The European Commission has announced that its Buying Green! Handbook has now been fully translated and is available in all 23 EU languages.
So if you want to read all about green procurement and sustainability issues in Swedish or Hungarian, as well as English, French and German, you can now do so by downloading the document from this page. This fully revised edition was published in the main languages this spring, and is a substantial piece of work, checking in at 80 pages. It incorporates the changes and new rules arising from the new 2014 Directives, and this is how the “Introduction” in the document frames its purpose.
“Green Public Procurement (GPP) is an important tool to achieve environmental policy goals relating to climate change, resource use and sustainable consumption and production – especially given the importance of public sector spending on goods and services in Europe.
GPP is defined in the European Commission’s Communication Public procurement for a better environment as “a process whereby public authorities seek to procure goods, services and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their life-cycle when compared to goods, services and works with the same primary function that would otherwise be procured”. This handbook outlines the possibilities to pursue GPP under the 2014 Procurement Directives”.
Within its contents, it contains a host of useful material covering everything from setting the strategies around green procurement to detailed guidance about “green” requirements and specifications, evaluation methodologies and contract performance clauses. Whilst “buying green” is just one of the “policy through procurement” areas that buyers need to understand (along with supporting smaller firms, innovation, social value and so on), it is an important one and critical in some major spend categories such as energy, waste disposal or construction.
The handbook tries to de-mystify green procurement, which is important as many contracting authorities may feel positive towards the concept, but unsure quite how to make it work. Some authorities will fear challenges from unhappy bidders if they include green conditions or evaluation elements, so just avoid it altogether through a lack of knowledge, understanding and confidence. The handbook should help anyone who feels unsure about what to do and lead them through a robust process for introducing the key principles of green public procurement.
As well as the guidance, which is the major element of the handbook, there is a section on the relevant sectoral legislation, and a range of short case studies illustrating the main points throughout the doument. These are in general interesting and relevant. For instance, next to the short section on “Networking”, we get this case study from Denmark.
Inspiring others towards GPP – showing the effect in Denmark
The Danish Partnership for Green Public Procurement is a coalition of governmental bodies that represents an estimated 13% of the annual public procurement spend in Denmark. All members of the Partnership report once a year on the level of achievement of their Partnership GPP goals, including the implementation of green procurement goals and criteria in their organisation. Each year four of the partners develop a case study showing the effect of a specific green procurement in terms of energy and environmental impacts, as well as financial savings. These cases are used as inspiration to others to practice GPP in their tenders.
But the guidance is at the heart of the Handbook, and it is clearly presented and useful. Here for example – picking one area pretty much at random – is an excerpt relating to the issue of variant bids.
“Variants are a means of introducing greater flexibility into your specification, which may result in a more environmentally-friendly solution being proposed by bidders. The variants approach means you allow tenderers to submit an alternative solution which meets certain minimum requirements you have identified, but may not meet your full specification. For example, you may specify conventionally-fuelled (petrol or diesel) vehicles but allow alternative-fuelled, electric or hybrid vehicles as a variant. Both variant and non-variant bids are then evaluated against the same set of award criteria to identify the most economically advantageous tender (MEAT).
This can be a useful approach if you are unsure about the cost or other impacts of an alternative product or service – for example: will introducing higher insulation standards in a building works contract delay the completion date? You can also allow tenderers to submit more than one bid: a standard and a variant solution. Variants must of course also be linked to the subject-matter of the contract, i.e. they cannot concern matters which are unrelated to the purchase you wish to make”.