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New standard for responsible purchasing released

30 July 2012

The AFNOR group has published a new standard for responsible purchasing titled NF X 50-135, drawing on the regulations set out in the 2010 published standard ISO 2600. The new standard seeks to answer how to combine sustainable development and cost reduction, how to establish a lasting relationship between buyer and supplier, and how to reduce emissions and waste through purchases.

The standard first discusses the political and strategic dimension of an approach to purchasing, then issues recommendations for its operational deployment, including by public purchasers. It seeks to address the reality whereby the economy often takes precedence over social and environmental issues, such as through the allocation of markets without taking into account the full life cycle of a product.

NF X 50-135 can be considered an extension of the 2010 International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards on the social responsibility of organisations. The standard is an opportunity to enhance actions in sustainable development, innovation, and making production conditions more equitable. It is also a tool which can be used to target smart savings.

For more information, click here.

ISEAL project to improve use of sustainability standards in emerging economies

26 July 2012

A new three-year project aims to increase the use of sustainability standards in sustainable public procurement (SPP), particularly in emerging economies. Developed by the ISEAL Alliance – global association for social and environmental standards with the support of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the project will work closely with governments around the world to help them improve the scale, scope and effectiveness of their SPP efforts.

As part of this project, ISEAL in collaboration with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability has conducted a series of interviews with a worldwide range of public sector entities. The purpose of these interviews is to assess the extent and manner in which sustainability standards, such as eco-labels, are being used by public sector officials to support SPP.

These interviews will feed into a baseline report on the current use of sustainability standards in SPP around the world. When completed it is anticipated that this comprehensive report will reflect the current global status, successes, needs and challenges faced in the use of sustainability standards in SPP policies and procedures.

For more information, click here.

Procura+ founding Member receives Diamond Purchase Award for Sustainability

24 July 2012

On 30 May this year, Barcelona City Council was awarded first prize in the Sustainability category and second prize in Public Sector Procurement category for their More Sustainable City Council programme. The Diamond Purchase Award was presented by AERCE, the Spanish Association of Professionals in Procurement, in the third of this series of annual awards celebrating the best procurement projects of the year.

The competition aimed to highlight the strategic nature of the work carried out by procurement personnel and to show how important the profession is in stimulating the development of an organisation. The awards were comprised of 10 categories altogether, the winners of which were chosen for their use of innovation, originality or the potential to replicate by other organisations. The award panel, made up of members of the Directors board of AERCE, also recognised the consideration of social responsibility and the integration of people with physical disabilities.

Particular recognition was given to Barcelona City Council for their pre-procurement engagement of the market when purchasing electric vehicle charging stations and green vending machines. The City benefitted from tools and guidance provided by the SMART SPP project and is a founder Member of the Procura+ Sustainable Procurement Campaign, which aims to; support public authorities in implementing sustainable public procurement (SPP), promote achievements and foster exchange on good practice from public procurers and experts internationally.

For further information (in Spanish) please click here.

Sustainable Public Procurement in the Sao Paulo State Government: An in-depth Case Study

23 July 2012

The Trade Knowledge Network (TKN) is a global collaboration of research institutions across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas coordinated by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). As part of TKN’s work coordinating institutions and individuals with common concerns, strengthening research, communication capacity and knowledge bases, and developing solutions, it has recently published “Sustainable Public Procurement in the Sao Paulo State Government: An in-depth case study”.

The Government of the State of Sao Paulo has made significant strides in integrating sustainability into its public procurement processes, and, as such, serves as an important role model on how to use procurement to promote sustainable development. Sao Paulo represents roughly one-third of the GDP and of the exports of Brazil, the 6th largest economy by nominal GDP. Many aspects of their work could relevant and transferable to other public authorities worldwide, as Sao Paulo State has a land area comparable to that of the United Kingdom; a population, to that of Argentina and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to that of Poland.

The present case study documents in detail the initiation and expansion of the Sao Paulo SPP program; explains how its promoters overcame legal, institutional, administrative, market and mindset hurdles at each stage; and assesses the legal, administrative and procedural improvements needed to expand the program further. This in-depth account of the Sao Paulo State experience can prove particularly useful to developing countries and sub-national governments implementing or planning to implement SPP policies.

Download the case study here.

Good Practice in Socially Responsible Procurement

20 July 2012

The LANDMARK project has published a new document containing good practice approaches to verifying Socially Responsible Public Procurement (SRPP), taken from across Europe. This collection of current practice is a complementary publication to a legal guide “Verifying Social Responsibility in Supply Chains”, which provides in-depth legal perspectives on how verification can be achieved.

Ensuring that all workers throughout the supply chain are treated appropriately is challenging, especially when the extraction of raw materials and the manufacturing or production of goods occurs in different countries. Legitimate SRPP requires verifiable compliance with any social criteria stipulated in a tender, such as the exclusion of goods produced using child labour, or meeting the core International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions. Achieving this can be time-consuming and complex for suppliers and buyers alike.

Advances made towards SRPP despite these challenges, is therefore very encouraging. Numerous European municipalities have adopted a resolution to comply with the core ILO Conventions in the public procurement of products and services. Furthermore, many have started developing and applying verification schemes to ensure that suppliers are complying with the required social standards. This document outlines examples of this progress, using information provided by local governments from across Europe.The approaches towards verification and monitoring chosen by the public authorities differ both in focus and extent.

Download the Good Practice here.

EC to propose carbon label based on current energy grading system

6 July 2012

The European Commission is likely to propose a carbon dioxide emissions label similar to that of the current energy efficiency label, according to a report by The label will take into account the overall carbon footprint (the total set of greenhouse gas emissions released) of the product, allowing consumers to quickly evaluate the CO2 that has been emitted during manufacture, use and disposal.

In a survey the EC found that the current energy efficiency labels were “quite familiar to consumers”, as well as being easily understandable. “This approach could simplify the way in which the information is delivered, without requiring a simplistic approach,” said Joe Hennon, spokesman for Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik. Although condensing the complexity of Life-Cycle Assessment to a coded label may be challenging, a recently conducted analysis by the European Commission found that straight-forward labelling is key to affecting consumer behaviour.

The study concluded that too many environmental indicators confuse consumers, information should come from a trusted and ideally third-party source (not the manufacturer), and that general terms for indicators and simpler rating systems and units of measurement are better than technical descriptions. It was also noted that information should be provided at the point of purchase for maximum impact on behaviour.

For more information, click here.

Energy Efficiency Directive agreed upon at EU negotiations

5 July 2012

The Energy Efficiency Directive, which sets out binding energy legislation for EU member states, has been agreed upon by the European Parliament, Commission and Council. Although the measures put in place will contribute to improving energy security, boosting the European economy and tackling climate change, some members of the European Parliament argue that the Directive does not go far enough to meet Europe's goal of a 20 percent energy reduction by 2020.

Claude Turmes, the Green MEP from Luxembourg who was leading the negotiation on behalf of the European Parliament has asked the Commission to propose additional measures for transport to increase the directives efficacy, which could potentially lead to new standards for car fuel efficiency. Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger welcomed the deal, saying: "This is a big step ahead: for the very first time we have legally binding energy efficiency measures. Europe is now much better placed to achieve its 20 percent energy efficiency target for 2020".

Under the legislation each member state is obliged to draw up a roadmap to make the buildings sector more energy efficient by 2050. Other detailed measures include binding financial instruments for energy efficiency and better consumer information, such as through the use of smart meters. It was agreed that all measures in the directive will be gradually phased in, allowing more time for EU member states and industries to prepare.

For more information, click here.

ClientEarth pushes for clarity on “life-cycle characteristics”

28 June 2012

In an effort to get the European Commission to adopt a clearer definition of “life-cycle characteristics”, ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law organisation, has released a document outlining what life-cycle characteristics are, and the role they play in aiding procurers to make an informed choice. Greater clarity will allow contracting authorities to evaluate more fully whether a product or a service contributes to their strategic objectives, such as enhancing sustainability, as well as their functional needs.

‘Life-cycle characteristics’ expresses the idea that characteristics can result from social and environmental impacts that arise during the production phase or at disposal of a product, even if you cannot see them in the product itself. The examples of a nurse’s uniform made by an adult and one by a child, and a table made out of wood from a sustainably managed forest and one sourced from a forest that will never be replanted are given by ClientEarth to illustrate that some characteristics are unseen, yet greatly change the sustainability of a product.

The current Directive on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts should be amended so that unseen characteristics in products are on an equal footing with those that are apparent, argues the organisation. The Commission had already defined the term ‘life cycle', but its definition focuses heavily on impacts at the production phase, whereas 'life-cycle characteristics' takes into account data at all stages of the life cycle and is therefore preferable.

For more information, click here.

Sustainable procurement initiative aims to increase public spending on sustainable goods and services

27 June 2012

A new international initiative to fast track a global transition to a green economy by harnessing the power of government and local authority spending was announced at Rio+20 last week by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners. Supported by over 30 governments and institutions, the International Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative aims to scale-up the level of public spending on goods and services that provide environmental and social benefits. Across the OECD countries, public procurement represents close to 20 percent of GDP (over 4,733 USD billion annually), while in developing countries the proportion is slightly higher.

Studies indicate that sustainable public procurement, which represents between 15 and 25 percent of GDP, offers a tremendous opportunity for green innovation and sustainability. Examples from around the world show that sustainable public procurement has the potential to transform markets, boost the competitiveness of Eco-industries, save money, conserve natural resources and foster job creation. The new SPP initiative seeks to back the worldwide implementation of sustainable public procurement by promoting a better understanding of its potential benefits and impacts and facilitating increased cooperation between key stakeholders.

UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said: “Sustainable public procurement is a key enabling instrument for countries that want to make the transition towards a green economy. The SPP initiative offers governments the opportunity to lead by example by harnessing their purchasing power to drive markets towards a greener, more innovative and more sustainable path. The SPP initiative will push the process forward towards the creation of robust regulatory frameworks and collaboration between North and South; public institutions and the businesses sector.”

For more information, click here.

Korea green procurement programme presented at Rio+20

22 June 2012

The Republic of Korea presented its green growth policies and experiences at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development this week, placing particular emphasis on the country’s green procurement programme. The programme, introduced in 2004, compels government agencies and public organisations to buy green products.

The Green procurement law in Korea targets 33,000 government agencies, and has proven to be extremely successful. The programme also promotes the use of eco-labels as a means to increase the level of green procurement among private organisations. The Ministry of Environment (MoE) is currently working closely with 30 large scale companies to improve green procurement practices.

The MoE has also launched a public relations and information campaign on buying green, which includes advertisements on television, radio and online. The Rio+20 presentation from the Korean delegation was given at a high-level policy forum on the development of a framework for green economy, one of the key priorities of the Rio+20 Conference.

For more information, click here.