Commission issues guidelines for “green” procurement

Commission adopts a Communication clarifying the possibilities provided by Community law for environmentally responsible procurement

The Communication stresses the importance of taking environmental concerns into consideration early in the public procurement process.

  • Even though authorities are not allowed to use environmental criteria to choose between several offers to a tender, they can still take the environment in account when making the decision on the subject matter of the contract. For example, they can specify into a tender for paper supplies that they only want recycled products to be offered to them.
  • Authorities can also decide to purchase environment-friendly products or services by stipulating the raw materials and the production processes to be used in the contract.
  • While public purchasers may not use eco-labels, they can “copy” some of the criteria used by these labels in their tender requirements.

In the end, the contract should be awarded to the cheapest or to the “most economically advantageous offer”. Still, environmental elements can help to identify the most economically advantageous tender, as energy-efficient products often have lower life-time costs.


The European Commission adopted a Communication on 5 July clarifying the provisions of Community law for environmentally responsible procurement. It explains how public authorities can attach environmental conditions to their tenders without infringing Internal Market laws on fair competition.


"Green procurement" involves purchasing products and services that minimize negative impacts on the environment. As public procurement represents a substantial annual budget (over 1,000 billion euro every year or 14 percent of EU GDP), taking into account environmental concerns when awarding public contracts could greatly contribute to sustainable development.

In May 2001, the European Commission published a Communication on

"A Sustainable Europe for a Better World: A European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development."It was presented to the meeting of the European Council in Gothenburg in June 2001. The current Communication on green procurement is one of the initiatives by the Commission to encourage corporate social responsibility - a green paper on a European-wide framework for corporate social responsibility is due to be published soon (seeEURACTIV's Corporate Social Responsibilitysection).


  • Aninformation eventis to be held by the Commission in Brussels in the autumn, in order to promote and explain the interpretative Communication.
  • Apractical handbook on green public procurementis to be published by the Commission in 2002, with concrete examples and practical guidance on how to integrate environmental concerns into public purchasing without breaching public procurement rules.


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