context: in 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg committed public authorities to "promote public procurement policies that encourage development and diffusion of environmentally sound goods and services". It was internationally recognised at that time that Public Procurement could make a significant contribution to achieving Sustainable Development.
Letís just take one example: in 2001, the European Commission estimated that public authorities in Europe spent some Ä1,000 billion on goods, works and services. This included, for example, the 2.8 million computers and monitors purchased each year by public authorities in the European Union. Switching public demand from the conventional EU mix of electricity to green electricity would save some 60 million tonnes of greenhouse gases (CO2-equivalents) alone, equal to 18% of the EUís Kyoto commitments.
what: sustainable procurement (also called eco-procurement, green purchasing, environmentally friendly purchasing) is the process in which organisations buy supplies or services while taking into account:
These efforts aim at using the strength of the markets single biggest buyer (public authorities) to generate a market of sustainable goods and services.
- environmental aspects:the effects that the product and/or service has on the environment over its whole lifecycle, from cradle to grave;
- social aspects: the effects on issues such as poverty eradication, international equity in the distribution of resources, labour conditions, and human rights
- economic aspects:of course costs and economic competitiveness of the products and services have to be taken into account.
initiatives: international organisations such as the European Union and the United Nations have an important role in this, by practising what they preach and setting the framework for other stakeholders as well. Moreover, EU and UNEP have been strongly supporting local and national public authorities to foster sustainable public procurement. The following are just a few examples of initiatives undertaken by these organisations:
results: the inclusion of sustainable development principles in procurement practices is already a reality in a number of countries, such as Canada, Denmark, Sweden (where 50 % of its administrations include environmental criteria for more than 50 % of their purchases), the Netherlands, Norway, the United States and South Africa.
- The PICOLight project- The market for energy-efficient lighting equipment has evolved significantly, yet most public buildings are equipped with out-dated lighting systems. In public bodies, there is very often a lack of investment capital for cost-effective energy efficiency investments, or other resources for developing energy efficiency projects. Against this background, the PICOLight project Ė financed by the European Commission- is promoting the use of energy-efficient lighting in public buildings. At the moment, the project involves six European countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Sweden). The measures undertaken in the municipalities involved allow for increased financial savings for the cities and reduced impact on the environment.
- UNEP / World Bank / United Nations Development Programme - Interagency for Procurement Services have developed and tested a training course to sensitise governments in developing countries about the importance of sustainable procurement. The main argument used is the creation of a market for sustainable goods that would also be competitive at international level and the interest of donors in good governance.
The experiences in these countries indicate that incorporating sustainable production and consumption considerations into public purchasing helps to develop sustainable markets. Governments in both developed and developing countries can benefit from the efficiency gains of sustainable procurement (cost-saving, new business opportunities) and its effects on capacity-building (increased knowledge and transparency in international markets).