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Encouraging green procurement in the public sector

Contributed by: Insight Publishers Ltd

Municipal budgets afford digital ‘smart cities’ opportunities to invest in green infrastructure and assets. Without clear guidelines to assess tenders, however, their best intentions may fail to translate into effective practice. By developing a transnational procurement system, and forging links between local authorities that endorse renewable energy, the GRASP project will help them to implement environmental policies.
Across the EU, billions of Euros are spent every year by public bodies on a plethora of services, with significant implications for the environment. By using their funds to select environmentally friendly goods and services, these organisations can contribute towards sustainable consumption. Not only do such decisions address challenges posed by climate change, but they can also help stimulate demand for green goods and technologies, thereby encouraging innovation. This process, known as Green Public Procurement (GPP), is becoming increasingly popular. However, due to a lack of uniformity between different regions, further work is required to ensure its implementation can be optimised.

According to the EU’s website, a lack of standardisation and international dialogue are impeding the effective proliferation of GPP. “To be a success, GPP needs clear and verifiable environmental criteria for products and services” argues the body. “A number of European countries already have national criteria, and the challenge now, as GPP becomes more widespread, is to ensure that the criteria are compatible between Member States. A level playing field will boost the single market, ensuring that what is good for the EU is also good for the environment.”

GRASP-MED, a 27-month EU project has been devised to holistically respond to these challenges throughout the Mediterranean region. Comprised of 13 partners from eight nations — Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Malta, Cyprus, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina the venture’s primary goal is to help cities to organise and develop smart and green e-Procurement processes, which focus on renewable energy sources and efficient solutions. Indicative of the various benefits it promises to deliver, the project consortium is a diverse grouping, consisting of local authorities, municipal chambers of commerce and sustainable development agencies, amongst others. All of the contributors, however, share an important common interest in exploring new means to reduce carbon emissions, and embedding them within their respective organisations.

“The project arose primarily because throughout the Mediterranean region, public agencies are often unaware of how to endorse tenders which exploit green technology,” explains Yorgos Stephanedes, a professor at the University of Patras, and GRASP’s project manager. In early 2014, the group published a regional comparison report that highlighted these regional discrepancies. Differences in attitudes between public authorities were prominent amongst these, as were several other factors inhibiting GPP implementation. Within the public organisations they surveyed, GRASP researchers observed some common negative trends, including concerns over costs, lack of interest or experience, and crucially a significant lack of consensus between their respondents over what GPP meant or should practically include.

“Our study showed that public agencies are often unaware of how to assess a green tender, and determine whether a proposal is authentically ‘green’, particularly in the energy sector,” says Stephanedes. “The notion of creating, and standardising such evaluations therefore provided another major inspiration for the project. Similar issues may also impair small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which may lack suitable frameworks to justify making their own ‘green’ decisions, and can often find it difficult to support larger environmental initiatives. Because the same SMEs may also be providing services to public agencies, this also presented a clear opportunity for us.”

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Related information


Countries (15)

  • Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom


Procurment, green, public sector
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