Sustainable procurement

NS purchases over €1 billion of goods and services annually. As the purchasing party, NS can exert an influence on suppliers to get them to make their products and processes more sustainable. This lets them make a major contribution to our sustainability objectives.
Our CSR requirements are stated in the procurement governance rules and are also embedded in the General Terms and Conditions of Purchase ( We also work closely with market players and challenge them to submit innovative and sustainable offers. We are using the following initiatives to carry out our steering role:

  • Supplier assessments

Since 2014 we have been carrying out Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) assessments at our biggest suppliers, looking to see how they handle aspects such as the environment, the social and ethical sides, and the supply chain. Scores make it possible to compare suppliers and estimate the risks. Assessments were also used in 2015 for awarding contracts. The CSR assessment is mandatory for parties who are awarded a contract. NS is working together with DB, SNCF, Alstom, Bombardier and Knorr Bremse on the Railsponsible initiative, with the aim of using it as the standard methodology within the rail industry.

  • Making procurement more sustainable by using tendering plans and ‘circular’ purchasing (i.e. looking at recycling etc.)

NS uses a tendering plan for its EU tendering activities. This is an internal document that describes the process steps that are needed when preparing an invitation to tender. The tendering plan uses Socially Responsible Procurement (SRP) for describing the selection and award criteria. These criteria were embedded within the plan in 2015.

  • Code of conduct for suppliers with the biggest spend

Every year, suppliers are asked to subscribe to our codes of conduct, if they have not already done so. The code of conduct explicitly states the conditions under which we want to do business with suppliers. One general requirement, for instance, is that suppliers must shoulder their share of responsibility in socially aware business practices and subscribe to the principles encapsulated in relevant standards, as laid down in such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and organisations such as the ILO, OECD and ICC.

The code became part of the contract for new suppliers in 2015. NS arranges for an independent party to check whether suppliers are complying with the code of conduct. If the code is not observed or if there are infringements, we first assess the risk. Then we start discussions with the supplier and ask for an improvement plan. In cases of serious violations such as corruption, a decision to terminate the relationship may be made. Exclusion criteria also apply to subcontractors used by our suppliers.

NS subscribes to the code of conduct drawn up by NEVI, the Dutch association for purchasing management, which provides guidelines for acting ethically and for fair business practices (Guide to responsible procurement, NEVI 2012). NS has drawn up a policy to prevent bribery and corruption. As part of the implementation, all purchasers are taking an e-learning module on Ethics & Compliance, and attention is being paid to the importance of the proper observance of the policy.