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Green public procurement is the key to sustainable economic growth

By Mark Hidson, Global Director, ICLEI’s Sustainable Procurement Centre

Green public procurement (GPP) is a powerful tool when it comes to achieving local policy goals. In recent years, it has been increasingly recognised as a way to ensure better value for money whilst helping to reach environmental objectives such as reduced emission levels, improved air quality, and better waste management. A good example of this dual benefit is Eastgate Shopping Centre in Harare (Zimbabwe), which was constructed using innovative natural heating and cooling technologies modeled on those found in termite nests. This eco-friendly alternative to air-conditioning not only saved $3.5 million in acquisition costs compared to conventional alternatives but also reduced the total energy consumption of the building by 10 percent, leading to decreases in rent prices for business owners.

The case of Harare shows that GPP has a third aspect: it can act as a tool to stimulate the economy. This is because it uses a more holistic approach to the products and services we pay for. Methodologies such as life-cycle costing enable government authorities to consider all the expenses involved over a product’s lifetime rather than relying purely on purchase price. This gives a much better overview of the real price of a product and allows for externalities such as carbon dioxide and other emissions to be factored into the procurement process.

The benefits of this life cycle approach can be seen in a recent tender for buses in Reading (UK), carried out as part of the Clean Fleets project which is coordinated by ICLEI. The city purchased 34 CNG-fuelled buses. At point of purchase, the CNG buses cost 20 percent more than a conventional diesel bus, but over a 10 year lifetime this is more than compensated for by lower fuel costs, even with the investment required to install appropriate refuelling infrastructure. As well as being the best solution commercially over the course of their lifetime, the buses have helped to significantly improve issues with local air and noise pollution.

It is in cases like these where ICLEI’s long standing expertise comes in. ICLEI has been working in the field of green public procurement for almost twenty years. Our members are amongst the frontrunners in implementation of GPP. A good example of this leadership is the green procurement advisory service set up by ICLEI member Vorarlberg (Austria). It provides support to 96 communities in the renovation and construction of sustainable public buildings. The advisory service offers a database of legally sound technical criteria for use in any building project carried out in the region as well as legal and environmental checks, a product declaration list to be filled out by suppliers and ongoing monitoring to ensure compliance with the contract.

ICLEI’s Global Sustainable Procurement Centre holds key knowledge on how to undertake sustainable procurement. Our approach involves bringing cities together to learn from each other about what works best. We provide support in the form of tailor-made training packages, access to international projects, dedicated networks and conferences to provide a powerful, unified voice for public authorities. Since 2014, we have held the position of Co-Chair of the UN 10 Year Framework Programme on SPP. This allows us to ensure local government efforts to increase sustainable production and consumption are represented at the very highest level. Most recently, the Global Lead Cities Network was launched in April 2015 in partnership with Seoul Metropolitan Government. The network is designed to showcase the global frontrunners in GPP and develop a supportive political framework for sustainable procurement.

The EcoProcura Conference series has been running in Europe since 1998. Organised by ICLEI’s Global Sustainable Procurement Centre, it is the only international forum for dialogue and exchange amongst purchasers, suppliers and policy makers on sustainable public procurement. The EcoProcura China series, organised by the ICLEI East Asia Secretariat, represents ICLEI’s commitment to support Chinese cities in developing GPP based on our own successful experiences.

I was delighted to attend the first ever EcoProcura China symposium in Beijing last October, which brought together participants from across Asia and beyond to discuss their successes and difficulties in implementing more sustainable procurement practices. It was fascinating to learn about the experiences of regions such as the Jiangsu Province and Yixing City, who are putting policies in place for preferential purchasing of energy-saving and environmental-friendly products, or Tianjin City, which is incorporating life-cycle costing methodologies into its procurement activities.

GPP is really starting to take off in Asia and China is at the forefront of this development. Since 2006, the Chinese government has demonstrated a tangible commitment to GPP through the introduction of lists to help local authorities choose environmentally certified products and those which consume less energy. This has led to a significant increase in the number of goods with ecolabels available on the market. During the last 30 years China has achieved rapid economic growth through industrialisation and urbanisation and is now facing a great challenge in tackling the connected issues of environmental degradation, pollution and natural resources depletion. These challenges are not new to us. They are comparable to the issues confronted by Europe and other OECD members and the conversations we have in Europe are very similar to those taking place in Asia.

This is a shortened version of an articles that was published at the Eco-forum Global Annual Conference 2015, which took place from 26-28 June 2015 in Guiyang (China).

New tender templates enable procurers to access the benefits of green public procurement

The use of socially and environmentally sustainable tenders in public procurement is having a transformative effect on the way local governments and suppliers interact, leading to a greener, more carbon-efficient Europe. With lowest-cost no longer the driving factor in public procurement, the traditional way of purchasing is being replaced with a method that not only benefits suppliers and consumers, but helps local governments to meet diverse policy targets.

Today, green public procurement is staking its claim as a vital resource in the battle to curb emissions and build urban areas that can meet the demands of the future.

To aid local authorities who recognise the benefits of such procurement, but who may not know how to design tenders that achieve environmental and social aims, the GPP 2020 project has developed a range of fully replicable tender templates.

These are available for a wide selection of products, services and works, including resource-efficient print and copy management solutions; low-carbon parcel delivery services; and electricity from renewable and high efficiency cogeneration sources.

In total there are now 30 tender models available. Each tender is designed to equip procurers with the necessary knowledge to carry it out. All tenders have been developed as part of the GPP 2020 project.

GPP 2020 is an EU-funded project that aims to mainstream green public procurement across Member States, making the EU’s goals of a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20 percent increase in the share of renewable energy, and a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency a reality by 2020.

Through the use of low-carbon tenders, the project has already saved over 182,000 tonnes of CO2 – a figure that is expected to rise as increasing numbers of public procurers embrace green procurement.

For more information, visit the GPP 2020 website.

Image copyright: Neyo /

EcoProcura conference series calls for host cities

Cities, regional governments and national governments are invited to express their interest in hosting the 10th EcoProcura conference on sustainable public procurement (SPP) and innovation procurement (IP), which is planned for 2017. The long-running EcoProcura series provides a platform for exchange and dialogue amongst purchasers from all levels of government, suppliers and policy-makers on strategies and the latest practical solutions for implementing SPP and IP.

The conferences seek to generate greater awareness, motivate and encourage people, both from a practical and policy perspective, to move forward on the issue of SPP and IP at the local, national, European and international level. The programme will reflect the latest developments in the area of SPP and IP, and will be developed under the coordination of ICLEI.

The conference, which usually lasts for up to two and a half days, contributes to the mainstreaming and development of SPP and IP and presents an ideal opportunity for the host to promote its own SPP and IP activities to a wide audience. It can be combined with national initiatives, projects, and product exhibitions and trade fairs related to SPP and IP.

ICLEI has been working on conference organisation for 25 years and will lead the development of the 10th EcoProcura conference in close cooperation with the host organisation. Responsibilities will be shared between ICLEI, the host and potential further partners, based on an agreed share of tasks. Each edition of the conference series is expected to attract between 250 and 350 participants. English will be the main language during the conference.

EcoProcura conferences can only take place with the generous support of the host city or organisation. The host should therefore take responsibility for securing funding through their own efforts. Funding sources may come from a variety of local, regional, and national organisations from the public and private sector. In several cases in the past it was possible to also obtain support from the host region and national government.

For more information, consult the call for submission of bids. [PDF].

Image copyright: Patrick Henry / City of Ghent

International delegates discuss GPP implementation at EcoProcura China 2015

On 28 June 2015, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability organised the "EcoProcura China 2015: International Dialogue on Green Public Procurement" sub-forum during the Eco-Forum Global Annual Conference in Guiyang (China). About 80 participants attended the meeting, where they exchanged experiences and knowledge on Green Public Procurement (GPP) policies and solutions. Coming from China, Korea, Japan, Germany and Finland, participants included government officials in charge of public procurement, experts, and representatives from business and non-profit organisations.

The EcoProcura China 2015 meeting was organised jointly by ICLEI East Asia Secretariat and Eco-Forum Global, and was supported by programme partners including the Chinese Business Council for Sustainable Development (CBCSD), China Environmental United Certification Centre (CEC), Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute (KEITI) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). It was hosted by the finance department of Guizhou province.

Shu Zhu, Regional Director of ICLEI East Asia Secretariat and ICLEI’s China Representative chaired the meeting. At the opening ceremony, Monika Zimmermann, Deputy Director of ICLEI World Secretariat, welcomed the participants. A pioneer in promoting GPP among local governments, ICLEI held the first EcoProcura in 1998. The programme is a Europe-wide conference series that promotes knowledge and experience exchange on GPP. Mark Hidson, Global Director of ICLEI’s Sustainable Procurement Centre introduced ICLEI’s experience and expertise in this area, including its resources, activities and projects. He also expressed his wish to further cooperate with Chinese local governments.

During the meeting, Gang Zhai, former Director-General, Department of Treasury, Ministry of Finance and Junqing Xi, Deputy Director, Environmental Development Centre, Ministry of Environmental Protection introduced GPP implementation in China, and the policy underpinning it. Farid Yaker, Sustainable Public Procurement Officer at UNEP explained the 10 Year Framework Programme on Sustainable Public Procurement (10YFP) to participants. Launched in 2014, the 10YFP is a global framework of action to enhance international cooperation on sustainable public procurement.

Bonghee Son, Strategy Manager of ICLEI East Asia Secretariat and Mark Hidson chaired the panel discussions on GPP procedures and practices respectively. The panelists included: Qi Zhai, Deputy Secretary General of China Business Council for Sustainable Development; Xiaodan Zhang, General Manager of China Environmental United Certification Centre; Zhaolun Sun, Director of Government Procurement Centre at the Shanghai Municipality; and Dashui Tan, Deputy Director, of SINOPEC MEC.  Speaking from the perspective of business and within China’s policy and legal framework, they discussed how GPP could be more effectively implemented at the local level.

At the panel discussion on GPP practices, Hengbin Liu, Director of Inner Mongolia Municipality’s Government Procurement Centre; Perttu Pohjonen, Environmental Expert and Project Manager of Helsinki City; Weidong Zhou, TSC Managing Director of Greater China at the Sustainable Consortium; and Hyunju Lee, Associate Researcher at the KEITI Sustainability Strategy Office shared the best practices and solutions from their cities and countries, and discussed how to promote city-to-city cooperation on GPP.
One of the most important outcomes from the meeting was the announcement of the Initiative on Green Public Procurement China Partnership – a joint initiative by ICLEI, EFG, CBCSD, CEC, The Sustainable Consortium and The 10 YFP. The Partnership welcomes the participation of any Chinese local government, company or organisation interested in the implementation of GPP at the local level.

“We believe this partnership will provide a platform for facilitating international exchange on GPP solutions between Chinese local governments and relevant stakeholders, as well as promoting the implementation of GPP at the local level,” said Shu Zhu, Regional Director of ICLEI East Asia Secretariat.

ICLEI has almost 20 years of experience in assisting cities worldwide to implement GPP, including raising awareness, developing new methods, and promoting policy development and implementation in Europe and at the global level. EcoProcura China is the first programme organised in China by the ICLEI East Asia Secretariat. The Guiyang sub-forum is the second EcoProcura China meeting, following the first one held in Beijing last year.

Image copyright: ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability

SPRC Resources Section update offers better experience for users

The Sustainable Procurement Resource Centre (SPRC) has undergone a revamp of its user interface, making it easier to access relevant procurement resources than ever before. The SPRC contains hundreds of resources in a range of languages, providing detailed support for procurers and other stakeholders that wish to engage in more efficient and effective sustainable public procurement.

In addition to changes to the search criteria, selected resources are now highlighted, ensuring that visitors don’t miss out on the most up-to-date guidance. The highlighted resources are selected by procurement experts within ICLEI, the organisation that hosts the SPRC. The revised site also makes it easier to add resources to the SPRC’s database.

A “quick search” option, separated by procurement category, makes finding the right guidance more efficient, whilst a detailed search option ensures that specific resources can be located. Users have the possibility to search by the country that the resource concerns, language, the type of resource, the sustainability theme, the sector the resource focuses on, and whether the resource is aimed at the local, national or international level.

For more information, visit the SPRC Resources Section.

Global Lead Cities Network on sustainable public procurement launched at ICLEI World Congress

Seoul Metropolitan Government and ICLEI have joined forces to establish a Global Lead Cities Network on Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP). The aim is to create a worldwide network of leading cities that share and develop their capabilities to implement sustainable and innovation procurement, driving a transition to sustainable production and consumption. The network was launched at the ICLEI World Congress in Seoul (Republic of Korea) on 11 April 2015.

The network marks a recent growth in international interest and understanding of the importance of procurement in the fight against climate change. It has been set up to raise awareness of the benefits of sustainable and innovation procurement, and to help develop a supportive political framework.

Procurement makes up a significant proportion of public expenditure. According to the United Nations Office for Project Services, an average of 15 percent of global gross domestic product is spent through public procurement systems each year, amounting to over $10 trillion. This level of purchasing power is what makes the transition to sustainable public procurement so powerful. Public authority spending has real potential to change the future, achieve significant value for organisations and provide tangible benefits to the environment and the well-being of our society.

Committing to SPP enables local authorities to invest in the future of their cities and can actively encourage local innovation and entrepreneurship. It is a vital tool in ensuring the quality of life in towns and cities by, for example, improving air quality and reducing levels of waste. Sustainable public procurement also has the potential to improve cost efficiency and effectiveness of public services.

Cities including Seoul (Republic of Korea), Cape Town (South Africa), Helsinki (Finland), Ghent (Belgium) and Rotterdam (The Netherlands) are amongst the founding participants. They commit to take an exemplary role globally by putting SPP into action through setting ambitious, quantified targets for its implementation, developing a clear implementation strategy and undertaking an evaluation of performance.

The cities will act as global and regional champions of SPP, committing to promote and accelerate its wide-scale adoption by other cities.

Recent examples of such leadership include pledges by ICLEI member Helsinki (Finland) to achieve 100 percent sustainable public procurement by 2020 and a public call for action launched by the French capital Paris in the run-up to the COP21 summit. Cities are uniquely placed to develop and showcase practical solutions, which can then be replicated and adapted to other urban environments.

Key pillars of the network are target setting, implementation and monitoring of measures. To this end ICLEI will look to develop a standard monitoring mechanism for participants to calculate the environmental and financial benefits of SPP related to their individual targets. This ability to quantify savings will provide convincing evidence to others of the impact more sustainable procurement practices can have.

For more information on the lead cities network contact the Global Director of ICLEI’s Sustainable Procurement Capacity Centre:

European cities to address climate issues through sustainable procurement

Mayors from 26 European cities adopted a joint declaration for climate action in Paris (France) last week. The commitment came during a high-level meeting, which was chaired by the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo and Mayor Ignazio Marino of Rome (Italy). Leaders from other major cities including Athens (Greece), Brussels (Belgium), Bucharest (Romania), Geneva (Switzerland), Lisbon (Portugal), Madrid (Spain), Sofia (Bulgaria), Stockholm (Sweden), Warsaw (Poland), Vienna (Austria), Lyon (France) and Bordeaux (France) were all present.

In her opening comments, Mayor Hidalgo highlighted ICLEI’s expertise in the area of sustainable public procurement.  ICLEI Europe’s Managing Director Wolfgang Teubner and Mark Hidson, the Global Director of ICLEI’s Sustainable Procurement Capacity Centre, both attended the Paris meeting to offer their support.

The Paris Initiative forms part of the run-up to the next round of UNFCCC negotiations, which are due to be held in the French capital in December 2015. The gathering aimed to encourage cities to join forces and share expertise that will lead to a lasting energy and environmental transition. By making a public commitment to use their joint purchasing power in favour of green and low-carbon solutions, the cities are unifying around a strong vision for a sustainable future.

The Declaration commits signatories to “a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030”. Three areas were chosen for initial interventions, based on an assessment of the cities’ purchasing volume and the carbon impact of the product group. These cover collective purchases of renewable electricity, waste collection and urban cleaning vehicles powered by natural gas (12-16 tonne models), and hybrid and electric light vehicles and small commercial vehicles for local authorities.

For more information, please contact

GPP 2020 webinar offers advice on sustainable energy tenders

If we are to achieve meaningful progress in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, new approaches to energy production are required. Policy-makers and action managers in charge of reaching sustainability targets in municipalities, regions and countries must consider how to ensure renewable energy supply and efficiency in public procurement.

In a webinar organised as part of the GPP 2020 project, public procurers and policy experts will discuss their own knowledge and experiences with procurement of green electricity and energy efficiency in cities and regions, outlining solutions to overcome obstacles. A number of case studies will be presented showing precisely how recent tenders have succeeded in implementing sustainable energy and energy efficiency in urban areas.

The webinar will provide attendees with a good overview of the current situation, an in-depth look at controversial and complex areas such as additionality within procurement of green electricity, and the chance to have any questions relating to the subject of energy efficiency generally or difficulties with their own tenders more specifically answered by experts with a practical understanding of sustainable energy tenders.

For more information and to register, download the programme or contact

Image copyright: Sunflower Solar (photo on Flickr) by "Sterling College", licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Bus run on excrement recasts human waste as valuable resource

The fuel of the future may come from an unlikely source if the success of the “bio-bus” is anything to go by. Developed by British company GENeco, a subsidiary of Wessex Water, the bus uses bio-methane gas derived from human and plant waste in place of conventional fuel. Originally trialled in car format, the bus currently ferries travellers between Bath and Bristol Airport. The unique vehicle is already being hailed as a sustainable option that, if widely rolled-out, has the capacity to improve urban air quality.

Up to 10,000 passengers are expected to travel on the bus each month, with Bristol airport expressing support. The City of Bristol, European Green Capital 2015, has been similarly complimentary, seeing the bus as an innovative and environmentally friendly transport option. The bus can travel around 300 kilometres on one tank of gas, which takes the waste of about five people to produce. The waste is transformed into a fuel source through the process of anaerobic digestion, in which microorganisms break down the organic material to produce biogas. As well as fuelling vehicles, the gas has also been injected into the British power grid.

The bus has already galvanised the conversation around air quality in Bristol and Bath, and has put the spotlight on human and food waste as a valuable resource. “Gas-powered vehicles have an important role to play in improving air quality in UK cities, but the Bio-Bus goes further than that and is actually powered by people living in the local area, including quite possibly those on the bus itself,” said Mohammed Saddiq, general manager of GENeco.

For more information, visit the Guardian.

Chinese EcoProcura conference brings Asian and European procurers together

Beijing (China) was host to 60 participants at the ICLEI-organised event EcoProcura China 2014 – International Symposium on Municipal Green Procurement. The two day event saw an exciting exchange of experiences, best practice and information on green public procurement (GPP) between national and local governments from Asian and Europe, including China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Experts, officials and solution providers all attended the event.

“Compared with developed countries in the West, China has started GPP late but our progress has been remarkable. The Chinese government is keen to learn from overseas experience to enrich the content of our GPP policies,” said Ying Wang, Director of the Procurement Management Office of China’s Ministry of Finance. Qi Zhai, Deputy Secretary General of the China Business Council for Sustainable Development, a partner of ICLEI in organising EcoProcura China 2014, said that as the largest consumer in the country, the Chinese government has a clear and crucial role in leading GPP.

This is the first time a Chinese city has hosted an EcoProcura event. Earlier this year ICLEI and the City of Ghent (Belgium) hosted 350 participants at the Europe-wide EcoProcura 2014 conference. “Through our cities network, we hope that by exchanging knowledge and practices, comparing progresses and setting up benchmarks, we can accelerate efforts and ambitions in global sustainability,” said Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, Founding Director of ICLEI and Chair of ICLEI’s Urban Agendas.

For more information, visit the ICLEI East Asia website.

ICLEI-penned Cities Today article looks at building a better future through procurement

The importance and potential of innovative and sustainable procurement is outlined in the latest edition of Cities Today magazine in an article written by Mark Hidson, Deputy Regional Director and Global Director of the Sustainable Procurement Capacity Centre at ICLEI. The article emphasises the need to move away from the mindset that lowest-price represents the lowest cost in the long run, and argues for a procurement system that ensures benefit for the environment, society and the economy.

“The total value of public procurement in the EU is estimated at €2 trillion per year - or about 19 percent of European GDP,” writes Mr. Hidson. “Directed in the right way this figure represents tremendous fiscal power to shape societies for the better. Channelling this sum towards exclusively sustainable, ethical and innovative products and services will have a hugely significant impact on job creation and environmental and social welfare.”

The role of the revised Public Procurement Directives in fostering procurement of innovation and sustainable procurement is touched on, as is the work of ICLEI in promoting sustainable public procurement. "Undertaken correctly, sustainable procurement has the capacity to stimulate new technology, achieve more efficient public services, create jobs and provide solutions that reduce environmental impacts and are socially responsible," says Mr. Hidson.

To read the article, visit the Cities Today web-edition.

New sewage treatment plant results in energy savings and cost reductions

Water Board Limburg (WBL) is responsible for the transport and treatment of municipal and industrial wastewater and the treatment of sludge in Limburg province (The Netherlands). In 2011, WBL tendered for a new sludge hydrolysis plant at their waste water treatment plant (WWTP) in Venlo. The goals of the plant included increasing biogas production, reducing sludge generation and speeding up the process – resulting in both energy savings and cost reductions.

The board published a tender for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of a new sludge hydrolysis plant. Following a pre-qualification, a competitive dialogue was used to improve the tender specifications and provide space for innovative proposals to be developed. The use of functional specifications also gave bidders more freedom to design novel solutions.

The winning bidder developed a technology to significantly improve the efficiency of sludge treatment. Not only does the new plant match all the goals WBL set out, it also reduces the anaerobic digestion time. Through the procurement process, an affordable thermal hydrolysis sludge treatment technology that lowers the costs and the CO2 emissions of sludge treatment was achieved. The new technology is cheap enough to be used in smaller waste treatment plants. This process saw WBL nominated for the Procurement of Innovation Award 2014.

The full text of the case study can be found as part of the GPP website.

Interview with Mark Hidson, Deputy Regional Director, ICLEI Europe, published in GPP News Alert

The text below is taken from the September edition of the GPP News Alert, a monthly publication produced by the European Commission that focuses on sustainable procurement in Europe. To view the publication in full, click here.


Mark Hidson is responsible for ICLEI’s sustainable economy and procurement work. He is the Global Director of ICLEI’s Sustainable Procurement Centre and Deputy Regional Director for Europe. For 16 years he has worked for, and on behalf of, local, regional and national governments on sustainability issues such as procurement, climate change and transport.

How does ICLEI as a network actually support the implementation of SPP within public authorities in Europe?

In order to achieve true sustainable development, we need both the commitment and the involvement of cities internationally. ICLEI as a network fortifies links between public authorities who are committed to sustainability so that they may learn from one another by exchanging experiences (good and bad!). SPP is an important contributor to sustainable development and we have a team dedicated to sustainable economy and procurement. We have built a network of over 2500 people through ICLEI membership, Procura+ Campaign participation, the Procura+ Exchange mailing list and the Procurement Forum. Many public authorities also make use of the searchable SPP database within the Sustainable Procurement Resource Centre to find examples of policies, criteria, tools and best practice. In terms of more ‘hands on’ assistance for implementation, ICLEI offers direct support and advice, facilitates city-to-city cooperation, establishes project consortia and provides a powerful, unified voice for public authorities on the international level. Now that it has become Co-Chair of the UN 10Year Framework Programme on SPP, the breadth and strength of the network will create a stronger driving force to enhance the knowledge on SPP and its effectiveness to tackle sustainable consumption and production. With an increasing number of organisations becoming involved in these networks, they should achieve a wide enough influence to build their own momentum and allow SPP to become widespread throughout Europe.

In your opinion, what is the state of SPP in the local government sector across Europe?

In general, it seems that the original pioneers of SPP at the local, national and regional level are still those that are leading the way, with pockets of good practice elsewhere. Those with a more strategic approach to SPP implementation tend to be the most consistently successful organisations in this respect.

However, the new EU public procurement Directives will hopefully serve to give SPP “the green light” so that other public authorities will follow suit. SPP has shifted from a secondary consideration to one of the primary focuses of the new Directives, meaning that there should be an increased impetus amongst a wider spectrum of public entities. They should give us a platform and opportunity to make SPP commonplace.

How this may be achieved in practice, at the organisational level, will require clear guidance and/or legal interpretations so that procurers feel more comfortable using SPP criteria as a matter of routine. This will help fulfil sustainable development objectives, whilst achieving genuine value for money.

Do you have any good ideas about how this impetus could be used to create stronger commitments to SPP implementation in local government organisations in Europe?

For starters, a strategic commitment to SPP within the organisation is key, as is relevant staff training. More attention must also be paid to the professionalisation of procurement not only for it to be adequately recognised within the organisation, but also for procurers to gain knowhow on the optimum techniques to exploit market potential. Market intelligence and dialogue are of course essential components of the overall approach too. There is seemingly a reluctance to undertake market engagement and a tendency to reuse tender specifications. The public sector is currently missing opportunities to achieve real value for money by failing to engage effectively with the market to obtain better and more innovative products and services. These and other psychological barriers must first be eroded before any of the real work can start.

In terms of concrete initiatives, perhaps local governments could commit to a specific target of including criteria or adapting procurement approaches to achieve innovative and/or sustainable solutions. Maybe an initiative like the “Covenant of Mayors” for sustainable procurement could be an effective way of putting this into practice. It could be built on pre-existing networks for SPP, such as the Procura+ Campaign, in order to create a broader commitment across Europe.

Such a network could be used not only to provide support and exchange ideas, but also to identify mutual benchmarking opportunities. An SPP Award could also be developed, in the same vein as the PPI Award presented at EcoProcura last week. Another way forward may be to establish regional collaborative procurement initiatives and perhaps use regional leads to then mentor others who require support on implementation.

EcoProcura conference highlights strategic potential of sustainable and innovation procurement

After three days of exciting exchange, delegates at the EcoProcura conference in Ghent (Belgium) concluded that for Europe to gain maximum benefit from procurement practices, sustainable and innovation procurement must be placed at the heart of strategic decision making. The European Commission’s revised Public Procurement Directives will play a significant role in harnessing the immense capacity of the public sector to foster sustainable and innovative solutions, and move procurement from being seen as an administrative to a strategic concern.

The conference, organised by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the City of Ghent, demonstrated the consensus that the pressing issues facing Europe today require public authorities to work with the market to develop sustainable and innovative solutions, rather than viewing the market as unchangeable. The move towards a more cooperative and transparent relationship with business was emphasised. These outcomes will inform policy processes, and will be fed into the Procura+ Campaign, a movement of public authorities at the forefront of sustainable and innovation procurement in Europe.

“Sustainability and innovation are moving from secondary considerations to central elements of procurement as highlighted by the recently revised European Union Public Procurement Directives. ICLEI’s Sustainable Procurement Campaign, Procura+, is playing a crucial role in this movement. This year it celebrates its 10th anniversary of supporting public authorities in implementing sustainable procurement. I urge all public authorities to rethink the importance of procurement in making the shift towards sustainable patterns of production and consumption to the benefit of our society, the environment and future generations.” said Pekka Sauri, Deputy Mayor of the City of Helsinki (Finland) and Procura+ Chair.

At the close of the event, the City of Ghent demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by signing a strategy on sustainable procurement and a Charter that obliges the city to spend 10 percent of its ICT budget on innovative solutions.

Daniël Termont, Mayor of the City of Ghent, said: “We are proud that ICLEI has chosen Ghent as the host city for its EcoProcura Conference. Sustainability is in all that we do, exemplified by our aim to achieve a climate neutral city by 2050. Moreover, Ghent wants to be a ‘smart city’ that employs creative solutions to everyday problems, and unites citizens to learn from one another. Ghent is a firm believer in the important role procurement plays in making our city more sustainable and in obtaining innovative products and services.”

In addition, EcoProcura saw the first ever Public Procurement of Innovation Award presented. For more information on the award, read the press release.

The close of the conference will see the conversation move online. Procurers are invited to sign up to the Procurement Forum to exchange with other stakeholders from around Europe.

Full electric outcome from technology neutral tender

In 2010, the first of a two-stage tender procedure for an energy efficient ferry was released by the Norwegian Directorate of Public Roads. Requirements were that the vessel had to be 15 to 20 percent more energy efficient than the existing diesel ferry. Despite neither the technology nor the fuel type being stipulated, the bid proposing a fully electric vessel won the contract.

In order to develop proposals for the design and build of an appropriate vessel, ferry operators worked in partnership with both engineering firms and ship building yards. After pre-qualifying bidders, the Norwegian Directorate of Public Roads opted to use a competitive dialogue to explore innovative solutions with prospective contractors. The Directorate, which is responsible for building, maintaining and operating roads and ferry routes across Norway, established an advisory group while developing the tender documentation and the evaluation criteria, to involve the end-users and assess the technological need effectively.

The tender specifications required an energy efficient and low environmental impact ferry with a capacity for 120 cars and 360 passengers. 60 percent of the award criteria were allocated to price and the other 40 percent quality points were divided between energy efficiency, carbon and NOx emissions and the level of innovation.

As part of their final offer, each bidder proposed their design of the ferry as well as performance data in relation to environmental aspects. The winning bidder’s full electric proposal results in an annual energy use reduction of 60 percent (MJ), an 89 percent reduction in CO2 emissions and a 100 percent cut in NOx emissions. If during the execution of the contract the ferry should underperform on any of these aspects, the winning bidder will incur financial penalties.

The new ferry is currently being built and will begin operating on 1 January 2015 between the villages of Lavik and Oppedal, across Sognefjord, one of the western fjords of Norway.

Read the full GPP Example here.

ICLEI, UNEP and Keiti role in pushing sustainable procurement highlighted by the Guardian

The work of ICLEI, UNEP and the Korea Environmental Industry and Technology Institute (Keiti) in launching the Sustainable Public Procurement Programme has been highlighted by the Guardian newspaper, in an article that claims that "government spending could save the world". Author Erica Gies argues that through procurement, governments have the power to mainstream sustainable products and services, pointing to recent success stories as evidence.

"Their goal", Ms. Gies writes in reference to ICLEI, UNEP and Keiti, "is to help governments around the world make this shift [to sustainable procurement] via education and support, offering access to experts and tools". The article goes on to say that "Europe has benefited from a close collaboration with ICLEI, a 20-year expert on sustainable procurement. In 2004 ICLEI launched the European-focused Procura+ campaign to create methodology to help European authorities to implement SPP in six product groups... Thanks in part to ICLEI’s work, SPP in Europe now has agreed-upon criteria for 21 product and service groups."

Mark Hidson, Deputy Region Director of ICLEI Europe, is quoted in reference to ICLEI’s work on introducing innovation to public procurers. Speaking on the Procurement of Innovation Platform project, Mr. Hidson said: “It encourages innovation through procurement, bringing new products and services onto the market that meet the needs of users, public authorities, and societies.”

To read the article, click here.

New procurement guide helps public authorities unlock the benefits of innovation

Harnessing private sector innovation to solve public sector problems is at the heart of public procurement of innovation (PPI). To reduce the existing knowledge gap on PPI, the EU-funded Public Procurement of Innovation Platform project has launched a comprehensive guide.

PPI is a powerful procurement approach that can help public authorities achieve more efficient and effective public services by finding social beneficial solutions that reduce environmental impacts.

The guide - available online and in print - is ideal for all stakeholders involved in PPI, both those starting out and those looking to improve their current procurement activities. It offers explanations of procedures, definitions and answers to common questions, a selection of case studies, and useful resources for further reading. Particular emphasis is placed on ways in which procurement procedures can facilitate greater innovation. The guide is based on the latest EU procurement directives.

“In a time of decreasing public budgets, innovation can facilitate the delivery of vital infrastructure and services. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that public procurers can effectively engage in PPI. This guide will empower procurers to create a more efficient, sustainable and modern Europe.” said Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission.

Through PPI, the market is made aware of specific needs in the public sector, and businesses are encouraged to develop and test innovative products. Such activities are vital to stimulate the local and wider economy. As public authorities can provide a guaranteed contract, the outcome is mutually beneficial - public organisations gain an innovative solution, while businesses secure a new customer.

The total value of public procurement in the EU is estimated at €2 trillion per year – or about 19% of European GDP. However, many public authorities and businesses in Europe require support to tackle the less well known elements within the process that can be used to facilitate innovation.  This easy-to-use document will be of interest to procurers, policy makers, consultants, private companies and others who have a stake in successful PPI.

"Europe has an enormous and as yet overlooked opportunity to spur innovation using procurement. Moreover, public procurement of innovative products and services are vital for improving the quality and efficiency of public services at a time of budget constraints. Through this guide, public procurers will be equipped with the necessary knowledge to effectively engage in PPI.” said Mark Hidson, Deputy Regional Director, ICLEI Europe, and coordinator of the PPI Platform project in partnership with PIANOo – the Dutch Public Procurement Expertise Centre, REC – the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe and IWT – the Flemish Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology.

To view the guide, click here.

Give us your input on the revised Procura+ Manual

Copyright: Patrick Henry / City of Ghent

The Procura+ Campaign is celebrating ten years of connecting and supporting public authorities committed to sustainable public procurement (SPP). Over the last decade, Procura+ has supported over 150 public authorities in implementing SPP and promoting their achievements such as reducing CO2 emissions or establishing fair trade principles.

In 2004, Margit Vjestberg (Kolding, Denmark) and Imma Mayol (Barcelona, Spain) invited political leaders from across Europe to join an SPP Campaign. SPP has since gained widespread recognition as an important driver to address local and regional issues such as climate change, energy efficiency and waste reduction.

The ten year anniversary of the campaign coincides with the release of the draft text of the third edition of the Procura+ Manual. This revised publication has been prepared in response to the new EU Public Procurement Directives and is freely available to all interested parties in Europe and beyond. The Manual aims to give a very practical interpretation of the new EU procurement rules, providing direct support to procurers in implementing SPP.

ICLEI would greatly appreciate further input from experts and practitioners to help develop a consensus of opinion. Any feedback on the draft text is valuable; however, comments on the interpretations of the legal framework in Chapters III and V are particularly welcomed. Feedback on the sector specific reviews in Chapter IV (for construction, ICT, catering, vehicles, cleaning and electricity) would also be very welcome.

Participants in the consultation are asked to focus on the content of the draft, as a fully designed version will be prepared following the consultation. All those providing comments will be included in the Acknowledgements section of the new edition.

The draft can be downloaded here [MS Word, 480 KB]. Please provide comments to by 24 October 2014.

Trillions of Euros of public spending to be directed towards greening global markets

A new global programme will harness the power of the trillions of Euros that governments spend on public procurement each year to push towards a more resource-efficient world. The Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) Programme – the first action to get underway as part of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP) – will assist governments to redirect public spending into goods and services that bring significant environmental and social benefits.

“The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development nations spent an average 13 percent of Gross Domestic Product on public procurement in 2011, while in some developing nations this can hit 20 percent. This adds up to trillions of dollars globally, demonstrating the scale of the opportunity ahead,” said Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. “Governments can use this potential to lead markets onto a sustainable path by demanding goods and services that conserve natural resources, create decent green jobs, and improve livelihoods around the globe.”

The SPP Programme—co-led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and the Korea Environmental Industry and Technology Institute (KEITI)—will enable this shift by improving knowledge of sustainable procurement’s benefits and supporting implementation through access to experts and tools.

“If public money is spent on products and services that reduce environmental impacts, encourage social improvement and achieve financial efficiency, a huge step forward could be made towards sustainable development,” said Gino Van Begin, ICLEI Secretary General. “This is what the 10-Year Framework Programme on Sustainable Public Procurement aims to achieve.”

Existing initiatives from around the globe prove that sustainable procurement transforms markets, boosts eco-industries, saves money, conserves natural resources and fosters job creation. For example, Indian Railways replaced more than one million incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent lamps in 400,000 employees’ homes, saving more than 100,000MWh of energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 90,000 tonnes each year.

In Brazil, the Foundation for Education Development saved 8,800 cubic metres of water and 1,750 tonnes of waste by using notebooks made from recycled paper in Sao Paulo schools.

In France, a contract for the purchase of toner cartridges was awarded to an organisation that, between 2009 and 2011, recovered 11,500 kilogrammes of waste, saved the government 30 percent in costs and created nine full-time jobs for disabled people.

Many other nations, including the Republic of Korea, have created sustainable public procurement policies that will bring further such benefits in the near future. In the United States, where the federal government procures more than US$500 billion a year in goods and services, the Federal Government has incorporated sustainability requirements into purchasing regulations. Additionally, an Executive Order stipulates that 95 percent of all new contracts use products and services that are energy- and water-efficient, environmentally preferable, non-ozone depleting, and contain recycled content.

Chile’s public procurement and contracting bureau set a target of 15 percent of procurement orders meeting sustainability targets by 2012. This goal was fulfilled a year ahead of schedule: 17.2 percent of orders included sustainability criteria by the end of 2011. The bureau oversees US$8 billion in transactions, accounting for more than 3.2 percent of GDP.

In Japan, where a 2010 study found that government bodies spent US$672 billion (17.6 percent of GDP), green purchasing laws now require ministries, provisional governments and an increasing number of cities to make 95 percent of their purchases from designated “green product” categories.

The programme, by working to ensure such purchasing decisions are the norm rather than the exception, aims to play a vital role in transitioning the globe to an inclusive Green Economy. The launch comes just a few months ahead of the first United Nations Environment Assembly, when the world’s environment ministers will meet to discuss the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, with a special focus on sustainable consumption and production.

“A rapid transformation, which will support the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, is eminently possible,” said Mr. Steiner. “Governments from across the globe signed up to the UNEP-led Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative at Rio+20, and are backing this commitment with action. This demonstrates that the political will is already in place.”

The programme is also supported by the European Commission, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, the China Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Republic of Korea, ISEAL Alliance, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Swedish Ministry of the Environment, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information, click here.

New EU procurement directives and SPP: Opening the floodgates?

The reform of the EU procurement directives offers a number of opportunities to further sustainable and innovative public procurement. However there is a large amount of work still to be done at the national and local levels, and some opportunities have been missed during the reform process.

Many parts of Europe have faced flooding in recent weeks, prompting governments to intervene with rescue services, evacuation and containment measures. If severe weather continues, further intervention will be needed to assist farmers and those whose homes and businesses are damaged. In the longer term, governments may seek to develop better warning and defence mechanisms, and to adapt planning systems to take account of the effects of climate change. The risks and challenges posed by floods are not new, but their pattern and impact mean public authorities need to invest in innovative and sustainable products, services and works projects.

Will the new rules on procurement assist public authorities in making these and other important investments while still achieving value for money? One of the stated objectives of the reform was to facilitate strategic procurement taking account of environmental, social and innovation factors. Another was to provide more flexibility in procedures and timelines, complemented by greater use of e-procurement. Given the first two goals, the idea that the reform could also result in a 'simplification' was perhaps unrealistic. The reform process itself, which involved a series of compromises between the European Commission, Parliament and Council (representing the Member States) highlighted the tension between these various ambitions.

The result is that we now have three directives (covering the public sector, utilities sector, and the award of concessions for both sectors) with a number of novel provisions relating to procurement of innovative and sustainable solutions, but less in the way of clear mandates to apply these.  Arguably this reflects the overall structure of the directives, which are meant to provide a common procedural framework within which governments make procurement decisions. However this distinction between the 'form' and 'content' of procurement is somewhat misleading: procedures influence outcomes just as the decision about what to buy or whether to buy does.

The analysis below outlines the possibilities for SPP and innovation procurement which exist under the new directives, the steps which need to be taken to achieve them and highlights the key points that need further clarification. The focus here is on the final text of the Public Sector Directive adopted by the European Parliament on 15 January and by the Council on 11 February 2014.

To read the article in full, click here.

Sustainability & innovation focus of EcoProcura 2014

Registration is now open for EcoProcura 2014, which will take place in Ghent (Belgium) from 24 – 26 September 2014. Answering questions on how to capitalise on the greater cost efficiency of sustainable procurement, the obstacles to mainstreaming sustainable procurement and developing integrated sustainable procurement strategies across organisations, the conference provides a dynamic setting for participants to exchange and equip themselves with essential information on implementing sustainable public procurement and procurement of innovation.

A call for contributions has also been launched, and is open to local, regional and national governments; public authorities such as universities and hospitals; businesses, suppliers and manufacturers; and scientific or research organisations. This is an excellent chance for participants to promote what they are doing, offer advice, seek input and directly engage with the procurement community. The deadline for submitting proposals is 24 April 2014. Please send proposals with a completed application form to

Plenaries and break-out sessions will provide a dialogue between speakers and participants on the latest developments in legislation and policy, as well as on specific procurement processes and products. Additionally, EcoProcura 2014 features a ‘Meet the Buyers’ event, allowing public procurement experts from the public and private sectors to meet and exchange information.

For more information, click here.

Horizon 2020 launches call for projects

The European Commission has launched the first calls for projects under Horizon 2020, the European Union’s €80 billion research and innovation programme spanning the next seven years. The funding over the first two years is worth more than €15 billion. Horizon 2020 is intended to help boost Europe's knowledge-driven economy, and tackle issues that will make a tangible difference in people's lives. Twelve areas will be a focus for action in 2014/2015, including sustainable and innovative public procurement.

The funding opportunities under Horizon 2020 are set out in work programmes published on the EU's digital portal for research funding. “Horizon 2020 funding is vital for the future of research and innovation in Europe, and will contribute to growth, jobs and a better quality of life. We have designed Horizon 2020 to produce results, and we have slashed red tape to make it easier to participate.” said European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

Most calls from the 2014 budget are already open for submissions, with more to follow over the course of the year. There are a number of calls relating to innovative and sustainable procurement; ICLEI will lead on the development of at least one project proposal and is happy to help facilitate the setting up of other independent consortia. If your city is interested in working with us on one of these projects, please contact:

For more information, click here.

New public procurement directives: the potential for GPP

MEP Malcolm Harbour CBE is the Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), which has overseen the revision of the classical (2004/18/EC) and utilities (2004/17/EC) EU public procurement directives. Mr Harbour is the UK Conservative spokesman on Single Market and Consumer Protection issues. He recently spoke about how the revised procurement directive facilitates sustainable public procurement, the benefits of the new “innovation partnerships”, and the changes in referencing ecolabels.

Which is the most significant way in which the (classical) procurement directive has changed in terms of facilitating sustainable public procurement?

To begin with, the old directive was entirely unclear in that there was absolutely no detailed built-in guidance on how to take social and environmental criteria into consideration when drafting procurement documentation or award criteria. There was only an indication that, on an optional basis, such criteria could be taken into account, but the lack of clarity made it very difficult to ascertain what was legally possible. The guidance provided by the Commission, such as the Buying Green Handbook, was helpful in this context, but uncertainties remained, so the full potential for green procurement remained untapped to a large extent. 

The new directive makes it clear that social and environmental aspects can now be taken into account in certain circumstances, in particular with the explicit mention of taking into account whole procurement lifecycle costs in what constitutes the best value for money offer.

Buyers can also require certification/labels or other equivalent evidence of social or environmental characteristics including fair trade criteria, further facilitating procurement of contracts with such objectives. At the same time, the potential abuse of these new rules on social and green procurement should be adequately curtailed by safeguards. In particular, contracting authorities cannot use reference to labels as an excuse to favour certain suppliers over others, since the social and environmental criteria must refer to factors directly linked to the subject matter of the contract.

The clarifications achieved in this reform of the EU procurement rules on reference to social and environmental considerations represent an important first step, which now needs testing in practice and most likely adapting at a later stage according to practitioner experiences and feedback. The European Commission should also work with governments in drawing up best practice guidance on how to apply these new rules. The directive is already very ambitious in terms of the jump it has made from very little clarity to, a developed system for ensuring more social and environmentally friendly public procurement. It would probably not have been wise to go any further at this stage.

Do you see a potential benefit for green public procurement in terms of the newly permitted innovation partnerships?

With the new "innovation partnerships" procedure, which I proposed, buyers can now readily work in structured partnerships with innovative start-ups and SMEs, providing them with a boost while channelling their innovation potential in developing new products or services. Since many innovations have a positive environmental impact, or have an environmental objective in delivering innovative public services, works or supplies, this procedure will undoubtedly boost green procurement.

The approach to referencing ecolabels has been modified in the new directives. Do you think this is likely to significantly alter the way in which they are used by procurers?

Indeed, the possibility of referencing ecolabels already existed in Article 23(6) of 2004/18/EC, so this provision is not new. However the changes enacted in the reform will make it more readily possible for procurers to make reference to environmental labelling standards in procurement documentation. 

To read the interview in full, click here.

Seven examples of why GPP is also good for business

Green procurement is valuable for suppliers as it enhances marketing potential, innovation, sales, exports, and helps create new jobs. These are the concluding remarks from the report “Green procurement and green products generate growth” published in July by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency. The report is the result of an assessment of the economic and environmental effects of green procurement as experienced by the market in Denmark.

Seven examples were assessed in detail from the perspective of suppliers in the areas of job creation, innovation, export and marketing opportunities, presented as individual case studies in the report. The cases cover a range of areas: waste water treatment plants, heat pumps to cool servers, cleaning services, construction of a new kindergarten, joint municipal procurement of office furniture, construction of buildings for a new town district and phthalate-free medical equipment.

Both suppliers and purchasers quantify and articulate the potential of GPP in each of the cases. Insights and experiences are provided about the different purchasing approaches used (e.g. performance-based requirements), why a long-term economic view should be applied to procurement rather than focusing on purchase prices or annual budgets, and the achievements of public bodies acting as frontrunners by purchasing innovative solutions. The publication is available online in both English and Danish.

For more resources on sustainable procurement, click here.

Triggering eco-innovation through procurement

Public procurement accounts for about 19% of GDP in the European Union (EU), offering an enormous potential market for innovative products and services. If only 1-2% of this budget would be used for purchasing innovations, as suggested by some expert groups , a significant demand could be generated, helping innovative firms to get broader market access.

Currently, at the European level, there are two procurement procedures which target public procurement of innovative solutions:

  • Public procurement of innovation (PPI), which occurs when public authorities act as a launch customer for innovative goods or services that are not yet available on the market on a large-scale commercial basis.

  • Pre-commercial procurement (PCP), an approach developed specifically for the procurement of R&D services rather than actual goods and services; it allows pooling the efforts of several public procurers while sharing the risks and benefits of testing newly developed products.

PPI and PCP can help foster the market uptake of innovative products and services, whilst improving the quality of public services in markets where the public sector is a significant purchaser.

Furthermore, seeking innovative solutions can result in an increase in economic growth by stimulating the economy and increasing the competitiveness of SMEs, as well as helping tackle key environmental and societal challenges through scientific and technological breakthroughs.

Public procurement of innovation can be found all around Europe. Some examples:

  • In 2009 the City of Oslo launched a tender (after a dialogue conference with suppliers) to look for alternatives to fossil fuel use in Oslo’s schools; the public tender resulted in the successful procurement of a renewable, optimal and innovative heat pump technology.

  • Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMPS) in the UK launched in 2009 the procurement of a fully managed innovative Zero Waste Mattress system in order to reduce its volumes of waste mattresses and pillows; the cost savings generated by this innovative solution are estimated at approximately €5.8 million over the life of the contract.

  • In 2005, the City of Barcelona’s (Spain) stringent green requirements for the purchase of 500 environmentally innovative new bus shelters not only triggered the development of a new prototype for the product, it also triggered further market demand by several neighbouring cities and cities elsewhere in Spain.

Policy and financial support

The European Commission has put a series of policies and initiatives in place to make innovation a cornerstone of European public procurement.
The main European Union innovation policy at this present time is the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative that aims at boosting research and innovation performance by speeding up the process from ideas to markets.

The Eco-innovation Action Plan (EcoAP) was launched in December 2011 to help boost innovation that reduces pressure on the environment, and to bridge the gap between innovation and the market. EcoAP is one of the commitments of the Innovation Union Flagship Initiative, targeting specific bottlenecks, challenges and opportunities for achieving environmental objectives through innovation.

Additionally, the EU has different funding programmes in place geared at supporting public bodies. These seek to speed up wide diffusion of innovative solutions by encouraging cooperation between procurers across Europe through cross-border coordinated (or joint) procurement to facilitate deployment of innovative solutions on the European market.

Further financial support from the European Commission will come from Horizon 2020. Support will be given to collaborative cross-border projects on public procurement of innovative solutions, which will build on the experience of eleven pioneer projects that have been developed over the past years. The EU Council agreed on 26 June 2013 on a €70.2 billion budget for this new research and innovation programme, which will run between 2014 and 2020. The final approval is expected in September 2013. Issues in focus by the programme will be longer and healthier lives; reliable, clean, efficient energy; safe, secure food supply; and smart, green transport.

For more information on public procurement of innovation, its policy and legal framework and more good practice examples, visit the Procurement of Innovation Platform.

Dying to make our clothes

Fair and safe working conditions in global supply chains are still a distant prospect. With people still unaccounted for, the death toll from the collapse of a factory building in Bangladesh on 24 April has passed 1,100. While just a few months ago, over 100 workers died when they were unable to escape a fire in a garment factory in Dhaka (Bangladesh). Seven months ago a fire in a textile factory in Karachi (Pakistan) killed almost 300 workers, who found themselves trapped due to locked exits and bars across the factory windows. On the same day in the Pakistani City of Lahore 25 people were killed in a shoe factory in similar circumstances.

While large accidents like these shock the western world, most human rights violations occur further along the supply chains of the products we consume and never make it to the media. These incidents and countless others in the past have shown that working conditions in many global supply chains are still unacceptable.

The purchasing practices of major buyers, like the European public sector1, can play a considerable role in bringing about significant improvements in global production chains. Achieving this in practice can be a challenge for purchasing (or procurement) professionals. This is where projects like LANDMARK can prove useful. LANDMARK aims to go beyond the short term outcry that large accidents cause. It highlights practical mechanisms for procurers to ensure fair working conditions throughout supply chains, verifying compliance with the core conventions of the International Labour Organisation in particular.

Guidance on how professionals working in the field of procurement can ascertain whether the goods they have purchased have been produced in a socially just way is available in seven languages. Various successful approaches for purchasing and verifying compliance in public procurement procedures from major purchasers, like the cities of Barcelona (Spain) and Bremen (Germany), are also available. These are complemented by detailed insights and recommendations on how to undertake socially responsible procurement from five other European cities, like Malmo (Sweden) and Zurich (Swizerland). High risk product categories featured in these publications include textiles, construction materials, food and sports equipment.

Authorities working in the public sector should feel encouraged to embark on the process of making strategic use of their buying power to help bring about real changes in global supply chains. Barcelona, Bremen, the government of the Netherlands and the Swedish County Councils all use different methods to check that social standards are complied with.

Please contact if you would like to book the LANDMARK multimedia exhibition to raise awareness about high risk product categories and mechanisms to verify social justice throughout the supply chain. Host cities are especially sought after in Portugal from now until October 2013 and Germany from November 2013 until February 2014.

1. The public sector is the largest consumer in the economy. In 2009, the public sector spent over €2 trillion on goods, services and works – about 19% of EU GDP.

The EU timber regulation and its impact on public procurement

Since March 2013 all timber placed on the European market has to come from verified legal sources. Illegal logging has severe economic, environmental and social impacts - not only is it associated with deforestation and climate change but it also undermines the efforts and livelihoods of legitimate operators and can contribute to conflicts over land and resources.

It became a subject for intergovernmental discussion at the G8 Action Programme on Forests in 1998. In order to address the issue at EU level, in 2003, the FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) Action Plan was adopted. The plan provides a number of measures to exclude illegal timber from the European market, to improve the supply of legal timber and to increase the demand for responsibly produced wood products. The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) along with Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) are the two key elements of the Action Plan.

The EU Timber Regulation which entered into force on 2 December 2010, made it illegal as of 3 March 2013, to place illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market. The legislation requires that due diligence is applied to all timber first placed on the EU market and also that traders, further down the supply chain, keep track of who timber or timber products were bought from, and where applicable, who they were sold to. There is however concern that the EUTR will not be sufficient to keep illegal logging in check as the implementation within the member states is still unclear. The proper execution of the EUTR will require adequate funding, trained personnel and also regular control visits to the supplier countries.

What does this mean for procurers?

Primarily the coming into force of the EUTR means that all timber and timber products sold on the European market will be from legal sources. Any reference to proof of legality in tender documents will become obsolete as companies have to apply due diligence anyway. However this change will not be immediate and in the meantime procurers should still ask for and verify proof of legality such as a FLEGT or CITES licenses or equivalent documentation. Timber certification schemes are not a sufficient proof of legality under EUTR but such timber is classified as low risk since successful certification means that there is a due diligence system in place.

An important distinction has to be made between legal timber and sustainable timber. Even though the EUTR will significantly reduce the risk of illegality the legislation does not specify that timber has to come from sustainable sources. Timber from sustainable forest management is legal but in addition forests are managed to sustain biodiversity, protect adjacent eco-systems and indigenous peoples living the forest. Therefore procuring sustainable timber and timber products will still require the bidders to provide proof of sustainable forest management as well, such as FSC or PEFC certification. Most timber certification systems have recently updated their requirements for certification to ensure that certificate holders have sufficient due diligence in place and comply with the definition of legality used in the EUTR.

In summary, while all timber and timber products certified for sustainable forest management have a low risk of being illegal not all timber that complies with EUTR is sustainable.

For more information, click here. Further information is available here.

Oslo to replace vehicle fleet with zero-emission alternatives

Pursuing its objective of having a zero emission vehicle fleet by 2015, the City of Oslo (Norway) has concluded a framework agreement to replace a thousand cars and trucks with environmentally friendly options in the years to come. The move feeds into the city’s “zero emission technology” policy, established in 2010.

Most vehicles, especially small and medium sized cars, will be replaced with an electric alternative. Under the new framework agreement the city will add another 800 electric charging stations to the 500 currently available for public use, and an additional 800 purely for the services vehicles. The new framework agreement also covers fleet management, and allows users to access the status of each car through a web tool in order to plan their activities.

“The framework agreement is an example of how Oslo is in the forefront when it comes to adopting smart and environmentally friendly technology, and that the municipality uses its purchasing power to promote good environmental solutions”, said Oslo Finance Commissioner Kristin Vinje.

For more information: Read the press release here or read the case study published in April 2013

Berlin purchases cost-efficient, ‘clean’ police cars

Berlin’s police force purchases some 200 vehicles every year. Their most recent tender (from May 2012) saw the inclusion of a number of environmental and economic requirements as recommended by the European Clean Vehicles Directive.

In addition to including some basic environmental criteria as a requirement, the contract was awarded based on the life-cycle, energy and environmental costs of the vehicles.

The environmental costs were calculated based on a) fuel consumption, b) energy consumption, c) CO2 emissions, d) NOx, e) non-methane hydrocarbons and f) particulate matter.

The tendering procedure, the first of its kind using life-cycle costing (LCC), including green costs, proved successful and thus will be used again by the police force in the future.

For more information, click here.

To view more best practice examples, visit SPP in Action.

Environmental and social criteria needed in assessing public bids - MEPS

Internal market MEPs have rejected the idea that public procurement contracts should go purely to the lowest cost bidder, believing they should be awarded to the most “advantageous” bidder, assessed also on environmental or social criteria. The comments came as MEPs voted on new EU procurement rules in December 2012. MEPs also improved an optional "innovation" provision, to enable bidders to suggest how best to meet specifications set out in the contract.

MEPs wish to see greener and more socially responsible public procurement, whereby organisations take into account environmental considerations, such as sustainability and life cycle costs, or social objectives, such as buying from firms with a particular social profile. "We want a public procurement market in Europe that serves European citizens. We also want to make sure that public money is spent in a more socially responsible way", said Parliament rapporteur Marc Tarabella. His draft report on Public Procurement was approved by 23 votes in favour, 8 against and 7 abstentions.

To encourage innovative suggestions, MEPs expanded upon the concept of "innovation partnerships" in which the authority states the minimum requirements that a good or service must fulfil, but leaves it up to the tenderer how best to achieve these goals. MEPs also proposed a "procurement passport" to show that a firm fulfils the criteria without having to send in documentation every time they make a bid. Proposed rules enabling public authorities to subdivide contracts into lots, so as to enable small firms to bid for them, were also simplified.

For more information, click here.

LCC Public Procurement Tool can help users meet foreseen legal requirements

ICLEI’s new tailor-made tool for sustainable procurement, the Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and Emissions Online Tool, can help procurers adhere to the legal requirements set out in the EU’s draft procurement directive through supporting the implementation of LCC. The tool has been developed to help public authorities calculate the life cycle costs and important emissions (CO2, CO2eq, NOx, SO2, NMHC and PM) of different products, work and services to assist in procurement decision-making. The version 2.0 (2nd beta version) is available online in German and English.

Although LCC is discussed in the current procurement directive, the new draft states that LCC calculations cannot be made with tools developed individually by each company, but rather need to comply with an agreed standard. This directive requirement is intended to prevent distortions of competition, presumably through the invention of a methodology which would favour a particular undertaking.

The LCC tool is an off-the-shelf solution that provides a coherent methodology, adaptable to specific circumstances. As such it could be a suitable tool to meet the requirements of the upcoming directive. The tool can be used to assess two very closely related values: life cycle costs and related emissions. It is suitable for use in tendering to compare any number of offers.

The tool is specifically targeted at evaluating innovative products, which are still in the phase of development and market introduction.

An in-depth user guide has been created to accompany the tool, providing information on filling in the required fields, data provided by the tool, an overview of LCC and emissions formulas, a glossary of terms, conversion factors and more. The guide makes it easy for users to start benefiting from the tool immediately.

Buying green can save money, particularly when an LCC approach is taken during the procurement process – to account for all of the costs that will be incurred during the lifetime of the product, work or service and its related emissions, not just the purchase price. LCC can save costs by allowing procurers to choose the option which represents best value over its entire life-cycle.

The tool can also handle offers which include multiple products, works or services. Furthermore, it is designed to assess the current situation and so determine potential financial and emissions impacts of innovative alternative solutions. The development of the tool has been done in cooperation between Ökoinstitut and ICLEI and with the financial support from the Federal Environment Agency of Germany, the Federal Environment Ministry of Germany and the EU IEE programme.

Call for submission of bids: Hosting the 9th EcoProcura Conference 2014

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability invites cities, regional governments and national governments to express their interest in receiving the bidding documents for hosting the 9th EcoProcura Conference.


Organisations are invited to express their interest in hosting and funding this unique event which is planned for 2014. With new European Directives on Public Procurement in the pipeline the need and importance of the next EcoProcura conference has never been stronger.

EcoProcura conferences seek to generate greater awareness and motivate and encourage people, both from a practical and political sense, to move forward on the issue of sustainable procurement (at the local, national and international level). Through doing so the conference series contributes to the mainstreaming of sustainable public procurement.

The conference usually lasts for a maximum of 2.5 days and allows for pre and side-events to take place. It can be combined with national initiatives, projects, and product exhibitions/trade fairs related to sustainable procurement.

The 9th EcoProcura Conference builds on the success of a series of EcoProcura Conferences held in Hannover 1998, Bilbao 1999, Lyon 2000, Brussels 2001, Göteborg 2003, Barcelona 2006, Reykjavik 2009 and Malmö 2012.


The enormous potential of public procurement is continuously gaining recognition for supporting the shift towards a resource-efficient, low carbon and socially responsible society. There are also pressing demands for sound financial management, efficient spending of public money and urgency in establishing a clear understanding of how to incorporate sustainability issues into procurement legislative framework.

EcoProcura is the only conference to provide a platform to promote exchange and dialogue amongst purchasers from all levels of governments, suppliers and policy-makers on strategies, as well as present the latest practical solutions for implementing sustainable procurement and address the above challenges.

The initial idea for the focus of the conference is:

  • Present and assess the implications of the new European Public Procurement Directives
  • Present and discuss how public procurement can stimulate innovation
  • Training and Capacity Building

EcoProcura conferences are also the ideal opportunity for the host to promote its own activities to a wide audience interested and specialised in these topics.

Roles and Cooperation

ICLEI will lead the development of the conference in close cooperation with the host organisation.

ICLEI has been working on conference organisation for over 20 years and will therefore provide strong and valuable planning and implementation experience to the host. Tasks and responsibilities will be shared between ICLEI, the host and potential further partners, based on an agreed share of tasks.

The host is responsible for securing the financial framework including contributions from third parties. The host is also asked to organise with appropriate administrative means the local conference management and logistics as well as the social programme.

The host will need to clearly demonstrate in the bid its overall capacity including provision of a suitable venue, linguistic abilities and organisational skills to deliver the conference in cooperation with ICLEI.


EcoProcura conferences can only take place with the generous support of the host city or organisation. The host should therefore take responsibility for securing funding through their own efforts.

Funding sources may come from a variety of local, regional, and national organisations from the public and private sector. In several cases in the past it was possible to also obtain support from the host region and/or national government.

There are two key budget categories. One for strategy, programme development, speakers, marketing and participant management (to be covered by the host and managed by ICLEI): approximately 70,000 - 90,000 Euro. The other category is for local services, venue, catering, translation, study visits, etc. to be covered and managed by the host.

ICLEI is interested and willing to cooperate in designing special programme elements to attract sponsorship such as product exhibitions, display areas, business fora, etc.


The EcoProcura Conferences showcase successful examples from European and international cities. They enable 200-300 participants from over 40 countries to interact and share their vision, knowledge and analyse the latest solutions on sustainable procurement.

This includes purchasers from local governments, regional and national governments and other national and European public institutions as well as businesses and policy-makers.

The conference participation fee will be agreed upon between the organising partners and will constitute part of the income to cover costs.


The programme will be developed under the guidance of ICLEI. The latest developments in the area of sustainable procurement will be reflected in the programme.

English will be the main language during the conference. Simultaneous interpretation into other languages for plenary sessions and at least one programme line during the entire conference is possible if requested by the host.

Timeline for the Bidding Procedure

28 February 2013 - Deadline for submission of bids
12 March 2013 - Decision on host city
March-April 2013 - Contract finalisation
May 2013 - Start of conference preparations

Bidding Package

For interested host cities, a bidding package will be available, including conference requirements and budget categories.

Further information and to submit your bidding package:

Mark Hidson
Tel: +49 761 36892 0

Ruud Schuthof
Tel: +49 761 36892 0

For further information on ICLEI’s Sustainable Procurement activities and events, visit:

Clean fleets project helps public organisations meet vehicle requirements

A new project funded by the European Commission Intelligent Energy Initiative aims to help public authorities and fleet operators implement the Clean Vehicles Directive (CVD). Throughout the lifetime of the three-year project, Clean Fleets aims to assist organisations with the procurement of clean and energy efficient vehicles, in the interest of environmental and economic sustainability.

It is recognised that municipalities and other public organisations across Europe are at different stages in the implementation of the CVD, which has now been integrated into national law in all EU Member States. The project therefore offers direct support by providing modular training, specific advice, and assistance with tendering to organisations that full under the Directive. The project will provide opportunities to exchange information through an online discussion forum, make useful materials such as case studies, guidance and tools, available and produce a regular newsletter.

As part of the launch, Clean Fleets partners are releasing a Call for Interest to inform the direction of the project, based on specific areas of interest and difficulties faced by stakeholders. If you would like to share your experiences, learn more about the project, sign up for news or receive free support, please follow this link. The project not only wishes to assist those organisations who need assistance with complying with the CVD, but also those who wish to go beyond the legislation and explore innovative ways to purchase or lease clean and energy efficient vehicles and fleets.

For more information, click here.

Sustainable Timber Action releases informative new video

An informative video outlining the work and objectives of the Sustainable Timber Action project has been released. The slickly produced video explains the challenges faced in achieving legal and sustainable forestry and details the effects illegal timber can have on the environment, economics and labour conditions. An overview of the current state of play of sustainable timber procurement at the local level is given through a mixture of narrated information, interviews and statistics.

Challenges raised by non-sustainable and illegal logging include a reduction in income for the local area, a loss of tax revenue and, in some cases, the use of illegal forestry revenue to fund armed conflicts. Environmentally, deforestation accounts for 20 percent of global CO₂ emissions and illegal forestry destroys five million hectares of forests each year. The video explains the role of certified labels in helping procurers ensure they purchase only sustainably produced timber.

Interviews conducted in the video include with Diego Florin, the Secretary General of FSC Italy, Carmen Rebello Sanchez of the City of Madrid (Spain) and Simon Clement of ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. Mr. Clement describes the project as “designed to help public authorities understand the impact that their consumption practices can have, and to give practical guidance.”

To view the video, click here.

LANDMARK Multimedia Exhibition uses interactivity to aid procurers

EcoProcura 2012 saw the launch of the LANDMARK project Multimedia Exhibition, which looks at how social responsibility can be achieved throughout public sector supply chains with a focus on how to verify supplier compliance. A DVD featuring animations and interviews with procurers familiar with verification schemes and other key stakeholders working on SRPP was shown, along with an interactive exhibit that invited visitors to explore issues and solutions surrounding the procurement of various high-risk product groups such as construction materials, food and textiles.

Using touch screens, users could virtually view problems surrounding various supply chains, find out what public authorities can do to tackle these challenges, and see information on key actors working on these specific areas that may be contacted for assistance. The LANDMARK project aims to enable European local authorities to improve working conditions in supply chains through responsible public procurement. A LANDMARK video on how to verify social standards in public procurement was also screened. Between October 2012 and March 2014 the exhibition travels across Europe and is available in English, Catalan, German, Portuguese and Spanish.

If you would like to book the Multimedia Exhibition for your organisation, please contact Philipp Tepper at Visit the LANDMARK website to find out more about the project and access the publications.

The power of procurement to transform the market

European conference highlights the role of public authorities in driving innovative solutions to environmental and social challenges

The EcoProcura conference in Malmö demonstrated the growing consensus that public authorities have both the power and responsibility to create a market for sustainable products and services. Spending €2 trillion (or 19 percent of GDP) each year on goods and services, the public sector is the biggest single buyer on the European market. This represents a tremendous potential to push environmental, social and innovative solutions.

At the biggest sustainable procurement conference in Europe, the European Commission outlined its aim to simplify and modernise procurement laws to help local, regional and national governments stimulate innovation and achieve their sustainable development goals. The progressive actions of cities, supported by ICLEI, the largest association of local governments committed to sustainable development, have been key in bringing about this change.

Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship said, “Europe faces difficult economic and social times: jobs need to be created and growth recovered. Therefore, we, European public authorities, all have a responsibility to favour innovation when producing and consuming goods and services.”

He added, “Public procurement of sustainable and innovative goods and services is one of the essential tools for stimulating new technological or service solutions while helping to create jobs and boosting the competitiveness of the European industry and SMEs. It also encourages more efficient public services.”

The Commission announced further funding for networks of public authorities to buy innovative solutions. This will complement existing initiatives such as the SCI-Network on sustainable construction and innovation. A new online platform on the procurement of innovation, being developed by ICLEI, will be launched in early 2013.
The outcomes of the conference will be built upon and inform policy processes. This will be achieved through the Procura+ Campaign, a movement of public authorities at the forefront of sustainable procurement in Europe.

Deputy Mayor of Helsinki and Chair of the Procura+ Campaign Pekka Sauri said, “Our unsustainable consumption practices are at the heart of the excessive use of natural resources, threats to biodiversity, increasing poverty and climate change. EcoProcura has brought together public authorities from across Europe who are ready to take responsibility and purchase innovative solutions and sustainable products and services. I hope that many more will join this movement through the Procura+ Campaign.”

The EcoProcura conference 2012 brought together about 250 purchasers and policy makers from all levels of government, suppliers, representatives from the European Commission and NGOs to explore pathways to achieving real sustainability in public procurement.

The Mayor of host city Malmö, Ilmar Reepalu, spoke for all delegates in announcing, “Our challenge is to make sure that every euro we spend can maximise social benefits, reduce environmental impact and contribute to sustainable economic development.”

For more information, click here.

Reform of Procurement Directives - Council's draft offers progress on SPP

On 24 July the Council of the European Union published its proposed compromise text for a new public sector procurement directive. This follows the Committee draft report from the European Parliament in May 2012, tabling a number of amendments to the Commission’s draft. The majority of these amendments have not been incorporated in the current version, nor has the rapporteur’s emphasis on social, environmental and innovation aspects (sustainable public procurement, or SPP) been preserved. Nevertheless, changes to several provisions appear to resolve some of the potential snag-points for SPP arising from the Commission’s draft.

In previous articles I looked at the Commission’s proposals and how they might work in practice – including those related to production processes and methods, life-cycle costing, environmental and social labels and the new Innovation Partnership procedure. Potential problems included the requirement for contracting authorities to accept alternative methods of calculating life-cycle costs put forward by tenderers (thus undermining the comparability of tenders) and the requirement to accept self-declarations as an alternative to third-party environmental or social labels. While these issues have been partially resolved, barriers still remain to the practical take-up of the directive’s SPP measures.

The main changes and suggested areas for further work are discussed below.

Social aspects of production

The Council’s draft aims to incorporate the ruling of the European Court of Justice in the recent Dutch coffee case (C-368/10, case note here), to the effect that fair trade production requirements are acceptable as award criteria and contract performance clauses. This is highlighted both in the recitals and in Article 66 (2) concerning award criteria, which also confirms that production processes need not affect the ‘material substance’ of the supplies, services or works being purchased. Recital 41 suggests however that social provisions can only be included in award criteria and contract performance conditions, not in technical specifications. This is one possible interpretation of the ECJ’s judgment in the Dutch coffee case, as the Court chose to treat the requirement for fair trade production in that case as a contract performance clause.

However as is made clear in the draft directive and in previous case law of the ECJ, compliance with contract performance clauses cannot form part of the assessment during the tender process. This creates a problem regarding social matters which the contracting authority may wish to inspect and verify – for example compliance with a requirement that child labour not be used at any stage in the production process. Unless this is included as a technical specification, it is not clear how it can be meaningfully assessed. Articles 54 (5) and 55 (3)a do provide for refusal to award a contract or exclusion of a tenderer where they are found not to be in compliance with certain social and environmental laws. However this would generally relate to past performance, and may not allow assessment or exclusion of sub-contractors proposed for a particular contract. It also would not extend to compliance with social provisions outside of the ILO core conventions, for example relating to working hours or health and safety.

The suggestion in recital 41 that social provisions cannot form technical specifications also contradicts the wording in Article 41 which permits reference to labels to verify compliance with social requirements in technical specifications, as well as in award criteria and contract clauses. It is vital that clarity is achieved in this area, as the opening up of competition for public contracts under the WTO Government Procurement Agreement is likely to increase situations in which contracting authorities wish to verify compliance with basic social provisions as part of the tender process. The general saver to the effect that nothing in the directive should prevent enforcement of sustainable development measures which are in conformity with the Treaty (recital 41c) is insufficient in itself to provide such clarity.


Social and environmental labels are a key part of many SPP strategies, and suppliers are increasingly aware of their value in objectively verifying performance. Article 41 should enhance the usability of labels in procurement, by establishing the conditions of transparency and objectivity which such labels must meet and allowing contracting authorities to refer to them directly in specifications. The Commission’s draft included a requirement to accept self-declarations (a ‘technical dossier’) where an operator did not have access to a label or could not obtain it within the relevant time limits. The Council’s draft adds a requirement that this must not be attributable to the operator itself, which goes some of the way to ensuring that contracting authorities can insist on third-party verification.

Life-cycle costing

Article 67 now removes the requirement to allow economic operators to submit their own methodology for LCC, but does require that data requested for LCC “can be provided with reasonable effort by normally diligent economic operators, including operators from third countries party to the Agreement or other international agreements by which the Union is bound.” It also reaffirms the position from the Commission’s draft that LCC methodologies must be ‘established for repeated or continuous application’ – meaning that tailor-made methodologies developed for the purpose of an individual contract would not be allowed. According to recital 40, this requirement is intended to prevent distortions of competition, presumably through the invention of a methodology which would favour a particular undertaking in the context of a specific contract.

While safeguards are undoubtedly needed to ensure that the integrity of LCC processes is maintained, this could arguably be met in the same way as for other award criteria – i.e. through the requirements of transparency and equal treatment as set out in the Directives and case law. Publishing the LCC methodology in the tender documents, together with the weightings to be applied, and the imperative to apply equal treatment to all tenderers would achieve this. For certain contracts, an off-the-shelf LCC methodology may not be available (either at EU or another level) which adequately captures all internal and external costs. Under the existing provisions, it is not clear whether contracting authorities could modify an existing methodology in this case, or must strictly apply a pre-existing methodology.

This could lead to disproportionate outcomes in individual cases, for example where existing methodologies do not take account of a major category of greenhouse gas emissions which are relevant for a specific contract. Given that the additional transparency benefits of using a pre-existing methodology over publishing the specific methodology in the tender documents are negligible, the second approach seems preferable and less likely to impede adoption of LCC by contracting authorities. 

Abnormally low tenders

Article 69 removes the mandatory obligation to examine abnormally low tenders, which was accompanied in the Commission’s draft by a formula for determining if a tender is abnormally low. However if such examination is undertaken, contracting authorities are obliged to exclude tenders which are abnormally low due to non-compliance with  certain social or environmental laws. The process for mandatory examination was complicated, but its removal means that only if a contracting authority chooses to seek explanation of an abnormally low tender may it be obliged to exclude it. This could impede such enquiries, as exclusion of a tenderer is likely to be legally fraught. A better approach might be to require examination where a contracting authority considers that a tender may be abnormally low due to non-compliance with social or environmental obligations.

Innovation partnership

Finally, the provisions governing the new Innovation Partnership procedure have been adjusted slightly to make them less prescriptive – notably by removing the requirement to ensure an ‘adequate profit’ for the private partner, which appeared in the Commission’s draft. The recitals also make clear that existing procedures such as pre-commercial procurement will be available under the ongoing exemption from the directives of research and development services. Facilitating public procurement of innovation has proven to be a complex process, and specific measures to assist this are welcome. Many of the matters affecting rates of innovation procurement fall outside the scope of the procurement directives, relating for example to the state aid rules and intellectual property law.

Note on drafting

The recitals prefacing the current draft address a range of matters at length and in detail. This compromises legal clarity, as the recitals are not binding provisions but may affect the construction of the Directives by courts. Recitals are a good way to emphasise what is set out in the legislative text itself, not to extend it or compensate for unclear binding provisions. At just over 400 pages including annexes, this draft could benefit from more concise wording throughout.


Public procurement which is fit to deliver on the Europe 2020 objectives is essential, and the Directives play an important role in this. A multitude of interests have come into play in the revision process, and some retrenchment from the level of emphasis on social and environmental considerations in the Parliament committee’s draft might have been expected. Focus within the Council on areas such as public-public cooperation, modifications to contracts and e-procurement may also have distracted in some measure from a more detailed consideration of the SPP provisions.

What is still needed is a rigorous assessment of how the proposed changes will affect SPP as it is currently practiced by a wide range of public authorities. This perspective should be brought to the ongoing negotiations, allowing consideration of how the wording of provisions can facilitate life-cycle costing, use of labels and other common SPP approaches while also making them more legally robust. Expert input from both procurers and suppliers who have been through these processes may assist drafters in getting it right.

To view the Committee draft report from the European Parliament, published May 2012, click here.

To view the Council of the European Union's proposed compromise text, published July 2012, click here.

A discussion on this article and the current draft Directives will take place at the Procurement Forum:

By guest writer Abby Semple.

Grounds for change: ECJ judgment in Dutch coffee case points to need for reform of procurement rules

1. Introduction

On 10 May the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered its judgment in the case C-368/10 Commission v Netherlands brought by the Commission against the Netherlands relating to the procurement of coffee machines and ingredients. The ECJ found that the province of North Holland had violated the Public Sector Procurement Directive (2004/18/EC) in its use of technical specifications, selection and award criteria linked to the environmental and social characteristics of the contract. The case comes at an important time, as changes have been proposed to Directives 2004/17/EC and 2004/18/EC which would affect the way in which public authorities can procure organic or fair trade products. In particular, the use of environmental and social labels in procurement is currently under debate.

2.    Facts of the case

The province on North Holland wished to award a contract for the supply and management of automatic coffee machines in public buildings. In its tender documents, the province included a number of provisions which the Commission challenged:

  • A general requirement for the supplier to practice sustainable purchasing and socially responsible business (as a basis for selection);
  • A statement that “the Province uses the Max Havelaar and EKO labels in relation to the consumption of coffee and tea” which appeared in the technical specifications. EKO is a label available to products with at least 95% organic ingredients and Max Havelaar is a label relating to fair trade production – i.e. payment of a minimum price and premium, pre-financing and long-term trading relationships with producers;
  • An award criterion in which extra marks would be awarded for the use of ingredients (sugar, milk powder, cocoa) with the Max Havelaar and EKO labels.

The province made clear in an information note issued during the tender procedure that it would accept equivalent labels, provided these were based on the same or similar criteria. The Commission argued that these provisions violated the requirements for selection criteria, technical specifications and award criteria set out in Directive 2004/18/EC. Under Article 23 of the Directive, contracting authorities may refer to labels to define the environmental characteristics required of products, but may not insist on a particular label and must accept other equivalent evidence. Article 48 of the Directive sets out an exhaustive list of the selection criteria contracting authorities may apply, and Article 53 sets requirements for award criteria relating to transparency and equal treatment.

3.    Findings of the Court

The Court ruled that the province had infringed the relevant provisions of the Directive on all but one of the grounds alleged by the Commission.

3.1    Technical specifications and contract conditions

Interestingly, the one area in which the ECJ rejected the Commission’s argument was the first reference to the Max Havelaar label. The ECJ chose to treat this as a contract performance condition, despite the indication in the contract notice that no such performance conditions applied. It based this on the fact that the label refers to requirements to be fulfilled in the delivery of the contract such as payment of a minimum price to producers. This follows the reasoning of Advocate General Kokott, but it is an unusual approach to interpreting tender documents. The reference to the Max Havelaar label was formulated in the same manner and appeared in the same section as the reference to the EKO label, which the Court treated as a technical specification.

There are two important differences between technical specifications and contract performance clauses under Directive 2004/18/EC. The first is that technical specifications are much more rigidly defined than contract clauses – a number of rules must be applied to ensure that they afford equal access to all tenderers. The second is that whereas technical specifications act as pass/fail requirements in a tender competition, contract clauses can only be enforced during the performance of the contract. This difference was pointed out by the Court in the Nord Pas de Calais case (C-225/98), and forms an important restriction on the role of contract performance conditions in tender procedures. Otherwise, it would be possible to avoid all the requirements for technical specifications by simply identifying them as contract clauses.

The decision of the Advocate General and ECJ to treat the fair trade requirements as contract conditions in this case limits the scope for other contracting authorities to actually assess tenderers based on these requirements and eliminate those who do not comply. It is not clear whether any tenderers in the Dutch case were in fact eliminated on this basis, but if evidence of this had been presented to the Court it seems unlikely that it could have treated the requirements as contract conditions only.

3.2    Award criteria

The ECJ confirmed that award criteria may be “based on considerations of a social nature, which may concern the persons using or receiving the works, supplies or services which are the object of the contract, but also other persons” (para 85). It also shed some welcome light on the ‘link to the subject matter of the contract’ test which has often been cited as an impediment to broader use of environmental and social criteria. This test was first articulated in the Concordia case (C-513/99), and subsequently written into the requirements for award criteria set out in Article 53 of Directive 2004/18/EC. In the EVN and Wienstrom case (C-448/01) the Court found that an award criterion based on the amount of renewable electricity which a potential supplier could generate above the amount required by the contracting authority was not linked to the subject matter of the contract. Outside of this ruling, the scope of limitations introduced by the subject-matter test – and particularly the question of whether criteria linked to production processes must perceptibly alter the ‘end product’ – has remained unclear.

The ECJ has now helped resolve this uncertainty by stating that "there is no requirement that an award criterion relates to an intrinsic characteristic of a product, that is to say something which forms part of the material substance thereof" (para 91). This means that an award criterion may relate to fair trade production, provided all the relevant requirements are met. However, the Court went on to find that the province’s failure to list the criteria underlying the labels and to accept other appropriate evidence was a violation of the requirements for award criteria (para 97). This effectively applies the same standard to award criteria as technical specifications, and creates uncertainty regarding the ability of contracting authorities to assign higher marks to third-party certified products at award stage.

This approach appears to go against the explicit wording of the Directive, which creates different rules for technical specifications and award criteria, leaving contracting authorities considerably more discretion in formulating and evaluating the latter. It may also create problems in respect of the equal treatment principle. At technical specification stage, any form of evidence (including non third-party certified) may suffice in order to establish whether a product meets the environmental and social criteria set out. The question being answered is of the ‘yes/no’ variety and so the evidence either establishes compliance or does not. However at award criteria stage the contracting authority may have to make a more qualitative assessment – how well does the product demonstrate performance against the criteria set out? Awarding the same marks to products with a third-party certification and those without, (for example, where only a supplier’s self-declaration is submitted) may contravene the principle of equal treatment, by treating objectively different situations in the same way.

4.    Proposed reforms

Several of the issues raised in the case are directly relevant to the proposed reform of the Directives. The proposal contains new social and environmental provisions, discussed in a previous article. Article 41 of the proposal addresses the use of labels in technical specifications and, for the first time, refers to social as well as environmental labels. Unfortunately the drafting of this article is likely to leave contracting authorities in serious doubt as to what they can and cannot do with labels, and whether the existing position has changed.

On the one hand, Article 41.1 states that contracting authorities may "require that th[e] works, services or supplies bear a specific label" provided the label meets certain conditions (being linked to the subject matter of the contract; drawn up on the basis of scientific information or other objectively verifiable and non-discriminatory information; established under an open and transparent procedure.) However this apparent ability to insist on a particular label is completely removed by a subsequent paragraph in Article 41.1, which states that, in addition to equivalent labels, a technical dossier of the manufacturer or any other appropriate means of proof must be accepted for products which do not bear the label. This means that contracting authorities will still not be able to insist on third-party certification in respect of environmental or social characteristics of products.

Recital 41 of the proposal seeks to limit the scope of award criteria linked to social elements of production. Where MEAT is applied, contracting authorities may award marks based on the working conditions of people directly involved in the production of goods or provision of works or services. However, “Those characteristics may only concern the protection of health of the staff involved in the production process or the favouring of social integration of disadvantaged persons or members of vulnerable groups amongst the persons assigned to performing the contract, including accessibility for persons with disabilities.” This would appear to rule out fair trade criteria such as those relating to the payment of minimum prices, pre-financing and long-term trading relationships. Given that the ECJ has now explicitly endorsed the possibility to include such considerations in award criteria, the content of this recital may need to be reconsidered.

5.    Conclusion

The confirmation from the ECJ that award criteria may concern fair trade production characteristics is valuable and should be reflected in the new procurement directives. However this needs to be accompanied by effective means of verifying the claims put forward by suppliers – both at technical specification and award criteria stage. In a sea of competing claims about the social and environmental characteristics of products, contracting authorities must find objective and rigorous means of verification. Reference to labels is clearly one of the most common and useful ways of doing this, and can reduce work for both buyers and suppliers.

While the specific approach applied by the Dutch authority in this case may have been lacking in transparency, the ECJ has arguably gone too far by introducing new requirements regarding the use of labels in award criteria. At award stage, contracting authorities must exercise their discretion and take into account the merits of the evidence submitted. A requirement to accept non third-party-certified evidence in respect of social or environmental criteria interferes with the exercise of this discretion, and may impede the equal treatment of tenderers.

By guest writer Abby Semple.

Procuring innovation – will the new Directives help?

One of the stated objectives of the reform of the EU Procurement Directives is to promote innovation. The purchase of innovative goods and services by public authorities is frequently cited as a means of improving Europe’s economic competitiveness while helping to solve social and environmental problems or deliver public services in new, more efficient ways. Funding and research have gone into the question of how to adapt procurement procedures to encourage more innovative purchasing (see, for example, the recent Feasibility Study published by DG Enterprise & Industry).

Most public authorities will not decide to purchase something simply because it is innovative, but when the conditions are right they may adopt procurement strategies which balance risk-aversion and cost considerations with a willingness to support new technologies, processes or methods.

Under the current Public Sector Directive (2004/18/EC), an exemption exists for the purchase of R&D services (Article 16 (f)). This only applies where the benefit of the services is not limited to the authority’s own operations. This has given rise to the use in some Member States of pre-commercial procurement (PCP) as a means of awarding contracts for R&D services. Outside of the full application of the Directives, there is greater scope to engage with service providers to develop their ideas. It is not however generally possible to proceed directly from the R&D phase to commercial procurement without a separate competition, which may in part explain the low take up of PCP in most Member States.

Article 29 of the proposed new Directive supplements the current exemption with an ‘Innovation Partnership’, which allows contracting authorities to apply a negotiated procedure for the development and purchase of innovative supplies, services and works. This covers both the R&D phase and the purchase of any resultant innovation – addressing one of the limitations of PCP.

The procedure to establish an innovation partnership, the "competitive procedure with negotiation", allows for the negotiation of all terms of the contract provided this is done in a way which respects the principle of equal treatment and the confidentiality of proposals. The Innovation Partnership itself must be structured in successive stages, allowing for intermediate targets and remuneration of the partner in instalments.

While the creation of a specific procedure may encourage some contracting authorities to pursue innovative procurement, the provisions set out in Article 29 seem overly prescriptive. For example, there are stipulations regarding the duration and value of the different phases of the procurement  and of the contract itself, which “shall remain within appropriate limits, taking into account the need to recover the costs, including those incurred in developing an innovative solution, and to achieve an adequate profit.” Such a requirement leaves ample room for a supplier to challenge the terms of a contract it is unhappy with, which may scare public authorities off using the procedure.

Other aspects of the procedure also seem regrettably inflexible, for example remuneration in instalments may not be suitable for all types of partnership – particularly where the supplier receives funding for its R&D work from other sources.

Innovative public contracts are essential to sustainability and growth, and a lighter regulatory touch in this important area would be welcome. A procedure which finds the correct balance between the needs and priorities of public authorities and the interests of innovative businesses is difficult to set out in detail in a way which is appropriate for all markets, sectors and contract types. Member States have the option of whether to include the Innovation Partnership in their transposition of the proposed Directive, so its susceptibility to challenge may discourage widespread adoption.

Perhaps a better approach would be to leave the structure of such partnerships open, while allowing the use of the competitive procedure with negotiation for their award. The safeguards included in this procedure, such as respect for the principle of equal treatment and confidentiality would help prevent abuse of this greater flexibility in awarding contracts.


The role of environmental and social labels in procurement

Many public authorities who wish to include environmental and social requirements in their tenders will do so by referring to labels. A broad range of such labels exist, and an ISO classification distinguishes between the different types. Labels which enjoy widespread recognition include PEFC and FSC (for paper and wood products), Energy Star and TCO (for IT equipment) and the EU Ecolabel, Nordic Swan and Blue Angel (covering a wide range of products and services). On the social side, Fairtrade (FLO) is probably the best known but many other labels exist in specific sectors.

Labels can be useful in procurement if they offer information about the characteristics of a product or service which is certified by a third party. Not all labels involve independent testing or inspection, but the ones that do can reduce the work for procurers in identifying more sustainable options, and for suppliers in proving the characteristics of their products. There are three ways such labels can be used in the procurement process, under the current Directives:

  1. As a reference source in the development of technical specifications;
  2. As evidence that a particular product or service meets the specifications;
  3. As evidence of performance in respect of an award criterion (where MEAT is applied).

It is not permitted to insist that a product or service carry a particular label or certification, as equivalent evidence must also be considered. The European Court of Justice is currently examining the possibility of referring to particular labels in technical specifications and contract clauses, in a case concerning a Dutch authority’s procurement of tea and coffee (C-368/10).

Article 41 of the proposed new Public Sector Directive addresses the role of labels and, for the first time, refers to social as well as eco-labels. Unfortunately the drafting of this article is likely to leave contracting authorities in serious doubt as to what they can and cannot do with labels, and whether the existing position has changed.

On the one hand, Article 41.1 states that contracting authorities may "require that th[e] works, services or supplies bear a specific label" provided the label meets certain conditions (being linked to the subject matter of the contract; drawn up on the basis of scientific information or other objectively verifiable and non-discriminatory information; established under an open and transparent procedure.)  However this apparent ability to insist on a particular label is completely removed by a subsequent paragraph in Article 41.1, which states that, in addition to equivalent labels, a technical dossier of the manufacturer or any other appropriate means of proof must be accepted for products which do not bear the label.

This would mean it is not possible to insist on third-party certification with regard to the particular environmental or social characteristics which the contracting authority wishes to address. Similar wording appears in Article 23.6 of the current Public Sector Directive, so the position appears not to change. However the initial statement that public authorities may ‘require’ a particular label will cause confusion and leave room for legal challenges.

The primary argument against allowing authorities to insist upon a particular label is that this may restrict competition for public contracts as enshrined in both the EC Treaty and Government Procurement Agreement of the WTO. While this is a good reason for stipulating that equivalent labels must be considered, it is not an argument against allowing contracting authorities to insist on some form of third-party evidence with respect to the environmental and social characteristics of products. Without this ability, the value of labels in the procurement process is severely limited. The principle of equal treatment must also be considered in this context, as a manufacturer’s own statements regarding their products may not be as convincing as third-party certification.


Production processes and methods – how far can you go?

Silk production in Nam Ban, Vietnam; copyright: peregrinari/flickr

One of the grey areas for sustainable public procurement has been the extent to which contracting authorities can specify environmental or social aspects of the production process. For example, if procurers wish to ensure that goods are produced in a factory which exercises good environmental management practices, or that workers are not exploited, they might seek to do this by including it in their specifications for the goods, services or works being purchased. They might also choose to address these considerations at selection stage, through award criteria or in contract clauses. The extent of what can be requested varies at each stage.

Under the current Directives (2004/17/EC and 2004/18/EC) production processes and methods may be specified for all types of contract. However this is accompanied by the general requirement for specifications not to be discriminatory or create obstacles to competition. Furthermore, you can only specify production processes or methods inasmuch as they serve to define the characteristics of the goods, services or works being purchased. The European Commission has at times adopted an interpretation of this which means that the final product must be altered in some perceptible way.

In the new proposed Directives, it is made clear that environmental and social aspects of production can be specified, and also addressed in contract award criteria. There is no reference to the idea of altering the final product, however the requirement for a ‘link to the subject matter of the contract’ applies – i.e. the criteria must relate to what is being purchased and not to the general practices of tenderers. There is explicit recognition that production processes and methods may relate to any stage in the life-cycle, from raw material acquisition onwards.

Recital 41 of the Directive gives some insight into what would be seen as the permissible extent of specifications and award criteria addressing environmental and social aspects of production. It also effectively places limits on the use of award criteria linked to social elements of production. Where MEAT is applied, contracting authorities may award marks based on the working conditions of people directly involved in the production of goods or provision of works or services. However,

“Those characteristics may only concern the protection of health of the staff involved in the production process or the favouring of social integration of disadvantaged persons or members of vulnerable groups amongst the persons assigned to performing the contract, including accessibility for persons with disabilities.”

This would appear to rule out criteria linked e.g. to the wages paid to employees or their right to form unions. It is less clear whether it would include considerations such as working hours or break periods, as these may be included in a broad reading of ‘protection of health.’ It is still possible to exclude candidates or refuse to award a contract based on breach of certain environmental and social laws (including the ILO Conventions), and to address these in contract performance clauses.

Overall, the new provisions appear to resolve some of the ambiguity regarding the extent to which specifications and award criteria can address environmental and social aspects of production. In doing so, they have also narrowed the scope of what can be done relative to what could reasonably be interpreted from the current Directives and case law. In particular, the limitation on social criteria contrasts with the recent opinion of Advocate General Kokott in Case C-368/10 Commission v the Netherlands, which emphasises the freedom which contracting authorities have in this regard.


Proposed EU Procurement Directives - mixed offerings for SPP

EU flag; copyright: Rock Cohen/flickr

On 20th December 2011 the European Commission published its proposals for new Procurement Directives. Following a year-long consultation and drafting process, the proposals are being put forward for adoption by the Parliament and Council, and then implementation by Member States. The current Public Sector Directive (2004/18/EC) will be repealed from 30th June 2014.

The stated objectives of the reform were twofold: to improve the efficiency of procedures and to allow for greater strategic use of public procurement to further environmental, social and industrial/innovation policies. To this end, a number of new provisions have been introduced, as well as reductions in the thresholds, time limits and documentation requirements for some contract award procedures. Social, health and education services are to be subject to general rules, as opposed to specific award procedures. The Special Features section of the Sustainable Procurement Resource Centre will be presenting a series of articles over the next two months examining the implications of the proposal for sustainable public procurement (SPP).

Overall, there is a lack of mandatory provisions on SPP. This is perhaps not surprising, as the Commission notes in its introduction to the proposal that “many stakeholders, especially businesses, showed a general reluctance to the idea of using public procurement in support of other policy objectives.” There are two exceptions, in the form of a new requirement for national oversight bodies to report on the implementation of SPP (Article 84) and a requirement to exclude tenders which are abnormally low due to violation of certain environmental or social laws (Article  69). The other social and environmental provisions in the proposed Directive are all voluntary in nature. They are

  • Increased scope for contracts to be reserved for enterprises employing disabled or disadvantaged workers (Article 17);
  • Explicit recognition that technical specifications may include reference to the production process or any other stage of the life-cycle for all types of contract (Article 40);
  • Possibility to refer to specific environmental or social labels in technical specifications (Article 41);
  • Ability to invoke non-compliance with EU or international social and environmental law as grounds for refusal to award a contract to a tenderer (Article 54.2);
  • Ability to exclude a candidate  from a competition on the basis of violations of EU or international environmental or social obligations (Article 55.3(a));
  • Explicit recognition that life-cycle costing (LCC), including external environmental costs, may be an award criterion and introduction of rules regarding the calculation of LCC (Article 67);
  • Recognition (as in the current Directive) that contract conditions may include social and environmental requirements (Article 70).

While there has been some effort to address these areas (which were raised by many public authorities and others responding to the consultation), unfortunately a lack of clarity in wording or the introduction of complex rules for some of these provisions limits their usefulness. In particular, the rules regarding eco-labels and life-cycle costing may in fact make it more difficult for contracting authorities to use these tools in their procurement. Future articles in this series will examine the exact wording of these provisions and how they are likely to operate in practice. Those who are interested in contributing this discussion should sign up to the group on the Procurement Forum on the proposed Directives.

EcoProcura 2012 registration and call for contributions now open

Turning Torso tower in Malmö

The online registration and call for contributions period are now open for EcoProcura 2012: New opportunities to deliver sustainable procurement and innovation. EcoProcura 2012 will take place in Malmö (Sweden) from 19-21 September 2012. Experts interested in presenting their ideas and experiences in sustainable public procurement and public procurement of innovation encouraged to submit their contributions by 11 May 2012.

EcoProcura 2012 will give participants the opportunity to learn about the latest legislation, strategies, guidance and practical solutions. The conference will also promote promote exchange and dialogue amongst representatives from the European Commission and European Parliament, procurers from all levels of government, policy-makers, as well as suppliers, manufacturers, and multipliers. To avoid missing out, register online today.

The conference programme will showcase inspirational success stories from both European and international cities, allowing more than 250 participants from countries across the globe to network and share their ideas and experiences.

For more information, visit: or contact


Basque government launches GPP Programme

In December 2011 the Basque Government Council approved the "Program on Green Public Procurement 2011-2014". This defines quantitative objectives for the incorporation of environmental criteria in the procurement and contracting of certain product groups made by its departments and public companies. 

The objective of this Programme is to normalise the introduction of environmental criteria in all tenders. To do this, the Programme sets two implementation deadlines:

  • End of 2012, when 75% of purchases and contracts that the Basque Government tenders for certain groups of products should include green criteria (with targets ranging from 50 to 100% depending on the product/service group).

  • End of 2014, when 100% of contracts have to be green.

Criteria have been developed for the 18 product and service groups  covered by the programme, including office material and equipment, vehicles, cleaning, courier services, lighting, building and development works.

It is hoped that as well as reducing environmental impacts, the programme will help achieve financial savings through more efficient products and services, and stimulate the market for environmental technologies in the region leading to the creation of green jobs.

The criteria are available on IHOBE’s website (the Public Company for Environmental Management of the Basque Government). The summary of the programme can be downloaded here (in Spanish).

New edition of Buying Green! Handbook available

Over 2 trillion Euros is spent on public contracts on a yearly basis in the EU, translating to 19 percent of its GDP. ICLEI has been working with the European Commission to produce guidance on green public procurement (GPP) which will help public authorities to reduce their environmental impact, while complying with the procurement rules. The result is the new edition of the Buying Green! Handbook.

The Handbook identifies strategies for GPP, and explains in detail how these can be implemented at each stage of the procurement process. It is intended for public sector procurers but is also a useful reference for policy makers and businesses who are either implementing their own green purchasing or responding to tenders.

In addition to explaining how GPP can be implemented under the EU procurement rules, the Handbook includes examples of green contracts from across the EU-27. The resource has been fully updated from the previous 2004 edition and includes expanded sections on life-cycle costing (LCC) and the construction, timber, electricity and food and drink sectors. A shorter summary document has also been prepared by ICLEI. To access both documents, click here.

1 in every 2 school children eat organic food at school in Malmö

In Sweden, Malmö's goal is to serve 100% organic food in all of its public catering services by 2020. €36 million was spent on school restaurants in the last four years. Switching to more organic produce and redesigning menus is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food supply by 40% by 2020, based on 2002 levels.

At the end of 2009, 43% of the food served in all school restaurants in Malmö was organic. >>more

Reykjavik leads boom in Iceland for green cleaning services

The City of Reykjavik has been incorporating environmental criteria in all its tenders for cleaning service since 2008.

Today, the city's major buildings (all kindergartens, for instance) are cleaned by contractors certified by the Nordic Swan Ecolabel. The city's demand for environmentally sound services has caused a boom in the demand for Nordic Swan label applications and certifications in Iceland including environmental management systems such as ISO 14001. >>more

Modernising public procurement – towards sustainability?

The EU Public Procurement Directives are currently being revised, with a draft expected from the Commission in December. The aims of the revision include both simplification of the existing rules and development of the possibilities for sustainable public procurement (SPP). While progress has been made by many public authorities, barriers still exist to the broader take-up of SPP, based partly on legal uncertainty arising under the current Directives (2004/17/EC and 2004/18/EC).

Key questions in this area include the extent to which production processes and methods can be specified, how to ensure that SPP requirements are not discriminatory, and how to deal with issues of monitoring and verification. In addition to these legal uncertainties, SPP in some cases faces limited political motivation, the perception that green or socially responsible goods and services cost more, and a lack of knowledge and capacity for effective implementation. To overcome these barriers, EU, national and local policies must reinforce each other. The procurement of innovative goods and services should also be supported, as this allows the market to respond to challenges such as climate change and shifting demographics.

Europe is not alone in recognising the potential for public procurement to contribute to sustainable development. The Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 will focus on the theme of the green economy, including the role of public procurement. However concerns still exist about the ability of GPP/SPP to restrict trade. Similar issues arise under the EU Treaty, which aims to create a single market for goods, services and works.

Many EU public authorities have already developed procurement practices which balance economic, environmental and social goals. Compliance with the EU procurement rules means that the principles of transparency and equal treatment are also respected. These principles properly interpreted can help rather than hinder the green economy, as they encourage both governments and businesses to verify the effectiveness of their actions, instead of buying into greenwash or settling for known solutions.

With the right legislative framework and ongoing commitment from all levels of government, sustainable procurement can become standard practice across Europe and beyond.

Introducing the Resource Centre

Bringing all the necessary information together in one place, the Sustainable Procurement Resource Centre is a one-stop access point for procurers, policy makers, researchers and other stakeholders. The Sustainable Procurement Resource Centre contains key knowledge on how to effectively undertake sustainable procurement, saving public authorities money and driving the market towards sustainable solutions:

  • Latest news and events on SPP
  • About SPP – a section introducing SPP and providing guidance on implementation as well as information on the legal and policy framework for SPP
  • Resources – hundreds of useful resources, from criteria and case studies, to tools, reports and links. Any new contributions are welcome
  • Get involved – ongoing initiatives which you can participate in
  • Network and exchange – opportunities to meet and exchange with your peers  

As a new website, we are happy to hear your comments and suggestions. Please let us know if you feel there is something missing or unclear, or if you would like to add a resource or link. Please also consider including a link to the Resource Centre on your own website. Email us at

To accompany the Resource Centre, two further websites may interest you:

  • The Procurement Forum - Bringing the human dimension back into knowledge sharing, public authorities are invited to delve deeper into specific aspects of sustainable procurement in the Procurement Forum, a tailor-made online network for procurement professionals. In this social space, the opportunity to exchange and collaborate in focused groups is provided. Access it directly at

  • All-new Procura+ Website - For public authorities that wish to take a lead in advancing sustainable procurement, the relaunched Campaign website should be the first stop. Meet the 30 cities, regions and organisations that are among the most active in Europe in the field. Let the campaign support you in your work and use it as a means to promote your activities. Join the movement at