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10 May 2024

Public buyers share knowledge at BBWT's first annual event

The Big Buyers Working Together (BBWT) team organised its first in-person annual conference on 24 April. The event offered a unique opportunity for sharing knowledge, forging connections, exchanging insights, and weaving the fabric of collaboration among public buyers on innovative and sustainable procurement. With participation from all 10 communities of practice that are part of the BBWT project, the discussions covered three key themes: green/digital, social, and health procurement

As Jean Marc Muylle, Head of Unit at DG EISMEA noted, the annual event comes at a pivotal moment for the European Commission’s work with public procurement. He explained that in the light of contemporary challenges such as climate change, digital transformation, strategic independence and supply chain disruptions, public procurement plays an increasingly important role. In light of this, the European Commission wants to strengthen the collaboration both between public buyers, and between public buyers and the Commission. “We aim to translate public procurement from a process-driven legalistic tool to a strategic one that can deliver changes in European societies. That also requires a shift in policy from “how to procure” to “what to procure” In doing so we can make the economy more productive, the public sector more efficient, and institutions more trustworthy.”

Muylle further noted that public procurement can be a catalyst for innovation. By better structuring and organising demand, it becomes easier for innovative startups to participate in public procurement projects. That is one of the reasons behind the Big Buyers Working Together project, which aims to produce impact on the market, leverage buying power, and share collective intelligence. The annual event was a good opportunity to take stock of the first year and look ahead at what comes next.

The consortium of Eurocities, BME and ICLEI that coordinates Big Buyers on behalf of the European Commission spend the first year developing a needs assessment and building engagement, helping to shape the 10 communities of practice: Zero-Emission Construction Sites; Heavy-Duty Electric Vehicles; Circular Construction; Sustainable Solar Panels; Mobility; Digital; Social; New European Bauhaus; Healthcare Efficiency; Healthcare Sustainability. In the next year these Communities of Practice will cooperate through site visits, market studies and benchmarking to gain a better understanding of the main challenges in their sectors and to see how they can best move the market forward.

The panel discussion on the key challenges for public procurers made clear why a project like Big Buyers Working Together is needed. Participants noted that many sustainability initiatives lack political commitment to continue them after their success. Furthermore, there is a fear of high costs, especially when procuring new or zero-emission technologies, and of increasing administrative burdens. Finally sustainable procurement can be a challenge for beginners as it requires different skills and a better understanding of the European legal framework, which provides public buyers much more opportunities to procure sustainably than they sometimes believe.

By pooling their resources through projects such as Big Buyers Working Together, public buyers can overcome many of these challenges. The project helps capacity building, enables a more efficient use of resources, and gain more power to influence the market to become more social and environmentally friendly.

More information about Big Buyers Working Together, and its Communities of Practice, can be found here. Public authorities interested in joining a Community of Practice, are encouraged to send an email to Big Buyers Working Together Secretariat, at big.buyers@eurocities.eu