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Sustainable Public Procurement

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What is public procurement? It is the purchase by governments and state-owned enterprises of goods, services and works.

However, public procurement decisions are still dominated by lowest price at the time of purchase rather than awarding contracts based on value-for-money across the life cycle of a solution. This is a missed opportunity for creating society-wide benefits and fostering the transition to sustainable and circular economies. 

Governments spend on average between 12 and 30 per cent of their GDP for procuring goods, services and infrastructure. This enormous purchasing power needs to be reformed to ensure that the state is buying the most sustainable solutions to address today’s challenges. This is also highlighted by SDG Target 12.7. Procurement is a powerful tool for developing new markets, fostering innovation and transitioning from the ownership of goods and assets to a service economy, featuring distributed models of use and ownership.

Procurers need to take on a strategic role and adopt life cycle and systemic thinking when making procurement decisions. This holds particularly true for the procurement of infrastructure assets, which have long lifespans and lock in technologies, and thus have long-lasting social, economic and environmental impacts. 

IISD provides policy advice, research and training to implement sustainable public procurement.  We work closely with policy-makers, international donors, multilateral development banks and NGOs to design policies, programs and technical assistance that address a wide spectrum of topics. Some of our ongoing work and implemented projects are:

Using the Sustainable Asset Valuation (SAVi) to provide quantitative evidence on the multiple financial, economic, social and environmental gains that can be realized through sustainable public procurement. 

We invite you to explore our work, including:

We also serve on several working groups and are engaged in a number of associations: OECD Leading Practitioners on Public Procurement, UNEP 10YFP Sustainable Public Procurement Programme – Working Group on Sustainable Infrastructure, UNCITRAL Working Groups on Procurement and PPPs, Green Public Procurement Expert Group of the European Commission´s Directorate-General for Environment, International Green Purchasing Network (IGPN), Inter-American Network on Government Procurement (INGP), Circular Economy Leadership Coalition, Innovation Procurement Working Group of the European Commission`s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW).

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