Global Technical function: Responsible purchasing
Technical Function Unit: Cleaning, Sustainability criteria, Sustainable procurement
Geographic Area: South Korea

Act on the Promotion of the Purchase of Environment-friendly Products by the Korean Government

The Act aims to encourage the purchasing of environment-friendly products and services by means of mandating public agencies to responsible purchasing and supporting industry and household-level green consumption.

The challenge

According to the OECD, over 31 percent of South Korea’s annual average GDP goes towards the purchase of products or services by public agencies. The Environmentally Friendly Products Act is designed to provide a strong incentive to industry to conserve resources, prevent environmental pollution, and contribute to the sustainable development of the South Korean economy.

The measure

The Act is targeted at national and local governmental agencies, government funded institutions and other large scale, public-sector organisations. The Act’s purpose is:

  • To expand the eco-product market through a mandatory sustainable procurement scheme
  • To prevent the wasteful use of resources and environmental pollution, and to contribute to sustainable development in the domestic economy

Under the Act, unless the quality of the product is inferior, the supply is insufficient, or there are extenuating circumstances: public agencies, local governments, and public institutions are obliged to formulate green procurement plans, purchase low environmental impact products fulfilling sustainability criteria and to provide purchasing performance results for these products.

To ensure businesses presenting themselves as environmentally friendly, do in fact meet the requirements of the Act, businesses can be asked to submit corresponding reports. Officials are then entitled to inspect facilities to verify that their operations meet specifications.


Lessons learnt

Upon the enactment of the legislation , Korea became only the second country in the world to mandate public agencies to purchase Eco-products under a single comprehensive law.

In addition to obliging public agencies to undertake low environmental impact public procurement, the Act created the Korea Eco-Products Institute to support this work. The Institute offers guidance on compliance to businesses and educates the public to support the purchasing of sustainable products in the public sector.

The obligation applies not only to the direct purchasing of products, but also to service contracts such as cleaning, building repairs and maintenance, etc.

As a part of the process some key success factors have been identified:

  • Suppliers are strongly encouraged to participate in green purchasing
  • Easy access to information on eco-products is provided
  • Dedicated web sites, DB, handbooks, guidance manuals, etc. are createdObligations are aligned with other OECD countries and international cooperation is established”. 

Further deployment

The Ministry of Environment (MoE) establishes a Basic Plan every 5 years which encompasses the following:

  • Policy directions and implementation plans
  • Targeted items for eco-products and important issues with respect to criteria
  • Analysis and improvement of public agencies’ green procurement, based on performance reviews
  • International cooperation in relation to eco-products, etc.
  • In order to deliberate the Basic Plan, the MoE shall organise and administrate the Korea Eco-Products Institute

The green procurement plans are updated according to the results of this basic plan evaluation. The case is estimated to be GML 7.

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