example: most stations in the region now employ a
sustainability champion to oversee low carbon processes; an award scheme
for best practice was launched at the Force Sustainability Day (March
2012) and highlighted other notable achievements, including the reduction
of heating across the Force's estate by two degrees, saving £150,000
annually; introduction of solar heating panels at sites, and contracts for
scrap metal recycling; development of a sustainability checklist for each
station (set to be rolled out nationally): and car sharing to reduce their
fleet by 20%. This was featured in the official UK police magazine
Billboard, raising awareness nationally. The ALSs also facilitated change
in the Constabulary's catering procurement policy, resulting in a local,
organic food company winning a tender to supply catering services to the
regional headquarters. The Constabulary's Estates Procurement Manager (2)
stated that the ALS have helped him to draw up a new green building policy
and embed low carbon criteria in procurement, as well as clarifying the
areas of his work where change is necessary. As a consequence of these
actions, Devon and Cornwall Police recently received the "Most Sustainable
Public Sector Organisation in Emergency Services" award and credited CAC
as being a significant partner in this achievement.
Cornwall College Group (CCG) (3) drew on the ALSs to overhaul its
procurement system, combining the separate processes for each of its six
campuses into one more efficient policy. The college's senior management
purchased a new e-procurement system in 2012, with the cost of the system
expected to be recouped several times over through long-term savings. The
IT department of the College made significant savings through decreasing
the number of servers used (leading to a reduction in energy costs from
£62K to £4K), reducing the size of its computer fleet by 10% (with an
associated energy saving of £13.5K) and through changing its equipment
replacement policy (making savings of £9K per year). A change in the
College's print management process resulted in:
- a 60% reduction in the number of devices
- an increase of duplex printing from 5% to 67%, saving £40K and 4m
sheet of paper
- a reduction of colour printing from 25% to 8%
- waste reduction through deletion of non-collected print jobs, saving
£70K and 2m sheets of paper
- an estimated energy saving of £20K per annum
- a change in staff travel policy, to encourage inter-campus travel by
bus or train
As a result of the ALS, Eden Project (4) restructured its
procurement processes to better reflect the sustainable ethos of the
organisation — the Sustainable Buying Policy subsequently established
within this department is intended to be rolled out throughout Eden.
The UoEBS's research has improved the ability of Cornish SMEs to respond
to the low carbon agenda, particularly in securing contracts with public
purchasers. The ALS methodology was adapted into one-day `Carbon
Leadership' roundtable programme in 2011 for senior managers from ten SMEs
in Cornwall. The first West Cornwall Food Manufacture Low Carbon
Roundtable, jointly organised with CCG, continues to sit with regional
businesses to discuss current sustainability issues. The business support
manager of Chaffins Foodservice has embedded sustainable processes into
the company's operations and described the workshops as the "...best two
hours of my working life".
UoEBS academics have actively disseminated research outcomes to
practitioners. They organised seminars for the South West branch of the
Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS), the Institute of
Directors and the Carbon Matters conference for Cornish businesses in
2011. In addition, the team also developed a shorter form of dissemination
called Roundtables in Carbon Leadership in order to reach SMEs which could
not afford the ALS time commitment. Feedback from participants included
comments such as: "It's been very inspiring......I'm going away now
with something I can work on, and that's really good". The team has
published articles in The European Financial Review (circulation of over
71,000) in January 2012 and Supply Management, the CIPS magazine
(circulation over 43,000), in February 2012. Coverage of the roundtables
has been earmarked for publication by ESF-Works, an online platform that
showcases policy and practice lessons from the 2007-2013 ESF programmes in
the UK. These all supplement a European dimension to the research impact.
The CAC project is unique in using ALS to meet low carbon economy
challenges via procurement practices, and in 2011 received an ESF
Sustainable Development Specialist Project Leader Award, and in 2012 a
Cornwall Works WISE Award for Innovation.
Sources to corroborate the impact
Procurement Director; NHS-Peninsula Purchasing and Supply Alliance
Corroboration of change through development of a benefits tracker
tool and also impact of the P4CR implementation in NHS, and its use in
Procurement Category Manager; Devon & Cornwall Police
Constabulary Corroboration of how the ALS identified changes
in procurement, and the resultant improvements recognised by the award
Acting Chief Executive; Cornwall College Group Corroboration
of the changes implemented and savings made as a result of the ALS.
Procurement Director; Eden Project Corroboration of the
change to procurement policy and practices that resulted from
participation in the ALS.
Carbon Policy Officer (now Procurement Officer at Cornwall
Council); Cornwall Development Company (CDC) Corroboration of
the changes and improvements to procurement and supply chain
leadership and management at CDC and now Cornwall Council.
Clear About Carbon (2012) Raising carbon literacy
[online] Available at: http://www.clearaboutcarbon.co.uk/index.php