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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.

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