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Demystifying ISO 20400 for Sustainable Procurement: A Guideline Standard, Not a Certification

ISO 20400, associated with sustainability and procurement, plays a pivotal role in shaping responsible business practices. Launched in 2017, this international standard was born from experts from all around the world coming together to ensure its applicability to organisations of all sizes and across countries However, a common misconception exists: ISO 20400 is frequently mistaken for a certification standard. What's more, some consulting companies are taking advantage of this confusion by proposing ISO 20400 certification. In this blog post, we aim to clarify the true nature of ISO 20400, emphasising that it operates as a guideline standard, offering valuable recommendations and best practices for sustainable procurement.


The Difference Between Guideline and Certification Standards

ISO 20400 serves as a beacon guiding organisations towards sustainable procurement practices. Yet, unlike certification standards that set specific requirements for compliance, ISO 20400 takes a different path. It provides a comprehensive framework with principles and guidelines, designed to enhance procurement processes in line with sustainability objectives.

Guideline standards, such as ISO 20400, differ significantly from certification standards. While certification standards prescribe precise criteria that organisations must meet for certification, guideline standards offer recommendations, allowing for flexibility in implementation. ISO 20400 doesn't bestow a certification; instead, it empowers organisations to adapt sustainable procurement practices according to their unique contexts.

ISO 20400 promotes responsible sourcing, ethical practices, and environmental considerations. Importantly, it does so without imposing rigid requirements. This adaptability ensures ISO 20400's relevance across diverse industries and organisational structures, no matter your company’s size, geographical footprint or your procurement department maturity.

One of the most pervasive misconceptions is that ISO 20400 certifies organisations for sustainable procurement. In reality, ISO 20400 equips organisations with a toolbox of sustainable procurement guidance. While it doesn't offer a certification, it empowers organisations to forge their paths towards sustainability.


Using ISO 20400 Effectively

Embracing ISO 20400 as a guideline standard yields numerous benefits. It aids organisations in achieving sustainability goals, enhancing their reputation, and nurturing stronger relationships with suppliers. By incorporating ISO 20400's principles, organisations can align their procurement processes with global sustainability objectives.

To harness ISO 20400's potential, organisations should leverage it effectively. They can do this by aligning their procurement practices with the standard's principles, integrating sustainability criteria into supplier assessments, and continually improving their processes. ISO 20400 becomes a dynamic tool for elevating sustainable procurement practices.


In conclusion, ISO 20400 stands as a beacon of guidance for organisations aspiring to incorporate sustainability into their procurement processes. It is essential to clarify that ISO 20400 is not a certification standard; rather, it offers a flexible framework for sustainable procurement. By dispelling the misconception and recognising ISO 20400's true nature, organisations can leverage its guidelines to drive positive change in procurement practices, benefitting both their bottom line and the planet.

We encourage you to explore ISO 20400 as a valuable resource for enhancing sustainable procurement practices in your organisation. Share your thoughts and questions in the comments section, and let's continue the conversation about responsible and ethical procurement while being vigilant against dishonest practices.

If you want to know more about ISO 20400, here is a mine of information:


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