Green Public Procurement appears more often in literature and brief when it comes to sustainable development within the European Union. But what does Green Public Procurement (GPP) mean? It is a long term for describing how governments and public entities may use their purchasing power to choose environmentally friendly goods and services in order to contribute to sustainable development (OECD).
The European Commission further classified GPP as “a process whereby public authorities seek to procure goods, services and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle when compared to goods, services and works with the same primary function that would otherwise be procured” (European Commission COMM(2008)400).
The public authorities in the EU play a great role in achieving climate neutrality in year 2050. Public purchases account for about 14% of the EU’s annual gross domestic product (European Union). Hence, it makes a notable difference whether non-so-environmentally-friendly goods and services are purchased or instead their greener alternatives chosen. Especially in sectors where public procurements represents a large share of the market, GPP is a driver of green innovation. Besides reductions in CO2, GPP allows public authorities to save money due to more energy efficient and water-saving goods and services for example (European Union 2016).
Nevertheless, all issued contracts must be in line with national and European regulations towards freedom of movement of goods, proportionality, equal treatment and non-discrimination amongst others (Palmujoki et al. 2010). Therefore, two options for public contracting are possible:
- Lowest price
- Most economically advantageous with regards to more factors such as quality, price, functional characteristics, technical merit, cost effectiveness, environmental benefits or other (European Commission Directive 2004/18 Article 53; Palmujoki et al. 2010).
In the second option, an effective weighing towards environmental characteristics without neglecting other factors becomes crucial to make GPP an effective tool for greener behaviour (Cheng et al. 2018).
There are various possibilities to move towards more sustainable procurement, for example with issuing green contracts for:
- Energy efficient computers
- Office furniture from sustainable timber
- Low energy buildings
- Recycled paper
- Cleaning services using green cleaning products
- Electric, hybrid or low-emission vehicles
- Electricity from renewable sources (European Union 2016)
GPP is based on voluntary commitment if not actively encouraged by national or regional incentives. The handbook ‘Buying Green’ by the European Union (2016) suggest a step-by-step approach on how to implement GPP in your institution:
- Make yourself familiar with the concept and potential of GPP and identify key areas for GPP first
- Define clear targets (including monitoring schemes) and priorities for your organization and support your fellows with information and training
- Elaborate how green requirements will influence your procurement and get an overview of green services and products available on the market, in line with legal obligations
- For tenders, clearly define the subject matter and technical specifications – you might want to consider using labels to define the requirements
- Apply selection criteria when appropriate (e.g. for environmental and supply chain management measures)
- Set award criteria and assess life-cycle costs
- Set contract performance clauses for contractors and provide remedies when they fall short (ensure there is a robust system for monitoring)
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Text image 1: George Evans/Unspalsh
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