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Barriers to the take-up of GPP

A number of key challenges to the implementation of GPP have been identified in the RELIEF project and European Commission survey on "Green Public Procurement in Europe 2006"*. These challenges include:

Lack of political support:

According to the "Green Public Procurement in Europe 2006" report, a high percentage of public authorities cited lack of management support as a barrier to broader implementation of GPP. This indicates that senior officials within the public sector across Europe do not have a high awareness of the importance of the GPP agenda or that their awareness is not made explicit to their purchasing staff.

Green products are perceived to cost more:

A key challenge identified by many public sector organisations is changing behaviour within purchasing departments. In particular using purchase price alone to decide between offers, rather than the full life-cycle cost of the product or service, can affect the take-up of green products and services.

While applying environmental criteria to procurement procedures can sometimes mean higher initial purchasing costs, the overall costs often actually decrease since the higher purchasing prices of green goods and services are compensated for by lower operating, maintenance or disposal costs.

A study carried out in 2008 ("Collection of Statistical Information on Green Public Procurement in the EU") revealed that in general GPP does not increase costs but can actually help the purchasing organisation to cut costs. Using a Life-Cycle Costing (LCC) approach to calculate the financial impact of GPP, the average financial impact of GPP within the seven best performing Member States was -1% (on average for 10 priority products groups/services) in 2006/2007. However, the 2011 study on the Uptake of Green Public Procurement in the EU 27, by the Centre for European Policy Studies and the College of Europe, showed once again that purchasing costs are still the predominant criterion for awarding contracts. According to this study, 64% of the respondents mainly use the lowest price as the decisive criterion, while only a minority uses predominantly Life Cycle Costing evaluation methods.

Lack of legal expertise in applying environmental criteria:

Many purchasers within public authorities do not and should not be expected to know all the environmental and social impacts of purchasing particular products or services. In some cases purchasers still struggle to define what an "environmentally and/or socially preferable" product or service is, and how to include appropriate criteria to identify these in tendering. The ability to accurately assess and verify information submitted by tenderers in response to environmental criteria is also a challenge.

Lack of practical tools and information:

25% of the respondents to the EC’s 2006 survey* cited a lack of practical tools and information. Addressing this gap is one of the purposes of this website, as well as the national GPP websites.

The need for systematic implementation and integration into management systems.

Decentralised organisations require effective management systems to ensure the consistent application of environmental and social initiatives – and this applies equally to GPP. Joint procurement is one of possible approaches  to overcome these kind of obstacles.

Lack of training.

Staff responsible for carrying out specific tasks do not always have the skills, or are not provided with the appropriate training. Training is generally required for procurers on the legal and technical aspects of GPP implementation, on the concept of life-cycle costing and for end-users on the sustainable use of products.

Lack of co-operation between authorities.

There is still little in terms of systematic implementation of GPP across Europe, with the majority of public authorities acting alone, often on their own initiative. Both informal and formal cooperation needs to grow to enhance GPP. The lack of coordinated exchange of best practice and networking between authorities has been identified as an obstacle to greater GPP implementation.

Limited established environmental criteria for products/services.

For many product and service groups, public authorities do not have access to clear and verifiable criteria which allow them to incorporate environmental considerations into their tendering while complying with the requirements of the Procurement Directives and other sources of procurement law.

* Green Public Procurement in Europe 2006 Conclusions and recommendations, Take 5 Consortium.