Sustainable Public Procurement in the EU: Experiences and Prospects

Francois Lichere, Roberto Caranta, Steen Treumer (eds), Novelties in the 2014 Directive on Public Procurement, DJOF Publishing, December 2014 Forthcoming

26 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2014

See all articles by Dacian C. Dragos

Dacian C. Dragos

Babes-Bolyai University

Bogdana Neamtu

Babes-Bolyai University

Date Written: April 27, 2014


This chapter dwells on sustainable public procurement as promoted by the new 2014 Directives on public procurement, having as background the experience of implementing the 2004 Directives in several Member States. Traditionally, public procurement had only to be economically efficient, with little regard for other objectives than the purely economic ones. In recent times, however, due to a more general ascension of the sustainable development concept, governments have been put in the position to “lead by example” and use their purchasing power in order to advance the goals of sustainable development; as a specific development, sustainable public procurement has been slowly creeping in. From “secondary considerations” in the 2004 Directives, the need to include social and environmental considerations in public tendering procedures has led to the coining of new terms, much more powerful and all-encompassing, such as “horizontal policies”, “sustainable procurement” or even “strategic procurement”. We can state that with the new 2014 Directives, the sustainability paradigm is almost taking over the realm of public procurement, and it is marketed as a major “selling point” of the new legislation.

Sustainability has been for the last three decades a “buzz” word in the environmental literature (but also beyond), conveying a multitude of meanings that are often divergent to a variety of individuals, professions, interest groups, governmental agencies, political leaders, NGOs and grassroots organizations, The concept of ‘sustainability’ in its modern sense emerged in the early 1970s in response to a dramatic growth in understanding that modern development practices in all fields were leading to worldwide environmental and social crises, The term is nonetheless very broad and abstract thus creating confusion and cynicism as well as positive environmental change. While sustainability is more directly related to biology and ecology, the concept of sustainable development or sustainable economic development brings elements of economic activity more explicitly into the equation. It is a catchword for alternative development approaches that could be envisioned as continuing far into the future. Perhaps the most well-known definition is the one from the Brundtland report, which defines sustainable development as development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It usually comprises three dimensions – economic, social/equity, and environmental.

In public procurement, it means that the government is embarking on socially and environmentally responsible practices through the use of public contracts. It has to be noted that sustainable public procurement encompasses not only social and environmental matters but also, in a wide interpretation, the participation of SMEs in public tendering processes. However, in this Chapter we will cover only the social and environmental aspects, SMEs being dwelt upon in other chapters.

The chapter begins with an incursion into the development of sustainable considerations in EU legislation, in soft law and the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice. Then it will analyze the experience of several Member States in implementing the provisions of the 2004 Directives, in order to have a perspective on the background against which the new provisions of 2014 will be implemented. In the end, we will discuss sustainable procurement as envisaged in these new 2014 Directives.

Keywords: public procurement, EU law, sustainable procurement, green procurement, strategic procurement, European Union, directives

Suggested Citation

Dragos, Dacian C. and Neamtu, Bogdana, Sustainable Public Procurement in the EU: Experiences and Prospects (April 27, 2014). Francois Lichere, Roberto Caranta, Steen Treumer (eds), Novelties in the 2014 Directive on Public Procurement, DJOF Publishing, December 2014 Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Dacian C. Dragos (Contact Author)

Babes-Bolyai University ( email )

71 T. Mosoiu str.
Cluj NApoca, Cluj 400132
0040264431361 (Phone)
0040264431361 (Fax)


Bogdana Neamtu

Babes-Bolyai University ( email )

58-60 Teodor Maniu street, Cluj-Napoca
67 Iuliu Maniu street, Sighetu Marmatiei
RO-3400 Cluj-Napoca, Cluj 435500

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