Toward Sustainable Public Procurement - A Best Practice Guide

Published in 2019 by

Type of document: Best practices, case studies

Public spending represents as much as 14 percent of the GDP in the European Union. This level of expenditure presents a great opportunity for cities, states and agencies: Through their procurement practices, they can deliver a major impact on sustainability performance across the world, helping drive innovation and accelerating the transition toward a green economy.

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Unfortunately, it is not so easy for public buyers to embrace their duty of exemplarity and enact change, despite increased flexibility introduced by EU public procurement directives in 2014. They often go a long way to include social and environmental criteria in public contracts — but typically only those related to product functionality, rather than the practices of the suppliers behind those products. But this is not enough. To make a real change, it is crucial to recognize the impact of the entire production cycle, not just product functionality, and look deeper into the supply chain to consider environmental, ethical and fair business practices. Moreover, they must have the ability to verify that contract provisions are respected, an impossible feat via contract clauses or supplier codes of conduct alone. A “check the box” approach is insufficient and it is time to go beyond the status quo to adopt the innovative solutions to a sustainable supply chain that are quickly becoming the norm in the private sector. To ensure that public funds are not financing environmental, social and ethical damages across the world, a robust verification system is needed.