Mitigating the environmental impact of CERN procurement

Every year, CERN spends some 500 MCHF on goods and services to build, maintain and operate its infrastructure to fulfil its scientific objectives. These purchases not only come at a financial cost, but also have an impact on the environment through the indirect emissions arising from their procurement. In 2023, CERN reported its procurement-related indirect emissions in the CERN Environment Report for the first time. These amounted to 98 030 tCO2e and 104 974 tCO2e in 2021 and 2022 respectively. To put this in context, this represents more than 90% of CERN’s total indirect emissions, the rest being attributed to personnel mobility, duty travel and catering, and just over 30% of CERN’s total emissions.

CERN strives to be a model for environmentally responsible research by taking action on its most impactful domains, including energy and water consumption and emissions, and setting objectives to minimise its environmental footprint. Adopting measures to positively influence procurement-related emissions is a priority for which a comprehensive strategy has been set out that will commit CERN, its suppliers and each and every one of us to making conscious decisions when purchasing goods or services.

Underpinning this strategy, the Environmentally Responsible Procurement Policy was approved by the Enlarged Directorate in June 2023. Anchored in the principle of embedding environmental responsibility where appropriate throughout all phases of the procurement process, the Policy commits the Organization to environmentally responsible procurement and to achieving sustainable results both internally and throughout its supply chains, integrating relevant best practices in its processes, measuring their impact, and communicating with and raising the awareness of all stakeholders.

In December 2023, the Enlarged Directorate approved the implementation of the Policy, effective from 1 January 2024. This entails a one-year kick-off phase to identify suitable areas for policy implementation, including a comprehensive awareness-raising programme with tailored training for technical officers and workshops for the departments focusing on their purchasing activities.

Additionally, pilot projects will help evaluate the integration of environmental criteria into market surveys and invitations to tender. Procurement officers will have access to a supplier sustainability due diligence tool and guidelines outlining best practices. These resources will equip them with the knowledge they need to assess suppliers based on their sustainability efforts.

Furthermore, a supplier engagement programme will be launched in order to foster discussions on sustainability within our supply chains, aiming to collaborate with and encourage suppliers to adopt sustainable practices.

Overall, this comprehensive implementation plan is designed to ensure a smooth transition towards policy compliance and create a sustainable framework for all stakeholders involved. Successful implementation will depend on all actors in CERN’s supply chains challenging our choices and decisions, from CERN’s IPT department, to CERN personnel involved in purchasing, to the suppliers themselves spanning our 23 Member and 11 Associate Member States, while continuing to strive for balanced returns.

According to Chris Hartley, Head of the IPT Department: “It is of great importance that we have established an Environmentally Responsible Procurement Policy for CERN. All CERN stakeholders want to see CERN continue to minimise its environmental impact. This Policy, underpinned by our progressive commitment to responsible sourcing, waste reduction and supplier engagement, will contribute to a more sustainable future.”

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