5 June 2020

Which role can public procurement play towards more resilient cities?

ICLEI Europe explored this question during this year's European Urban Resilience Forum, which was hosted by the city of Malmö, chair of Procura+ Sustainable Procurement Network. 

Since 2013, the European Urban Resilience Forum – driven by ICLEI Europe and the European Environment Agency – has offered a unique platform where city representatives and stakeholders from various local and regional institutions come together to exchange and discuss strategies and actions to adapt to climate change and build urban resilience.

For the first time, the possible connections between the process of procuring and urban resilience were explored with emphasis on how public procurement can be used to build resilience as a strategic preparedness and response mechanism in European cities as well as a tool for response and recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Key take away’s from the session range around two focal points: 

Sustainable public procurement can enable public authorities to build resilience of supply-chains and the built environment

For example, Birte Detjen, working at the Competency Center for Socially Responsible Procurement at city of Bremen, Germany, shared the city’s approach for implementation of sustainable procurement and how important good, transparent relationships between procurers and suppliers are. Paula Rodrigues, Senior Technician working in the Sustainable Food School Program, Procura+ Participant, city of Torres Vedras, Portugal, provided insight on how to leverage procurement as a tool to establish local food supply chains. Awarding contracts for school catering can support SMEs and local farmers directly by for example creating smaller lots. With this approach Torres Vedras is able to increase the consumption of fresh, organic meals and to drive food education for the next generation. Alessandra Aires, architect at the City of Turin, Italy, showcased the procurement process of nature-based solution of green roofs and walls under the proGIreg project. She highlighted how crucial flexibility in procurement processes is to achieving results that truly serve citizens. In a project introducing green walls to schools in Turin, the delays in the procurement process due to COVID-19, has allowed them to adjust plans for more interactive features - a desirable feature once the mandated social-isolation period is over.

Strategic planning is vital to safeguard the local economy and to enable sustainability be part of emergency response, public procurement is an agile tool that needs to be part of adapting to life with Covid-19

Kenza Khachani, Policy Analyst at OECD highlighted the role of procurement to achieve strategic goals and impact of Covid-19 on procurement. Looking towards a life with Covid-19, procurement can function as a mechanism for response and recovery. For example, by incorporating risk management into procurement processes, reinforcing capacity of procurers and to encourage use of digital tools and platforms. 

Sanne van Kamp, Strategic Procurement Officer at the city of Haarlem, shared concrete experience of the strategic use of procurement during Covid-19. Within a framework of ‘goal setting, placing pre-conditions, planning, action, checking and adjusting’ the city operates on three levels: ‘immediate’, ‘short-term’ and ‘mid-term’. The Immediate covers urgent purchases, making sure that no collateral damages occur. The short-term is about tactical procurement, reviewing and rescheduling planning purchases in support of local SMEs. The mid-term focuses on aligning post-crisis policy development with strategic sustainability goals. 


The session emphasised the need to proactively connect resilience thinking and sustainable procurement practices. Whilst the context will differ locally, speakers expressed the vital role of continued exchange between authorities in the future. 

If you want to find out more, connect to the speakers or receive the slidedeck contact Josefine Hintz ( ICLEI’s Procura+ Europe Sustainable Procurement Network connects its participants to foster exchange, learn more here.