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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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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.”

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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.

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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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