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Public procurement for a better environment

The European Commission’s public procurement strategy focuses on six strategic policy priorities that were set out in the 2017 communication 'Making public procurement work in and for Europe'. It aims to improve EU public procurement practices in a collaborative manner by working with public authorities and other stakeholders. One of the pillars of this strategy is to ensure the wider uptake of innovation, green, and social procurement.

Under the Sustainable Consumption and Production and Sustainable Industrial Policy (SCP/SIP) Action Plan, the Commission undertook to further strengthen GPP and published the Communication on GPP.

The objective of the Communication “Public procurement for a better environment” (COM (2008) 400, published on 16 July 2008), is to provide guidance on how to reduce the environmental impact caused by public sector consumption and how to use GPP to stimulate innovation in environmental technologies, products and services. At EU level the European Commission set an indicative target that, by 2010, 50% of all public tendering procedures should be green, where ‘green’ means compliant with endorsed common core EU GPP criteria.

More specifically, the Communication proposes tools which should enable the main obstacles to increased take-up of GPP to be addressed.

The Commission was entrusted with the following:

  • Setting common GPP criteria
  • Encouraging publication of information on life-cycle costing (LCC) of products
  • Increasing certainty about legal possibilities to include environmental criteria in tender documents
  • Establishing support for the promotion and implementation of GPP through a political target linked to indicators and  monitoring

In order to monitor GPP, the Commission proposes to establish two types of indicators: quantitative indicators to assess the progress of the policy and its impact on the supply side, and impact-oriented indicators allowing assessment of the environmental and financial gains made. This monitoring methodology was tested in the 2009 study undertaken on behalf of the Commission Collection of statistical information on GPP in the EU. To assess if the set 2010 target had been met, in 2011, the Commission commissioned a study in which over 850 public authorities from 26 Member States participated. More information about the results of this study can be found here.


Staff working document

The Communication (COM (2008) 400) “Public procurement for a better environment” was accompanied by staff working documents.

This provides useful guidelines for public authorities on the definition and verification of environmental criteria, tools for stimulating GPP and examples for a number of product groups. It also offers legal and operational guidance.

Specific areas covered by the Commission’s Staff Working Document include:

  • Formulating an environmental award criterion in the absence of specific GPP criteria
  • The specific case of wood and wood products
  • GPP and life-cycle costing
  • Environmental management
  • Joint procurement
  • Provision of core and comprehensive GPP criteria for 10 priority sectors
  • Legal guidance on specific issues which have been identified as barriers
  • Establishment of indicators for monitoring

Staff Working Document (July 2008)


Impact assessment

Prior to the GPP Communication being adopted, an Impact Assessment was conducted, as is normal in the case of new EU policies. It was drafted on the basis of relevant studies, the input of an Inter Service Group gathering relevant Commission services, and consultation with stakeholders.

The benefits and costs of various policy options aimed at raising the quantitative and qualitative level of GPP in the Member States were assessed. Five separate policy options were examined in detail, ranging from a ‘business as usual’ approach with no further GPP measures being adopted, through to setting mandatory targets for GPP, making the use of GPP mandatory for certain contracts or modifying the existing standard forms of contract notices to include information on environmental specifications or award criteria. Each of these options was assessed on the basis of its economic, environmental and social, distributional and employment impacts (both direct and indirect).

The policy option chosen was a package including:

  • A voluntary, EU-wide target for GPP
  • Provision of new and highlighting existing implementation tools: including guidance on specific topics, training and the use of existing co-operation platforms
  • Provision of core and comprehensive GPP criteria for 10 priority sectors
  • Legal guidance on specific issues which have been identified as barriers to GPP
  • The establishment of indicators and monitoring for GPP

These measures were then adopted in the Communication “Public procurement for a better environment”.

Read the Impact Assessment