Green Business HQ event showing group of men sitting at table actively in discussion

What does it take to be a preferred supplier in 2023? The mandate for sustainability as part of any Request for Proposal (RFP) tender process has become much more prevalent. With some tender processes allocating as much as 10-20% of the points achievable to sustainability and social outcomes.

Room to improve bid responses 

When assessing bids we are seeing a mixed response:

  • Some businesses really have their house in order with all of their sustainability certifications and related documentation in place. These businesses are clearly articulating what they bring to the table for the business, organisation or project being assessed and are demonstrating an appetite for further innovation and partnership.
  • For others it is clear they need to put in more time and effort.  I clearly remember assessing one bid where the business had submitted a 30-page marketing document about their commitment to sustainability. No matter how many times I looked through it I couldn’t find one clear way in which they had actioned sustainability within their business or were offering a more sustainable service.
  • Other businesses still simply leave these sections blank and all these points on the table as a result.


“An old friend approached me recently to see if I could help him work out why his business was repeatedly missing out on tenders.  I outlined all the things that I would be looking for and then we compared his businesses website with his competitors. While on the surface his product may have been more sustainable the competitor had all the critical information I would look for readily available. There were few of the key ingredients that a sustainability or procurement manager looks for when scoring a bids sustainability section available from his business in comparison.”

Minimum Requirements 

It is important to realise that while sustainability may still seem like a fluffy subject to some, market expectations – particularly for the public sector in New Zealand – have shifted dramatically.  Many large organisations are now making sustainability requirements mandatory. Meaning that if you are not prepared you will not only miss out on the 5-20% point allocation on offer but you also risk being excluded from the bid entirely for not meeting the organisation’s minimum requirements. Your sustainability performance can be a deal breaker.

Shift from Qualitative to Quantitative 

The sustainability assessments being made by organisations as part of the tender process are also becoming less subjective. Resulting in a need for more quantitative information and comprehensive analysis across the whole life cycle of the product or service offered.

As part of the bid assessment process risks, benefits and opportunities to work with your business are being examined with an environmental and social lens. Will you increase or decrease carbon emissions, is there a risk or potential boost to the organisations reputation in working with you, are you using unsustainable materials or inefficient products or leading the way on resource efficiency, are you able to comply with legislative requirements, is your supply chain being paid fairly, are you encouraging diversity and most importantly are you able to substantiate your claims?

Sustainability strategy more than ever before – is simply good business strategy. To keep winning RFPs sustainability needs to be fully integrated into your products, services and how your business operates.