Deep dive

15 November 2023

Transition to strategic procurement requires regulatory adjustment

Public authorities increasingly see strategic public procurement as a key tool for supporting environmental, social, economic and innovation policy goals. This shift away from a purely administrative to purchasing, towards a more strategic and needs-driven one means that “certain regulatory frameworks need to be readjusted to promote a more holistic approach to public procurement, as currently most policies are not developed to ensure coherence across various policy areas and procurement legislations." This is one of the key points raised by ICLEI Europe’s Sustainable and Innovation Procurement Team, in an article written for European Public Mosaic, an open journal focusing on public service.

The article furthermore provides a deep dive on the state of play of strategic public procurement within the regulatory framework in Europe, showcasing best practices and key challenges. It places the current developments in European public procurement in the context of the European Green Deal, which notes that for Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, public authorities need to take the lead and ensure that their procurement is green. That requires wider implementation of sustainable public procurement on both national and local level, which can be hindered by legal, technical and organisational factors. The European Commission is increasingly taking measures to address this. The procurement dialogues initiative is a good example of this.

As the article notes, ICLEI, often in cooperation with the EU has already developed certain materials that can help public authorities to further promote strategic public procurement. They include guidance such as “Buying Green! A handbook on green public procurement" and the Procura+ Manual. In addition, ICLEI Europe currently coordinates an EU-funded training programme in ten Member States dedicated to professionalising and scaling up Green Public Procurement (GPP), operates the EU Green Public Procurement Helpdesk, and leads the Procura+ European Sustainable Network.

The article also highlights a number of concrete example of how cities across Europe have successfully used strategic public procurement. The City of Copenhagen (Denmark) included green vehicle criteria in their procurement of window cleaning services, implementing a ‘staircase model’ as a contract performance clause whereby the minimum percentage of green vehiclesrequired increased annually. The University Paris-Saclay (France), required the use of eco-labels, reusable and durable products in their tender to provide students with reusable menstrual products and the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa (Spain), incorporated gender equality clauses in contracts.

Finally, ICLEI’s SIP Team emphasises that more public authorities around Europe should follow these examples, noting that “there is a widespread misconception that sustainable solutions cost more. Differences in purchase price between sustainable and non-sustainable options are usually negligible and, even so, may be offset by savings in energy, water and waste over the lifetime of the product or service. Ambitious strategic and sustainable procurement policies can also redefine purchasing needs so that overall costs are lowered.”

The full article can be read here.