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Background and approach

The basic concept of GPP relies on having clear, verifiable, justifiable and ambitious environmental criteria for products and services, based on a life-cycle approach and scientific evidence base. In the Communication “Public procurement for a better environment” (COM (2008) 400) the Commission recommended the creation of a process for setting common GPP criteria.

The criteria used by Member States should be similar to avoid a distortion of the single market and a reduction of EU-wide competition. Having common criteria reduces considerably the administrative burden for economic operators and for public administrations implementing GPP. Common GPP criteria are of a particular benefit to companies operating in more than one Member State as well as SMEs (whose capacity to master differing procurement procedures is limited).

Since 2008, the Commission has developed more than 20 common GPP criteria. The priority sectors for implementing GPP were selected through a multi-criteria analysis including: scope for environmental improvement; public expenditure; potential impact on suppliers; potential for setting an example to private or corporate consumers; political sensitivity; existence of relevant and easy-to-use criteria; market availability and economic efficiency. The criteria are regularly updated.

The GPP criteria are based on data from an evidence base, on existing ecolabel criteria and on information collected from stakeholders of industry, civil society and Member States. The evidence base uses available scientific information and data, adopts a life-cycle approach and engages stakeholders who meet to discuss issues and develop consensus.


The GPP approach is to propose two types of criteria for each sector covered:

  • The core criteria are those suitable for use by any contracting authority across the Member States and address the key environmental impacts. They are designed to be used with minimum additional verification effort or cost increases.
  • The comprehensive criteria are for those who wish to purchase the best environmental products available on the market. These may require additional verification effort or a slight increase in cost compared to other products with the same functionality.

GPP does not set out to detail each and every aspect of a product’s life cycle. Rather, by judicious use of published ecolabel and/or life cycle information it focuses on key aspects.