Public Procurement’s Potential for Sustainability
In Sustainable Public Procurement Under EU Law: New Perspectives on the State as Stakeholder, Beate Sjåfjell and Anja Wiesbrock (eds), Cambridge University Press, 2016, Chapter 11
11 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2018
Date Written: December 7, 2018
As major purchasers of goods and services from the private sector, public entities have significant market power allowing them to influence corporate behaviour by attaching environmental and/or social criteria to public contracts. The power of public procurement as a market instrument makes it an attractive tool for the promotion of goals such as environmental protection and social inclusion. By modifying their purchasing behaviour and favouring environmentally friendly and socially responsible products and services, public purchasing bodies can make a significant contribution to the overarching EU objective of fostering sustainable development.
Hence, public procurement has great potential to serve as a front-runner and driver for the necessary transformation of business. However, this chapter also points to the inherent limitations of public procurement law in view of the overarching EU objective of sustainable development. The design of the public procurement directives limit the possibilities to integrate environmental and social concerns, including, notably, the link to the subject matter requirement. Further, public procurement law effectively only regulates a small portion of the market and does not impose any obligations upon companies that do not deliver goods, works or services to public bodies. It is thus crucial to underline the importance of combining rules on sustainable public procurement with corresponding efforts in other areas of law, such as company law. Public procurement law is a significant piece but nevertheless only one piece of the jigsaw puzzle of sustainability, and it would have a greater impact and be more effective if it were a part of a broader, holistic reform for sustainability.
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