Parliament and OECD decide to ‘green’ public procurement

The European Parliament has voted in two new public procurement directives intended to simplify current legislation, including an amendment requiring better inclusion of social and environmental criteria in the awarding procedures. OECD countries have also decided to lead the way in environmentally-friendly purchasing.

The new legislation from the European Parliament will regulate spending by public authorities within the European Union, currently around €800 billion. “This vote will have a major impact on the whole economy which will be pushed towards ‘green’ products and environmentally and socially sustainable production methods,” said Finish MEP Heidi Hautala, following the vote.

“Parliament’s vote today was a major step in the ongoing process of implementing ‘green’ thinking in all political and economic areas of the European Union,” said Hautala. “This success was reached despite fierce resistance from the Conservatives and the Christian Democrats. It is the first time that the European Union is creating a legal base for public procurement which goes beyond pure economic grounds.”

In a similar move, governments within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have also agreed to lead efforts to buy more environmentally friendly goods and services, with a view to encouraging businesses and households to follow suit. The OECD has now published a set of recommendations on how governments can improve the environmental performance of their public procurement.

Public procurement expenditure accounts for between 5% and 18% of GDP in OECD countries, and covers a range of sectors where environmental issues are important, such as highway and building construction, the use of vehicles, and the supply of power, water and sanitation services.

The OECD recommendations include the introduction of budgeting and accounting measures that ensure that the environmental costs of products and services are considered, and the establishment of procedures for identifying ‘green’ products. Governments also need to ensure that they evaluate their purchasing policies to make sure that they are both economically efficient and environmentally effective.

OECD Environmental Performance Reviews, undertaken periodically in OECD member countries, will assess the implementation of these recommendations.

The MEPs also included an amendment requiring that those submitting tenders must not have been convicted of crimes such as racketeering, money-laundering, fraud or other forms of dishonest anti-competitive behaviour, non-compliance with legislation and other employment-related aspects within five years of the commencement of the contract. This contrasts with a decision two weeks ago in the US to overturn a ‘blacklist’ rule which had prevented companies that had broken social, environmental and consumer laws from obtaining government contracts (see related story).

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