Europe’s public authorities are major consumers. Through their purchasing process, they have the power to make an important contribution to sustainable consumption and production. Public bodies can implement the so-called ‘green procurement’, introducing environmental criteria for their procurement of products and services. This action also influences, increases awareness and sets an example for citizens and the market, accelerating change in the business sector.
Environmental criteria can be introduced in the technical specifications of tenders and when evaluating received proposals. Public administration bodies can consider as a criterion the life cycle cost of the product or service, rather than the initial investment for its purchase. Useful information on how to include specific environmental criteria has been developed at the EU level and is available on the EU’s Green Public Procurement (GPP) website. This information has been developed taking into account ‘priority’ sectors (e.g. construction, food and catering services, transport and transport services, energy, office machinery and computers, clothing, uniforms and other textiles, paper and printing services, furniture) and is regularly updated, thus facilitating the implementation of green procurement without investing time and resources.
Where no EU GPP recommendations exist for a type of product/service, public administration bodies can use the EU Ecolabel criteria or consider environmental management systems (e.g. EMAS / ISO 14001) during the procurement process.
For a GPP policy to be successfully implemented, it is very important to define what the main objectives of the policy are and to look for a link with possible complementary policies. A GPP policy consists of a clear policy statement and an operational implementation plan (action plan). While the high-level policy statement provides the commitment framework for GPP implementation, the operational plan provides an in-depth description of how the goals of the policy will be met.
A suitable well-structured GPP action plan should contain the following operational elements:
- clear targets, priorities and time frames
- priority intervention areas based on potential environmental impacts, budgetary considerations and market influence potential
- scope of the purchasing activities covered
- responsibilities for implementing the policy
- mechanism for appropriately monitoring performance against targets
- principles related to acting fairly (i.e. applying internal market principles).
The methodology and sequence for implementing the GPP plan can be summarised as follows:
This includes preliminary research (inventory) to identify the actions that must be taken, to clearly define which parts of the organisation(s) will be covered and eventually which product/service groups or works will be addressed.
- Setting targets.
Targets can be set by using market research and by getting advice from stakeholders and experts.
This phase should be accompanied by an appropriate training programme for staff carrying out tasks related to the GPP plan.
During this stage, the share of procured sustainable products/services is assessed.
- Monitoring progress and reporting results.
Setting milestones during the elaboration of the GPP action plan helps public administration bodies to assess whether the targets have been achieved, identify any problems and develop solutions.