Public Procurement: Buying Green? [Archived]


The EU is promoting the use of public procurement in its member states as a means of kick-starting the market for eco-innovative goods and services and achieving its environmental goals in a cost-efficient manner.

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Public procurement refers to the purchase by public authorities of goods, services or works. Such activities are governed by a series of national and European rules with a view to making sure that taxpayers' money is well spent, preventing fraud and discrimination and ensuring equal treatment of bidders. 

Green public procurement (GPP) takes place when contracting authorities also use environmental criteria to decide who to buy goods or services from. Examples include energy-efficient computers or hydrogen buses for public transport. 

Public authority spending in the EU is worth around 16% of EU GDP or about €2,000 billion. Greening public procurement rules at EU and national level is seen as a means of substantially reducing unsustainable production and consumption patterns and could serve to place new environmental technologies on the market. 

EU policy developments:

  • On the basis of an interpretative communication from the Commission in July 2001 and two important cases before the Court of Justice (the 'Helsinki bus case' and the 'Wienstrom case'), it came to be accepted that ecological criteria could be used for public procurement.
  • A 2003 Communication on Integrated Product Policy encouraged member states to adopt national action plans on Green Public Procurement (GPP) by the end of 2006. To date, only 14 countries have done so. 
  • In March 2004, the EU adopted two new public procurement directives, which included provisions regarding integration of environmental considerations into public procurement strategies. 
  • In June 2006, the EU adopted a renewed Sustainable Development Strategy, including the goal of bringing the average level of EU GPP up to the standard currently achieved by the best-performing member states by 2010. 
  • On 16 July 2008, the Commission presented a proposal to set ambitious targets for green public procurement as part of a broader action plan for 'sustainable consumption and production'.