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Sustainable procurement isn’t just about prices but also about quality

The head of the Public Tender Office at the MU Rector’s Office, Martin Hadaš, views socially responsible procurement and awarding public contracts as a duty or a necessity if the university wants to manage public funds in a meaningful way.

The head of the Public Tender Office at the MU Rector’s Office, Martin Hadaš.

Masaryk University seeks out sustainable and socially responsible solutions, and one such solution is the responsible awarding of public contracts, which since 2009 have been awarded electronically. MU owns 123 properties worth 16 billion crowns, which opens up considerable scope for taking into account the social and environmental aspects of public procurement. In 2016 the university signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, thereby subscribing to the principles of socially responsible public procurement.

What should MU employees and students understand by the term sustainable procurement?
Sustainable or responsible procurement from the perspective of the university means that we acquire products, services, and construction work that we as an organization need, and we endeavour to gain maximum value for our money while benefiting society and the economy and minimizing environmental impacts. It is procurement that takes into account not only economic aspects but also social and environmental ones. Our goal is that all employees involved in the public procurement process routinely, automatically consider how, through our purchasing activities, we contribute to improving people’s lives and health, protecting the environment, and supporting a free, cohesive, and safe society.

You mentioned taking into consideration social and environmental aspects. How?
As I’ve already mentioned, in the procurement process we are trying to focus not just on price but also on quality. We are interested in the working conditions of the employees of our suppliers and their subcontractors – safety, dignity, wages. We also want our suppliers to prioritize environmentally friendly products and procedures. As a university we have established priorities in our draft responsible procurement strategy. They are procurement focused on quality, transparent communication and cooperation, reducing the administrative burdens of the procurement process, supporting dignified and fair conditions in the supply chain, and prioritizing environmentally friendly solutions.

How do you personally view the role of Masaryk University and the Public Tender Office in the responsible procurement process?
The university educates and forms future politicians, managers, teachers, consumers. Sustainable resource management and responsible organization management are important topics in all the chapters of the new Masaryk University Strategic Plan for 2021 to 2028. Our office’s task is to introduce discussions about sustainability into the university procurement process. To prepare in conjunction with colleagues from MU’s faculties and other institutes a sustainable procurement strategy, to present this strategy to employees, to communicate with suppliers, partner organizations, grant providers, and supervisory bodies.

Have you found inspiration for your work and that of your office abroad?
Yes. I try to get out there and learn something new as much as possible. I first had the opportunity in 2014, when I went to Berlin for a two-day seminar about public procurement in science and research. The seminar was attended by 14 representatives from leading European universities, such as Karolinska Institute, Utrecht University, the University of Copenhagen, Lund University, and others. This event really opened my eyes. I learned, for example, that the procurement offices of foreign universities, unlike of Czech ones, employ hardly any lawyers. That our foreign colleagues, procurement specialists, do not deal as much as we do with processes, procedures, and laws, but to a greater extent they communicate and cooperate with suppliers, they know the market, use excellent evaluation criteria, and negotiate with suppliers. After this experience, I applied to the ERASMUS+ programme, and in early 2016 I went for a four-day placement at the University of Edinburgh, in 2019 I was at the University of Copenhagen, and this year I would like to visit the procurement department of the University of Helsinki. In 2019, thanks to my colleagues at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, I had the opportunity to take part in a three-day business trip to London, where we met with procurement officers working for the municipal transport authority and two university procurement consortiums, and representatives from 18 other British universities.

In 2018 the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs awarded the university for responsible public procurement. For what exactly?
For implementing the principles of socially responsible public procurement and for contributing to its development in the Czech Republic. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs introduced the concept of socially responsible public procurement in the Czech Republic and is continuing to develop it.

Has Masaryk University received any other awards related to sustainable procurement?
There is one thing worth mentioning, but it is not a prize. In June 2018, the European Commission published a study about good practice at Masaryk University on procuring promotional sweatshirts made from organic cotton. These sweatshirts can be purchased from Munishop.

Where else, for example, in your professional and personal life are you trying to introduce the idea of sustainability?
At home, just like at the university. When shopping, we don’t take into consideration only the price. We try not to waste water and other resources. We recycle, and we try to limit how much waste we produce. With our extended family, we share children’s clothing and sports equipment. We talk about these issues with our children.
You can find information and news about MU’s sustainability-related projects here.