In November 2011 the European Commission launched its indicative 2nd Edition of the Green Public Procurement (GPP) Handbook entitled "Buying Green!". The Handbook is designed to help public authorities implement GPP and in this regard it is purely voluntary. Mandatory provisions appear in particular pieces of EU legislation and policy, with more mandatory provisions being mooted for the next few years.
The Handbook focuses on four key sectors: built environment, food and catering services, electricity and timber. The range of products and services involved is reasonably large; ranging from paper to electricity, transport and street lighting. Although this Handbook has been produced for public authorities, many of the ideas and approaches are equally relevant for procurement in the corporate world. Clearly suppliers are intended also to benefit from consulting the Handbook. For those who are already very conversant with clean/green/sustainable principles the Handbook will not raise any surprises. Indeed some may take the view that the Handbook lacks ambition but it is nonetheless of value for those who are trying to get to grips with this area.
In the workings of the EU's Environment Technologies Action Plan the following definition was formulated to define green public procurement (GPP):
"GPP is the approach by which Public Authorities integrate environment criteria into all stages of their procurement process, thus encouraging the spread of environmental considerations and the development of environmentally sound products, by seeking and choosing outcomes and solutions that have the least possible impact on the environment throughout their whole life-cycle."
Public authorities in the EU spend the equivalent of approximately 19% of the EU's gross domestic product on the purchase of goods and services. Thus the public sector is an obvious vehicle with which to effect change and some of the most recent legislative and policy instruments coming out of the EU make it clear that the public sector is to be used as a vehicle for the procurement of cleaner, more efficient and sustainable goods and services.
To assist public contracting authorities in identifying and procuring greener products, services and works, GPP criteria have been developed for 18 product and service groups. These can be directly inserted into tender documents. The list of products which are subject to GPP is to be periodically reviewed and expanded...