Procurement as a pathway for hazardous substances to the city

The news is full of reports of hazardous substances in children’s toys, toxic materials in office furniture and unhealthy cleaning products. We all want workplaces, kindergartens, schools and hospitals that are as free as possible from dangerous chemicals, but it can be challenging knowing where to start.

One place to begin in the quest to reduce hazardous substances is our municipality. Municipalities in the Baltic Sea Region are using taxpayers’ money to procure services and products for inhabitants. Almost everything found in municipal buildings has been purchased, either directly through the procurement process or by various subcontractors who have been selected as part of a procurement process.

Municipal procurement is a complicated set of tasks performed by specialists who are skilled at evaluating many different criteria and aspects of needed products and services. When your municipality is contemplating new purchases, ask if consideration of hazardous substances is part of the procurement process. Whether or not consideration of hazardous substances is part of the current process, asking the question will help to increase awareness of an important topic that is relevant for everyone working in or depending on the municipal sector and contribute to a conversation between you and the procurement specialists in your municipality.

Procurement specialists have an important role to play on the journey towards schools, kindergartens and workplaces that are free of hazardous substances. Procurement specialists are not chemists and it is not reasonable to expect them to know which products contain which hazardous substances. However, the first steps are easy to take, even without specific knowledge about hazardous substances.

The first step towards minimizing hazardous substances is to bring up the topic of hazardous substances in schools, kindergartens and municipal workplaces, and recognize the municipality’s responsibility to strive for a less hazardous environment especially through the procurement process.

The second step is to identify those municipal processes where hazardous substances are relevant.

The third is to include requirements regarding content of hazardous chemicals in identified products in purchase and procurement processes.

Working together, we can all play a role both in raising awareness and in making a meaningful contribution to change.

Did you know?
In 2014, 328.5 million tons of industrial and consumer chemicals were produced in the EU28. Of the chemicals produced, 205.5 million tons (63%) were deemed to be hazardous to human health and 140 million tons (43%) were hazardous to the environment.