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16 September 2014

UN initiative helps Panama to green purchasing

Selected as a pilot country for a UN project on sustainable public procurement (SPP), the nation of Panama has adjusted their procurement processes to incorporate sustainability. Ten state institutions have adjusted their catalogs to encompass products and services that meet high sustainability criteria, as proposed by the United Nations Program for the Environment (UNEP).

The Panamanian government procures services worth $3 billion per year. UNEP intends to upscale the plans in the region, pending a review of their efficacy. The UN body has held discussions with public authorities regarding the current SPP methodology in place, with the aim to enhance implementation.

At its core, SPP is about taking sustainability considerations into account in procurement actions, such as buying only what is needed, purchasing products and services with high environmental performance, and considering the social and economic impacts of a purchasing decision. With such a large market share, public buyers can have a big influence in driving the market towards sustainable solutions.

For more information, read this short news article.
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11 September 2014

Despite rocky start, Malta looks to further improve uptake of GPP

Faced with a lack of policy and strategic vision, the fragmentation of institutional responsibilities, and a dearth of technical capacity at the level of public procurers, the uptake of Green Public Procurement (GPP) in Malta has been tepid. However, bolstered by the EU procurement directives, the island nation is taking steps to ensure the practice goes mainstream.

To boost uptake, the Maltese government has issued a call to recruit outside expertise to support in the development of GPP strategies for at least two government beneficiaries. As part of their duties, the consultancy will be expected to deliver scientific studies to assist in the introduction of 10 new environmental criteria. Critics, however, note that the programme needs to be given increased funding to succeed.

While many welcome the gesture to bring in an outside expert, critics believe that more will need to be done to ensure that the revised EU directives are fully implemented, and GPP as a concept embraced by public authorities across the country. A 2012 National Action Plan made some progress in the area, but overall was widely seen as not achieving its target of broadly boosting GPP in the region.

For more information, read an analysis by the Malta Independent.

10 September 2014

New UN document examines the market’s ability to embrace sustainability

UNEP, as part of the 10YFP on Sustainable Public Procurement (an initiative which ICLEI co-leads), has launched a pre-study to determine whether the private sector is ready to meet the ambitious sustainability requirements of procurers in the public sector. The study also explores to what extent sustainable public procurement (SPP) can be a tool to promote sustainability in supply chains, outlining the present potential and limitations.

Globalisation, the study finds, has made supply chains more complex, and so has hampered efforts to assess the sustainability of final products and services. As a good may be assembled in several countries, it is difficult to clearly ascertain whether each step of the process has met sustainability criteria. The need for greater transparency and a method to tackle this complexity is highlighted as a necessary step in greening supply chains.

The study also found that while large companies are embracing sustainability as a part of their business model, many small and medium sized enterprises are lagging behind. As well as raising awareness, the document aims to build up interest among stakeholders to finance a project to act on the study's recommendations.

The document is available to download online.

4 September 2014

New Irish government guidance aims to dispel concerns over GPP

Responding to concerns from public authorities tasked with implementing green public procurement (GPP), the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has produced a guide to help public sector procurers implement sustainable and green procurement practices. The document covers a wide range of sectors, including construction, transport, energy, food and catering, textiles, cleaning products, paper and IT equipment. Around €15 billion is spent by the Irish government annually.

Issues addressed in the document include the perception that GPP costs more, annual budget constraints, lack of support for GPP from senior management, risk of legal challenges, complexity of verification, the effect of central procurement frameworks, and working with a lack of resources. Additionally, the guide addresses the legislative requirements around GPP, as well as the effects of the recently adopted EU Procurement Directives.

The benefits of more sustainable procurement are outlined, with the use of GPP as a means to contribute to Ireland's economic recovery highlighted. The public sector's responsibility to display leadership on environmental issues, and the long term benefits of GPP (social, economic and political) are also mentioned.

For more information, visit the EPA website.
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2 September 2014

Purchasing sustainable tropical timber focus of upcoming EcoProcura workshop

European local governments can significantly reduce tropical deforestation and environmental degradation by ensuring that the timber they purchase is legally and sustainably sourced, particularly when originating from tropical regions. To discuss this further, the European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition (European STTC) will hold a workshop on 25 September in Ghent (Belgium) from 13.30 - 15.30, as part of the EcoProcura conference.

Speakers include, Peter Defranceschi, Head of the ICLEI Brussels Office, Félix Romero, Regional Director of the Forest Stewardship Council Europe, and Thorsten Arndt, Head of Communications at PEFC International.

The EcoProcura conference is the only European-wide forum on sustainable public procurement and procurement of innovation. The event brings together purchasers from all levels of governments, suppliers, and policy-makers to exchange experiences and practical solutions. Participants are encouraged to stay for the whole of EcoProcura, and to join the European STTC at the EcoProcura Market Lounge, and the Meet Your Buyer event.

For more information, read the EcoProcura workshop description.

28 August 2014

Waikato council works with businesses to enhance sustainable procurement

Over 160 businesses from across New Zealand attended an event held by Waikato City Council to discuss ways of integrating sustainability concerns when tendering for public contracts. Experts offered advice and support to the assembled business leaders on meeting sustainability requirements. In 2011, the council adopted a policy whereby contracts worth more than NZ$50,000 must have a 10-15 percent sustainability weighting.

"[Waikato Regional Council] spends about $83 million annually, with over 1400 suppliers and contractors. This means that we have the scale and opportunity to make real, positive differences to our environment, our economy and our communities through purchasing. We have a duty to spend our ratepayers’ money responsibly. That means not just financially responsible spending, but also socially and environmentally responsible spending." said Council chief Vaughan Payne.

Dr Eva Collins, the concluding speaker at the event, praised the Council's initiative, saying: "Businesses are inextricably linked by the supply chain. When one influential organisation demands a greater level of sustainability, it raises the bar for everyone. Organisations discover they can conserve resources, save money, increase productivity and promote their values all at the same time."

For more information, click here.

26 August 2014

EU Public Procurement Directive broadens grounds for exclusion of suppliers

Publication of the new EU Public Procurement Directives in February 2014 brought with them a number of changes and greater flexibility in how public procurements can be carried out. One of the main areas of change is that of exclusion criteria, which oblige or allow public authorities to prevent an operator from taking part in a public procurement process.

These criteria are dealt with in Article 57 of the Public Sector Directive (2014/24/EC) and see significant additions both to mandatory and discretionary grounds for exclusion of suppliers. New offences have been added to the existing mandatory grounds for exclusion, which include participation in a criminal organisation, corruption, fraud and money laundering. The expanded list now includes terrorist offences or offences linked to terrorist activities, terrorist financing and child labour or other forms of human trafficking offences.

Discretionary grounds for exclusion have been significantly broadened, giving public procurers greater freedom to exclude suppliers on the grounds of violation of environmental, social or labour law, grave professional misconduct, conflict of interest, collusion or poor prior performance of a public contract. Grounds for exclusion are, however, tempered by two key principles: proportionality, which requires that decisions be proportionate to the authority's aims; and ‘self-cleaning’, which means that an operator cannot be excluded if it can prove that it is working to remedy its previous wrong.

For more information, click here.
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21 August 2014

Sustainable procurement improving among Canadian municipalities, report finds

2013 saw Canadian municipalities reach new levels of procurement professionalism in terms of setting goals and measuring progress, interacting with suppliers, and working within budgetary constraints, according to a new report on municipal sustainable procurement in Canada. The report notes that “green” procurement is now mainstream in the North American country, while “local” and “ethical” procurement is on the rise.

The authors argue that although progress was incremental rather than rapid in 2013, this does not diminish the gains made throughout the year. For example, many Canadian municipalities have started to develop key performance indicators to set targets and evaluate the progress of their sustainable purchasing programs and activities. Additionally, communication towards staff has improved, as has purchasing processes and tools used to evaluate supplier and product information.

Barriers to procurement progress included resource constraints (including funding and staff capacity), a high turnover in procurement staff leading to a loss of knowledge and lower morale, and a lack of strategic goals attributable primarily to the habit of goal setting not being fully formed. The report is the fourth in an annual series published by Reeve Consulting, co-authored with the representatives from the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Purchasing (MCSP).

For more information, click here.

19 August 2014

EU Directive requires large companies to report on human rights

The new EU Directive on the disclosure of non-financial information has been ratified by the European Parliament and is due to go before the Council before being officially adopted in September or October 2014. The new Directive marks a significant step forward in the recognition of corporations’ responsibilities to protect human rights and the environment.

According to Jerome Chaplier, from the European Coalition for Corporate Justice: “This legislation is the first step in embedding into EU law the corporate responsibility to respect human rights and the environment as it is expressed in the UN Guiding Principles and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.” The Directive requires listed companies with over 500 employees to report annually on principal risks to human rights, the environmental and social impacts linked to their operations, relationships, products and services. Bribery and diversity are also included in the risk reporting requirements.

Companies are expected to explain and describe their due diligence procedures for identifying, preventing and mitigating these risks. Reporting is mandatory, but there is some wiggle room in the form of a “comply or explain” approach, which requires them to give a clear and reasoned explanation for not following any policies.

For more information, click here.

14 August 2014

British Government issues new food procurement plan, emphasises importance of local food

The UK government has recently published a new plan for public procurement of food, broadening the focus of procurement to include criteria such as seasonality, nutrition and sustainability. The framework includes a scorecard and procurement toolkit, aiming to help public sector agencies make better informed purchasing decisions when buying catering surfaces. An online procurement portal will allow suppliers to register their services or products and check them against the procurement scorecard.

The Government Buying Standard (GBS) has also been revised to increase minimum standards of production and to ensure that procurers or catering companies have systems in place to check on the authenticity of food. The British public sector spends about £2.4bn per annum procuring food and catering services, which represents approximately 5.5% of UK food service sector sales. It is hoped that increased transparency and consistency in food purchasing will enable farmers and SMEs to enter the market and bid for public contracts.

Although the Plan claims to be in compliance with EU procurement law, the focus on 'buying British' within the document could lead to legal challenges over the principle of non-discrimination within the single European market. This ensures that bidders from all EU member states have equal opportunity to apply for a public contract. Although supporting local producers can have positive sustainability effects, European legislation needs to be considered.

For more information, click here.
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