In a sustainable procurement, you not only consider the benefits arising for your own organisation, but look at society as a whole. At the same time, you minimise environmental damage and safeguard certain social aspects such as equitable working conditions. It benefits the economy as well as society, if we include sustainability requirements in a public procurement.
Procurement is an important instrument in achieving public policy goals. Sustainable public procurement enables you to ensure good business practice across the entire lifecycle of the product. You also contribute to sustainable development and to achieving the national environmental quality goals.
Sustainable procurement not only comprises the impact on the environmental, but refers to the broader definition of sustainability, which includes the social and economic dimension. At the same time, sustainable procurement can also comprise aspects within health and politics.
A contracting authority is free to define and decide what to procure and which added values to reward, as long as the basic public procurement principles are followed. The National Public Procurement Agency assesses that it is possible to set requirements that go beyond the EU legislation.
Support for sustainable procurement
We provide support to help contracting authorities procure goods and services that are more sustainable from an environmental, social and economic perspective.
Besides general support regarding sustainability, our website also provides tools and templates, including:
About sustainability criteria
The National Public Procurement Agency’s sustainability criteria that are specifically customised for public procurement.
This means that the requirements are harmonised with:
- public procurement legislation
- applicable case law
- the practical circumstances applicable to public procurement.
Relevant stakeholders from the private, public and non-profit sectors have participated in the process of drawing up the criteria.
Sustainable procurement can contribute to several societal goals. A selection of the effects that procurement can have are listed below.
Environmentally sustainable public procurement
Through procurement, the public sector plays an important role in the transition to a society free of fossil fuel. You also have an opportunity to create an environment free from hazardous substances by choosing products that do not contain chemicals that are harmful to our health and the environment.
By setting environmental requirements in public procurement, authorities can contribute to achieving environmental quality objectives and generational goals.
Sustainable public procurement can contribute to solving environmental issues such as:
- Greenhouse gas emissions (by procuring goods and services with a smaller carbon footprint throughout their life cycle)
- water usage (by setting requirements for water-saving equipment)
- energy efficiency and use of resources (by procuring more efficient products and applying environmentally-adapted design principles)
- air, water and land pollution (by controlling for chemicals and limiting the use of toxic substances)
- waste (by procuring processes or packaging that generate less waste and/or setting requirements for reusing and recycling materials)
- sustainable farming (by procuring ecologically produced food)
- deforestation (by procuring wood and wood products from legally felled, sustainable forestry).
Sustainable public procurement can have a positive impact on the private sector and the general public, and thus affect the market. By developing a sustainable procurement strategy, and communicating its initiative and results, a contracting authority can show that measures of this kind are possible and yield positive results. It can also encourage the private sector to use green criteria in their own procurements and launch new products to market, such as electric cars and charging points.
Today, the prevailing norm is a linear economy, where spent goods end up in landfill sites. This contributes to the depletion of the Earth’s resources. In a circular economy, the focus is instead on minimising waste by making it easier to recycle, dismantle and reuse resources.
Sustainable procurement can result in improved public services, thereby increasing quality of life. Cleaner public transport, for example, improves air quality. Reduced use of hazardous substances in cleaning products creates a healthier work environment.
Sustainable procurement can also lead to increased environmental awareness. This can be achieved by identifying the environmental impact of a certain product/service throughout its entire lifecycle and highlighting the benefits gained by a more eco-friendly alternative. For example, ecologically produced food will probably increase environmental awareness among users and suppliers of the service.
Socially sustainable public procurement
By taking social considerations into account in connection with procurements, contracting authorities can contribute to the responsible use of tax revenue. It may involve ensuring equitable working conditions for people who carry out public contracts, offering people far from the labour market an opportunity for employment, or working to ensure that everybody, irrespective of ability, can participate in society.
Social considerations are extremely relevant to sustainable procurement. In Sweden, sustainable procurement can contribute to a better labour market by setting requirements for employment and social integration. Through public procurement, we can also contribute to improving working conditions abroad, particularly regarding production in third countries, by setting requirements for certain working conditions.
Using social requirements in public procurements ensures that the public sector purchases products and services that have been produced ethically, based non-discrimination of gender or differences in a person's ethnic and cultural background.
Economically sustainable public procurement
Economically sustainable public procurement involves the efficient use of tax revenue, and helps to stimulate a well-functioning business community, a range of suppliers, healthy competition, as well as economic growth that is not generated at the expense of people or the environment.
Sustainable public procurement can lead to savings for the contracting authority as well as for society at large, if you implement a life cycle cost approach. By collating all the costs arising throughout the life of a good or service, such as operating and maintenance costs and not only looking at the purchase price, you can reduce overall costs.
One example of this is the procurement of more efficient IT equipment, where you save money in terms of both lower energy consumption and easier recycling/reuse at the end of the product’s life. More efficient goods and services often cost more initially, but save money in the long term.
Buying existing, sustainable products and services on the market is a good thing, but does not in itself drive innovation. But sustainable public procurement can convey a message that there is a market for new solutions, which creates new opportunities and ideas for development. Promoting sustainable purchases can therefore create an important incentive for the industry to develop new products, services and business models. This, in turn, has the potential to lead to more competition and lower prices in the long term.
Economically sustainable public procurement can also contribute to employment and skills supply. Public contracts can be used as an entry point to the labour market for people who have difficulty finding a job.