Supply Side
Eco-Labelling From Nat Green and the Public Procurement Podcast Series

We’re back today to look at the Public Procurement Podcasts from Dr Pedro Telles of Swansea University. In this series he interviews academics and others with a deep interest in different aspects of public procurement. In number 12 of the series, he talks to Nat Green, a Shaw LLM Fellow at George Washington University in Washington DC. His publications to date focus on the legal and policy implications of large-scale hydropower development, and other renewables in Africa and Asia, in addition to a more recent foray into questions of sustainability in international procurement.

Green is the first interviewee from outside the EU in the series, and the interview focuses largely on issues around sustainable procurement and the differences between the EU and the USA in that area – as well as some related topics.

I’ll be honest – I had to go and look up “eco-labelling”, as this is mentioned early on in the session and much of the debate is around its effectiveness. Perhaps a bit more explanation for us non-experts might have been useful! In case you don’t know, an “eco-label” is a label which identifies overall, proven environmental preference of a product or service within a specific product/service category.

So Telles and Green have some interesting discussion around how to make sure eco-labelling does not restrict competition or make life more difficult for smaller suppliers and potential suppliers – “they (eco-labels) can be used in a way that is not market-friendly. They can be used to actually restrict competition and restrict the market to certain suppliers.”

They talk about the prospect for common standards for eco-labels across the two regions – “whether or not bodies in the EU and the US can, in a reasonable and cost-effective and efficient fashion, take the principles inherent in private eco-labels and apply them as more general standards, that might require a certain growth in institutional capacity. It also will require close attention to its competitive effect vis-à-vis small and medium enterprises”.

The two of them also share the view that the word “sustainability” has been over-used and is becoming meaningless, but both are clearly keen to see those sort of issues taken seriously, yet without constraining the principles of competition, cross-border trade and so on.

The conversation later goes off into issues as varied as the safety of perfumes (better in Europe than in the USA, apparently, the prospective TTIP trade agreement and the issues around inclusion of externalities in public procurement. It is another interesting interview, although probably most relevant if you have some interest in and prior knowledge of these issues. You can access it here.

(More about this series; The Public Procurement Podcasts aim to provide a platform for Early Career Academics to talk about key topics of their research in a way and tone approachable to lay people. This project will run until March 2016 with a total of 20 episodes posted every other week. The PPP is part of a wider project kindly sponsored by the British Academy Rising Star Engagement Awards – and Spend Matters will be reporting on the Early Career Research Day Conference in London on March 4th, also organised by Telles and supported from the same source).