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Sustainable Public Procurement

Sustainable public procurement (SPP) is the act of purchasing products and services with the lowest environmental and highest positive social impacts, throughout the life-cycle of products and services. [1][3] This includes considering a wide range of characteristics of the products and services procured, such as: the use of non-toxic substances, renewable materials, energy and water consumption during use, as well as disposal, reuse and recycling options at the end of life.
Sustainable public procurement measures can be adopted at different levels. For example, by minimizing the need to purchase, it can target one specific product type or service such as buying only recycled paper or products with eco-labels as basic procedures, or go as far as integrating environmental and social aspects into all procurement activities, considering the life-cycle costing (LCC) of goods, works and services [1], for example by establishing criteria for project evaluation in areas where service delivery is under the responsibility of Local Governments (e.g. water supply, waste collection, mass transit, public buildings, etc.). This Solution seeks to support local governments on their path towards putting a comprehensive sustainable procurement policy in place.

Motivation / Relevance

Government and utilities expenditure is a significant and influential factor in the economy. In the European Union (EU-27) every year approximately 20% of GDP is spent by different levels of government (national and sub-national). This includes bodies which are governed by public law and utility service providers who procure goods, works and services [6]. Governments in OECD member countries spend on average 12% of their GDP on public procurement, excluding procurement by state-owned utility companies. Public Procurement accounts for between 10% and 20% of the GDP of Latin American countries. Analyzing possible impacts and adopting new criteria can stimulate sustainable development by inducing the selection of more sustainable goods, works and services  that are available on the market.[5]

Strategic government spending can trigger market demand for sustainably produced goods and services - for example by shifting more rapidly to cleaner technologies.  Sustainable procurement can also help achieve financial savings as part of a whole-life cycle cost basis. [7]

Sustainable procurement thus has the potential to result in significant positive impacts on the sustainability of local governments` finances and increase productivity and performance, while presenting an opportunity to promote sustainable consumption and a green economy.

Main impacts

  • More efficient use of resources: e.g.: reduction of energy and water consumption;[1]
  • Reduction of waste production;[1]
  • Reduction of environmental impacts of the product`s and services` life cycle;[1]
  • Tackle social issues;[4]
  • Reduce the negative impacts of unsustainable consumption such as resource depletion, increase of poverty affecting communities, pollution and threats to biodiversity; [1]
  • More effectiveness and financial sustainability of public projects and public spending.[5]

Benefits and Co-Benefits

  • Improve public image;[1]
  • Financial savings;[1]
  • Achievement of environmental, social and health targets;[1]
  • Drive innovation;[1]
  • Contribution to global sustainability;[1]
  • Stimulates green growth;[1]
  • Reduction of GHG emissions. [1]