What is green procurement and why is it important?

The importance of using environmental and other sustainability criteria in procurement has been highlighted in many national and EU documents. The most obvious benefit that comes with green procurement is a reduced exposure for hazardous substances for employees and inhabitants of the municipalities and reduced emissions to the environment. As municipalities are important economic actors with considerable environmental impact this potential is often significant.

The considerable sums that municipalities spend on procurement also give them economic power. By including requirements about avoiding hazardous substances in tendered articles municipalities can contribute to the development of new products with less impact. By offering a market for these new alternatives municipalities can also make them more economically affordable. Thus they can have an impact on the market in general.

Criteria including requirements for a low impact on health and environment may be used in public procurement as long as they comply with the fundamental principles regarding the following:

  • non-discrimination,
  • equal treatment,
  • transparency,
  • proportionality,
  • mutual recognition.

According to article 33 of the EU chemicals legislation REACH, each supplier is required to inform the receiver of the product if the product contains substances of very high concern as defined by the so-called Candidate list. This information should be required in all procurements of goods and articles.

In order to ensure that the articles and services that are delivered meet the requirements that have been set in the criteria of the procurement, there is need for a systematic approach. Following up on the criteria is crucial and forms a good basis for development of the criteria for the next procurement. A follow-up should be planned already when setting the criteria for the procurement.

Article 33: Duty to communicate information on substances in articles

Many procurement officers have little knowledge and experience from dealing with hazardous substances. There is therefore a need for both guidance and training related to basic concepts and priorities.