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Green Public Procurement

18 July 2017

Green public procurement (GPP) brings environmental, societal and economic benefits at the local level, and can help drive the market towards sustainability. By taking smart decisions when purchasing products and services, public authorities achieve real value for the public purse. 

John Watt Head shot

Considering the broader impacts of public procurement and opting for products and services with environmental benefits, such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions, can also help public authorities to invest in the future of their cities and can actively encourage local innovation and entrepreneurship.
For this reason it makes sense to adopt GPP as a policy, rather than just as an ad-hoc practice, so that it can be supported, monitored and improved over time. A GPP policy can also help to establish communication between the users or commissioners of goods, works and services and procurers, to ensure needs are met in a sustainable manner.
GPP can be applied to all products and services purchased by a public authority, such as energy efficient computers, vehicles, and food and catering. Sometimes a small change in a very big contract can have a significant environmental impact, as in Barcelona where, with just a 15% increase in the proportion of electricity being purchased from renewable sources, one centralised contract for electricity saved the equivalent of more than 66,000 tonnes of CO2.
Smaller purchases are just as significant. When the German Public Purchasing Authority Bescha brought a new dishwasher for their onsite canteen, the new machine was twice as energy efficient as its predecessor and halved its water consumption.
The selection stage of a tendering process is important for signalling the use of GPP and encouraging innovation. The 2014 Directives allow contracting authorities to both:
• exclude companies from tendering for not meeting certain conditions (exclusion criteria); and
• select the most suitable companies to bid based on technical ability and previous experience in relation to the subject matter of the contract (selection criteria).
Both sets of criteria provide opportunities for pursuing sustainability goals.
You may allocate points during the award stage to recognise environmental performance beyond the minimum requirements set in the specifications. There is no set maximum on the weighting you can give to environmental criteria. Labels and other forms of third-party evidence can help you to assess how well a tender performs against your chosen award criteria, and to verify bidders’ claims.
In addition, adopting a life-cycle costing approach reveals the true costs of a contract. Considering energy and water consumption, maintenance and disposal costs in your evaluation may indicate that the greener option is also the cheaper option over the full life-cycle.
At the last meeting of the URBACT Procure network, we explored how a city can take the steps to embed GPP into its everyday procurement practices, from raising internal awareness and gathering support, creating a policy and strategy, using green criteria and engaging with suppliers. A presentation from Robert Kaukewitsch of the European Commission Environment Directorate-General provided an introduction to what is possible for GPP. John Watt of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability then hosted a workshop to demonstrate to the cities how GPP can be applied, by providing practical steps, advice and examples.


John Watt
Officer, Sustainable Economy and Procurement