Sustainability Through Public Procurement: The Way Forward – Reform Proposals
58 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 23, 2020
Public procurement amounts to about 16 per cent of the EU Member States’ GDP. A major contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals is possible by enhancing sustainable procurement practices. The 2014 EU Public Procurement Directives (Directives 2014/23/EU, 2014/24/EU and 2014/25/EU) have largely clarified the scope for permissible sustainable procurement decisions, but the adoption of Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) is still limited. The rules could be more permissive and thoroughly take into account all the different aspects of sustainability. Even more urgent and essential is to push for behavioural and organisational changes in the ways contracting authorities perform their buying functions to maximise positive, sustainable impacts. It is critical to change procurement management practices so that the sustainability demanded in contracts is properly verified along the entire supply chain and remedial actions are taken where non-compliance is detected.
Solution: We make three main proposals:
1. That the EU invest significantly in the professionalisation of contracting officials, procurement strategists and financial auditors by (a) encouraging the institution of SPP knowledge centres at the EU, national and regional levels following the model already provided by various Central Purchasing Bodies; (b) creating a network of knowledge centres working closely together in developing and disseminating best practices on SPP, including through training materials, and in collecting information and data on the adoption of SPP and the difficulties encountered in applying the relevant EU rules, and (c) providing financial and technical assistance targeted to specific SPP formation for ground-level contracting officials.
2. That the EU make it mandatory for contracting authorities to map and monitor their supply chains for risks of breaches of environmental and social rules, including those protecting human rights. That the EU take those breaches seriously, mandating the exclusion from award procedures of those found in violation and appropriate remedial actions in case of violations during contract performance. That the EU make it easier for contracting authorities to know about economic operators that have breached environmental and social rules, including those protecting human rights.
3. That the EU make the legislative environment more ‘SPP friendly’. Contracting authorities must be allowed to require suppliers to have effective sustainability policies in place. A shift is needed from enabling the Member States to pursue SPP to requiring them to buy sustainably by increasing the amount of mandatory sectoral legislation and by requiring contracting authority to take into account the life-cycle costs associated with their purchases.
Non-solution: Simply relying on the goodwill of individual procurement officers or policy makers without providing training and networking opportunities on SPP and information and communication tools; leaving the regulatory burden of pushing SPP forward on the shoulders of Member States.
Instruments: The Commission, including DG Devco in its procurement activities in Official Development Assistance (ODA), and other EU institutions should lead by example concerning the professionalisation of procurement officials and the creation of competence centres. The Commission should act as a catalyst for the network of competence centres, and adequate funds should be released to fund the actions recommended under solution point 1 above. The Commission, possibly together with OECD, should collect data on breaches of environmental and social rules, including those protecting human rights, and make that data available to contracting authorities. The other solutions under points 2 and 3 mainly require amendments to Directives 2014/23/EU, 2014/24/EU and 2014/25/EU. Ad hoc rules need to be adopted to enact further sectoral mandatory legislation.
Keywords: sustainability; sustainable public procurement, reform proposal; SPP; public procurement; EU Green Deal
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