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Sustainable Procurement Resource Centre

Special features on SPP

Procurement of Innovation Award winner showcased by euronews

A new video by euronews puts the spotlight on the environmentally friendly wastewater recycling system procured by the Austrian Mint, the purchase of which saw the Austrian Federal Procurement Agency take home the 2015 PPI Award.

The ‘Business Planet’ report looks broadly at how innovation can help SMEs to win public contracts, using the Austrian Mint’s procurement of a wastewater recycling facility from Schell GmbH & CO.KG, a family-run business with around 20 employees, as a particularly fitting example.

Company CEO Sonja Schell spoke about her pride in working with the Austrian Mint to find an innovative solution, and the broader recognition that working with such a major organisation has brought.

The solution provided by Schell GmbH enabled the water required as part of the coin production process to be cleaned and used again, saving 4 million litres of water per year.

Manfred Matzinger-Leopold, the executive director of the Austrian Mint, said that Schell GmbH was chosen as it managed to find the best balance between providing high water quality and price, as well as the system being relatively easy to install and maintain.

The report underlines how procurement of innovative products and services can improve access to markets for SMEs and foster market uptake of innovations.

For more information, visit the euronews website.


At COP21 we set ambitious targets: now let’s act on them

By Mark Hidson, Deputy Regional Director of ICLEI Europe and Global Director of ICLEI’s Sustainable Procurement Centre.

It’s hard to describe the unique combination of hope and doubt that hangs around the UNFCCC negotiations. The stakes are big, the details and discussions complex, and the external pressure from all sides is intense. I spent nearly a week at the COP21 in Paris this December and found my initial cynicism giving way to a tentative optimism as the 195 countries present signed up to a deal that signals a real desire to act.

What made this conference stand apart from previous summits was the attitude of those present. Earlier meetings have ended in disappointment as negotiators dug in their heels, producing last-minute agreements which lacked ambition and pleased nobody. Paris was different. Everybody arrived ready to negotiate, with a genuine recognition on all sides that something had to be done and urgently. The failure of previous COPs fed a desire to succeed here: nothing short of a global agreement could achieve the level of change needed.

The wording of the agreed text is important on three key points. Firstly, countries bound themselves to ensure any global temperature increase remains "well below" 2.0C. The fact that a further promise to "endeavour to limit" this increase even more, to 1.5C, remained in the text is a testimony to the determination of the so-called “high ambition coalition”. It was great to see the cities and local communities recognised as well. They are specifically referenced in the text, showing the importance of their role in finding and implementing low-carbon alternatives. Sustainable patterns of consumption and production were also mentioned, described in the annex to the Agreement as playing “an important role in addressing climate change”.

Of course, a good deal of work remains to be done. The Paris Agreement itself recognises this, with national targets expected to be revised every 5 years. Nonetheless, I believe that this could be a turning point which will enable us to meet head-on the challenges society faces and achieve a resource efficient, low-carbon society if national governments take implementing the agreement seriously. The text has sent a signal to the public and private sector that we need to start implementing the low-carbon solutions we already have and develop new, sustainable technologies.

The task of achieving the goals laid out by national governments will also fall to cities and towns around the world. The goods and services we procure, from renewable electricity to electric municipal waste trucks, will be vital in ensuring a sustainable future. The Global Lead City Network on Sustainable Procurement, which was launched in ICLEI’s TAP Pavilion as the negotiations began in the Blue Zone nearby, is a clear sign that cities are prepared to step up to this challenge. By the end of 2016, the Network’s ten participant cities will have made clear and concrete commitments to use sustainable public procurement to make their societies resource efficient, low carbon and socially responsible. This will send the message that cities are prepared to do their bit in ensuring that the Paris Agreement lives up to its promise.


“Procuring sustainably, leading globally” – First Annual Summit of the Global Lead City Network on Sustainable Procurement

Participants in the Global Lead City Network on Sustainable Procurement (GLCN on SP) joined together on Saturday 5 December at COP21 to celebrate the first annual Summit, held in the Cities & Regions Pavilion - TAP2015.

Auckland, Cape Town, Denver, Ghent, Helsinki, Oslo, Quezon City, Rotterdam, Seoul and Warsaw are all participants of the Network, which is a joint initiative of Seoul Metropolitan Government and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. On the occasion of their first Summit, the 10 cities presented their sustainable procurement activities and achievements, and shared their knowledge and experience. Through leading by example, participants of the Network aim to accelerate the implementation of sustainable purchasing worldwide.

Park Won Soon, Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan Government, was elected chair of the GLCN on SP during the session. “Today is the starting point for more cities around the world to make similar pledges. Let us strive to establish and spread green consumption and production systems around the world,” said Mayor Park.

Mayors, Deputy Mayors and other political representatives from the cities speaking at the Summit highlighted the role of sustainable procurement in combating climate change.

Jin Sun Park, Director of the Climate Change and Sustainability Division of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, referred to the mandatory sustainable procurement policy the city has in place and how they use their own purchasing power to create a green consumption culture. Pekka Sauri, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki, confirmed that the capital of Finland will achieve 100 percent sustainable public procurement by 2020. Pex Langenberg, Deputy Mayor of Rotterdam, announced the city’s commitment to 100 percent sustainable procurement from 2015 onwards.

Len Brown, Mayor of Auckland, explained that over 40,000 streetlights are being replaced by LEDs, saving NZ$36 million over 20 years. Johannes van der Merwe, Councillor of the City of Cape Town, mentioned several initiatives already underway, such as the introduction of sustainable criteria in city fleet vehicles tenders. Leszek Drogosz, Director of Infrastructure of the City of Warsaw, explained that Warsaw is also focusing on sustainable procurement of transport, with 300 trams purchased in the last two years and plans for 100 electric buses in the next four years. Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, Vice Mayor for Environment and Transport of the City of Oslo, emphasised that “SPP is an essential tool to reach Oslo’s goal of being fossil free by 2030.”

With a unified voice, they highlighted the power of local authorities to introduce sustainable criteria in their tenders, in order to improve their citizens’ lives and achieve other social, economic and environmental benefits.

“UNEP is delighted to have the GLCN on SP working on sustainable procurement. We are excited to see the lead action we are all looking for,” said Ligia Noronha, Director, Division of Technology Industry and Economics, UNEP.

Before the end of 2016, all 10 cities will share their commitments within the GLCN on SP, to continue championing sustainable public procurement and public procurement of innovation to make their societies resource efficient, low carbon and socially responsible.

For more information, visit the GLCN on SP website.


Interview: Professor Roberta Sonnino on sustainable food procurement

In an interview for the INNOCAT project, Prof. Roberta Sonnino draws on her extensive research and work with cities in Europe and the USA to provide practical advice for local authorities grappling with sustainable food procurement.

Ms. Sonnino is a Professor in the School of Planning and Geography at Cardiff University, where she directs the Research Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Food and the MSc course Food, Space and Society. Co-author of the book The School Food Revolution, she is an expert on sustainable food procurement in schools and provided input into the INNOCAT School Catering report.

Within the interview, Prof. Sonnino shares insight into the biggest issue facing local authorities when procuring food and catering services: in the face of ever smaller budgets and an increasing pressure to 'buy local', how can public authorities work within the EU legal framework to procure affordable, nutritious and sustainable meals?

The interview gives suggestions for procuring creatively to achieve broader policy aims, and highlights the importance of a supportive legislative framework to ensure public procurement can be leveraged in support of sustainability.

“Cities all over Europe are realising the importance of public procurement as a tool to improve food security and sustainability, but evidence from my research suggests that urban policies flourish especially in countries with a national legislation that supports local action. It is crucial that we harmonise policy goals across different levels of governance and create an enabling environment for local governments that are striving to realise the enormous sustainability potential of public food procurement,” said Prof. Sonnino.

To read the interview in full, download the PDF.


In response to refugee crisis, EU issues advice on working within procurement law

The bloody war in Syria has led many affected families, caught up in the seemingly intractable violence between warring factions, to seek refuge in Europe. Faced with the largest influx of refugees since the end of the Second World War, local governments in countries across the EU are struggling to provide basic services such as shelter and food. Germany, for example, is expecting 800,000 refugees to enter the country by the end of 2015, mandating an urgent need to purchase tents, containers, clothes, blankets, beds, food and other emergency supplies. Many migrants currently find themselves without shelter, a situation that some feel is exacerbated by restrictive procurement laws.

Recognising the exceptional need to purchase supplies, the European Commission has issued a communication on how procurers can work within EU law to source goods quickly and effectively.

Procurements which go above a certain threshold are subject to the EU procurement directives (€5,186,000 for works contracts, €207,000 for supplies and services), which requires publishing a tender notice including adequate criteria – a process that can take weeks or months to conclude. To speed up the process, the EU is encouraging procurers to adopt an "accelerated award procedure", which allows for Directive rules to be relaxed in exceptional circumstances.

The revised rules state that the time given for suppliers to participate is reduced from 15 days to 10 days and stipulates that in some cases public procurers can negotiate directly with a few potential bidders rather than publishing the tender notice in advance.

To apply the accelerated award procedure rules, procurers must prove that they meet three criteria, as outlined in case law from the European Court of Justice. Procurers must show that the situation facing them is urgent and exceptional, and that they had not foreseen the need to purchase supplies in advance. While the refugee crisis can be considered an emergency, and the provision of supplies urgent, procurers must still prove that they were unable to foresee the influx of people they must accept and accommodate in the given time span.

For the purchase of goods below the threshold, national law applies. There are also nuances to the law which the EU communication aims to make clear, such as that the construction of new buildings or the adaption of old buildings to house refugees are covered under EU law, while the renting of buildings and the transformation of existing public infrastructure into accommodation, such as sports halls, army barracks, and schools, is exempt.

While being able to purchase supplies with greater speed is certainly welcome in the current circumstances, local governments should still take a long-term view when purchasing, ensuring that what is being bought is of high quality and sustainably made. Through applying the principles of Sustainable Public Procurement, procurers can achieve better value for money, while minimising the impact on Earth’s scarce resources.

For more information, read the European Commission communication.

Image copyright: UN Photo / Rick Bajornas