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United Nations uses purchasing power to enhance sustainability

20 June 2012

In order to lead by example the United Nations has undertaken a concerted effort to improve the sustainability of the organisation. The UN is not only taking measures such as opting for more sustainable travel, but also utilising the purchasing power of the organisation to encourage suppliers to deliver products with a higher value, that are both resource efficient and produced under fair labour conditions.

Procurement is incorporated by many UN agencies as part of their emissions reduction strategies - the High Level Committee on Management’s Procurement Network, for example, has included sustainable procurement among its strategic priorities. Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, has expressed his support, saying, “the impact of such green procurement policies by public bodies and governments cannot be underestimated.” A support pack has been developed to assist UN agencies in this area.

The UN has also placed emphasis on enhancing the energy efficiency and climate neutrality of its buildings. Retrofits have taken place on existing UN buildings whilst others have been built anew, such as the impressive UNEP headquarters in Nairobi (Kenya). UNEP’s Regional Office for North America was awarded the Gold Standard Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, thanks to the environmental standards it set for its new offices.

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Majority of UK local authorities lack legal and sustainable timber procurement policy - WWF report

14 June 2012

More than half of UK local authorities still don't have a legal and sustainable timber procurement policy according to a recent report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) into public sector timber. The report, titled Barking up the right tree? found that despite upcoming legislation to halt the import of illegally sourced wood products only 16 authorities are implementing policy effectively.

The UK is currently the third biggest importer of products made from illegal timber in Europe, after Germany and Italy. The public sector, which includes local authorities, is thought to account for as much as 40 percent of all wood products entering the UK market and it's estimated that up to 10 percent of wood products entering the UK from outside Europe comes from illegal sources. The report also found that only half of the 433 local authorities in the country have a sustainable timber procurement plan in place.

Local authorities in Durham, Newcastle and Brighton were amongst those that took steps to improve their rating and scored towards the higher end of the ratings system. In total 16 were given the highest green rating. Beatrix Richards, head of forest policy and trade at WWF-UK, says, “Overall the study shows that the majority of local authorities still have a huge amount of work to do to comply with both the new law coming into force in 2013 and the government’s own procurement policy guidance to ensure they’re not buying illegal and unsustainable timber products.”

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Energy label speeds up development of efficient televisions

11 June 2012

In the past two years the energy consumption of the most efficient televisions has been reduced by 50 percent, moving from class A to A++. This improvement in efficiency has been prompted by the take up of the Energy Label for televisions, put into force in Europe in December of 2010 and compulsory since December 2011.

Topten.eu, an online search tool which presents the best appliances in various product categories, states that the label’s “influence on the market has been tremendous”. The organisation compiled data on televisions in different energy classes over a period of 30 months. The data illustrates that the number of highly efficient television models available grows in recent months, whilst the availability of lower energy efficient models drops off over time.

The conclusion reached is that a good energy label is highly effective at incentivising greater efficiency, and the results of this have a visible effect on the market. With the Energy Label for TVs, the EC has implemented an effective instrument to accelerate market transformation towards more efficient products, says Topten.

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Transport sector training and employment initiative helps locals in London

6 June 2012

Skills shortages in transport are forecast to rise to 35 percent by 2013/14 in London, United Kingdom, while in some areas of the capital city 30 percent of residents are out of work. A new jobs and training initiative from Transport for London (TfL), titled Strategic Labour Needs and Training (SLNT), aims to tackle both of these problems simultaneously. The initiative puts suppliers under contract to offer jobs and training opportunities to local communities, the long-term unemployed and under-represented groups.

The scheme is driven by the mayor of London's Economic Development Strategy which pledges a responsible procurement policy. The scheme helps suppliers find skills and training programmes. A Supplier Skills Team works with the National Apprenticeship Service and the Department for Work and Pensions Work Programme to help suppliers develop specific programmes. The SLNT approach has already been applied to 30 high-profile projects in the city.

TfL has so far created 2,200 apprenticeships and is on track to exceed a target of 2,550. As consequence of the scheme, transport operators have reported reduced staff turnover, better customer service, lower collision rates and improved fuel efficiency. The model has been adopted by other large organisations delivering major projects. TfL, through the Greater London Authority, is a participant in the Procura+ campaign. The campaign support sustainable public procurement amongst local authorities.

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Guide on social responsibility in supply chains published by LANDMARK

30 May 2012

The LANDMARK project has published Verifying Social Responsibility in Supply Chains, a practical and legal guide on social considerations in public procurement. The study analyses different instruments of verification that can be used at the various stages of a procurement process, such as pre-procurement, selection or exclusion criteria, technical specifications, award criteria and contract performance clauses, as well as contract management.

The guide demonstrates how verification schemes can be applied in a legally compliant manner by citing case law, providing examples of verification schemes developed and implemented across Europe, and by discussing the monitoring and measuring of compliance.

The product groups focused on were chosen based on their practical relevance for public sector procurers and the potential to have a positive impact on working conditions along the supply chain. The LANDMARK project intends the guide to be of interest, as well as of practical use, to those who wish to move towards more socially responsible procurement.

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Amsterdam builds climate-neutral neighbourhood

25 May 2012

To comply with the EU Green Public Procurement (2004) directive and Energy Performance of Buildings (2010) directive, which obliges countries to improve the safety and energy performance of buildings, the City of Amsterdam (the Netherlands) is constructing a carbon-neutral neighbourhood that will be comprised solely of energy efficient buildings. The European Commission estimates that homes and commercial structures account for 40 percent of energy use and generate 36 percent of greenhouse gases.

The four-floor residential structures are designed to reduce energy waste so much that designers believe solar panels and compact wind turbines incorporated into the development will provide nearly all the community’s electricity needs. Within the neighbourhood, parks will take precedence over parking for vehicles and the residential buildings will be cooled using water piped from the River Ijmeer.

Part of the project involves building peninsulas using sand from new tunnels being dug for the expansion of the city’s underground metro system. Around 20 percent of the new buildings will be reserved for lower income residents. The EU has set out goals to cut energy demand for residential and commercial buildings by more than 80 percent by 2050 through better insulation and ecological design, and wants to reduce the environmental footprint of new construction by turning debris in building material.

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JRC report aids in assessing the environmental impact of products and services

25 May 2012

A new report from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) - the scientific and technical arm of the European Commission - provides information for policy makers and business managers on how to better assess the environmental impacts of products and services. It emphasises that incorporating Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) is key to making substantial improvements in environmental performance.

LCT looks at the environmental impact of production, distribution and consumption activities from cradle to grave, quantifying the environmental impact of products from the extraction of natural resources to product recycling or waste disposal. The International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) was developed to provide guidance for greater consistency and quality assurance of Life Cycle Assessments (LCA). The report helps local authorities use this ILCD system as a technical reference, and as a support in issuing tenders for service contracts.

It is hoped that LCT will be more widely incorporated, resulting in more environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient products. LCT also has the ability to help policy makers and business actors both improve their environmental image and save money by implementing robust LCAs. Applications that currently apply LCA include ecolabelling, ecodesign, environmental and carbon footprinting, green procurement and waste management.

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Sustainable procurement of products increases in Brazil

18 May 2012

Brazilian public sustainable product procurement in the first quarter of 2012 has already totalled 83 percent of the total purchases made through sustainable tenders in 2011. In comparison with the same period in 2010 there was a 61 percent increase in Federal Government procurement of sustainable products. By March 2012 the value of sustainable products procured by government authorities in Brazil reached approximately R$12 million.

The Sustainable Procurement program is one of the government initiatives to ensure value is obtained in products consumed through applying environmental, economic and social criteria in all stages of a product’s life cycle. Since the implementation of the regulatory standard for sustainable procurement in January 2010, the Federal Government has issued 1,490 tenders for items classified as sustainable (up to March of this year).

A total of 550 products are considered sustainable by the government regulatory body. The increase in the number of purchases of this type is explained by the increase in the number of items available. The products most purchased since the implementation of the policy are recycled ink cartridges for printers (41.5 percent), recycled printer toner (23.9 percent), air conditioning equipment (7.5 percent) and recycled paper (6.2 percent). Vehicles using biofuels and cups made from corn starch are also included in the sustainable register.

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Sustainability of health care products influences purchasers

8 May 2012

Environmental sustainability and other green attributes play a large part when hospitals in Germany, Italy, Brazil and the United States make purchasing decisions on healthcare products, new research has revealed. On a ten point scale a majority of respondents (54 percent) rated the impact of “green” credentials on purchasing decisions for health care products and supplies an eight or higher.

The study also found that the same holds true for Integrated Delivery Networks. “Such a high rating means they are emotionally attached, that they feel strongly about it,” explains Dave Bauer of SK&A, an independent research firm based in California, USA that conducted the research on behalf of Medical Devices & Diagnostics Global Services.

The survey found that nearly one-third of current requests for proposals for medical products include green attributes, while key decision makers expect nearly 40 percent of future requests for proposals to include green attributes. Respondents to the survey, which was conducted from January to March 2012, included health care professionals, procurement/materials management, and hospital executives in all four countries.

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Binding measures needed to achieve green economy

4 May 2012

The opinion requested by the Danish presidency of the EU has said that to shift Europe to a green economy based on sustainable production and consumption, voluntary measures need to be supplemented by binding regulatory measures. It was further stated that greener fiscal policies and market-based incentives need to be in place to support this transition. The message was adopted by the European Economic and Social Committee at its plenary session.

An Le Nouail Marlière of the French Workers' Group, rapporteur for the opinion, stated that the EU needs to increase regulatory efforts to phase out unsustainable products, scrap subsidies that do not take full account of negative effects on the environment, and introduce green public procurement policies. The Committee's opinion places the issue of sustainable production and consumption in the context of a broader debate, calling for an overhaul of the economic model. The current model, fixated with GDP indicators and geared towards generating ever more growth and demand, is unfit to create a truly sustainable economy it is argued.

The Committee stated that while unsustainable products are being phased out, it is imperative that public authorities heavily support investment in research on new, eco-friendly products and incentivise businesses to innovate. It was also stated that it is necessary to involve civil society at global, national and local level to successfully transition to a sustainable green economy. To be widely accepted, sustainable production and consumption must be seen by businesses, consumers and workers as a desirable objective.

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