To reduce environmental impacts from public procurement, a sustainable procurement process for goods, services and construction needs to be developed. Public organizations need a tool that can help them set environmental requirements to a greater extent and to consider the environment in procurement processes.
The delegation of Ecologically Sustainable Procurement (EKU) in Sweden has developed a tool for helping public and private organizations consider more sustainable consumption in their procurement.
The EKU delegation was part of the Swedish Environment Management Council (SEMCo), which is the Swedish government’s agency for green public procurement (GPP). The main objective of SEMCo is to reduce the environmental impact from procurement processes and to facilitate public and private organizations to become more sustainable in their consumption and functioning, providing support (advise/consultancy) when dealing with sustainable procurement.
With public grant funding for demonstration the EKU-tool was developed, providing both public and private with environmental criteria for 20 product groups commonly included in public procurement. Using sustainability criteria makes responsible purchasing easier, improves energy efficiency and potentially full lifecycle costs.
The criteria were widely supported as they were developed in an open and quality-assured process by expert groups including people from various professional organizations, industry associations, state, county and municipality level governments. Where appropriate, criteria were used that are included in Eco-labelling Sweden and Good Environmental Choice (the eco-label of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation). These criteria were then customized to ease their use in public procurement processes. The criteria are continually monitored and revised when necessary, for example to adjust to changes in legislation or technology.
The criteria of the EKU-tool are gathered in a database that is available on internet at SEMCo’s website (www.msr.se). In the database, the sustainability criteria are sorted in product areas, product groups and products, in a traditional tree structure. The product areas are IT and telecom; Construction and real estate; Cleaning and chemicals; Vehicles and transport; Office and textile; Electricity and lighting; Food; Healthcare; and Services. As an example, product groups in the product area of Electricity and lightning are electricity, indoor lighting, outdoor lighting, and batteries. SEMCo has also developed criteria for Green Public Procurement, available at the same website.
The EKU-tool emerged in order to make it easier for public organizations to set environmental criteria in procurement. Simultaneously, it supports, for example, suppliers that want to submit a tender.
A success factor in the Swedish case with the EKU-instrument and its sustainability criteria has been the increased interest and attention from both public and private organizations (purchasers and suppliers), when it comes to taking environmental aspects into account in procurement process.
The EKU-tool can be estimated to have reached 9 on the GML scale. The concept of green public procurement (GPP) is widely spread in the European Union and the GPP concept of the EKU-instrument has potential for further deployment to other areas.