Category 18 April 2019

Criteria to stimulate green public procurement

Using green public procurement can contribute to sustainable purchasing of products, reducing environmental impact, and at the same time save money for organizations. The Swedish Environmental Management Council (SEMCo) has been developing procurement criteria supporting public and private sectors, putting Sweden at the forefront among the Member States of the European Union.

The challenge

Not only individuals, also public bodies have are responsible for environmental impacts related to their consumption. Using sustainability criteria can make responsible purchasing easier, more energy efficient and cheaper from a lifecycle perspective. This can be done by prioritizing products and requires a system for sustainable procurement to work well.


The measure

As a complement to policy instruments, sustainable public procurement has a number of benefits, including reducing the environmental impact of organizations, helping to achieve both local and regional objectives as well as international targets, generate cost savings, and spurring innovation, etc.

The Swedish Environment Management Council (SEMCo) is the government of Sweden’s expert agency for green public procurement (GPP). The government-owned cooperation’s objective is to reduce the environmental impact from procurement processes, and hence contributes to achieving environmental goals and a sustainable future. SEMCo’s mission is to facilitate both public and private organizations to become more sustainable in their consumption and functioning. This is done by providing support (advise/consultancy) in dealing with sustainable procurement.

Green public procurement (GPP) is a process for organizations to reduce the environmental impact in the procurement of goods and services throughout the life cycle. GPP has been recognized by organizations such as the UN, the OECD and the EU, as an important tool to achieve future goals and mitigate environmental problems.

The procurement criteria of SEMCo offer suggestions on which sustainability requirements to include in a tender. They classify environmental standards based on four categories: mandatory supplier requirements (selection criteria), mandatory requirements for the product (technical specification), award, and a performance clause. Classifications may also vary in scope depending on the specific requirements for different product areas. In order for the buyer to obtain an appropriate level of procurement criteria for their specific purpose, SEMCo has introduced three levels of environmental requirements: basic, advanced and spearhead. When developing the criteria for environmental aspects, the goods and services having the greatest benefit on the environment are the priority for purchasing. The main basis of the product criteria is the 16 Swedish environmental objectives such as reduced impact on climate change and clean air.

Lessons learnt

GPP enables organizations in both public and private sectors to procure sustainable goods and services. It also influences the development of new technologies and innovation which may be costly at the time of introduction but may well reduce cost and increase profit in the long run.

A success factor for the implementation of SEMCo’s procurement criteria and support of organizations has been the international acknowledgment of GPP as an important tool in order to reach a sustainable future.

Further deployment

The concept of GPP is increasingly deployed to other areas, and SEMCo was the first to develop GPP criteria for the health care sector in 2014. The green public procurement criteria of SEMCo is estimated to be beyond 9 on the GML scale.



The SEMCo website