Category 18 April 2019

Promoting Green Purchasing in Japan

The Government of Japan successfully introduced sustainable public procurement in its ministries and administrative agencies. Responsible purchasing is now the norm after the Government introduced mandatory sustainable criteria which must be followed when purchasing goods and services. Due to a regime of monitoring and reporting, the principle of sustainable procurement has become engrained and more than 95% of goods and services satisfy the criteria.

The challenge:

Anything from 10 to 20 to 30% of a nations GDP is spent by the government to purchase goods and services. Leveraging this enormous purchasing power by buying more sustainable goods and services can help drive markets in the direction of sustainability. It is for this reason that sustainable consumption is enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals. Target 12.7 focuses specifically on promoting “public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities”. In Japan, procurement expenditure by the central government totalled USD 80,848 million in 2013.

The measure:

In Japan, provisions to promote sustainable public procurement date back to the turn of the century, when the Act on Promoting Green Purchasing[i] was adopted. This was supported by the Act on Promoting Green Contracts[ii] which was passed in 2007.

The rules for implementing sustainable public procurement are laid out in ‘Basic Policies’, which are prepared by the Ministry of Environment in consultation with other Ministries. One Basic Policy covers Goods and Services, and another Contracts. The Basic Policies rules are reviewed by an advisory committee made up of civil society and business groups. They are updated each year to reflect changing realities.

The Basic Policies provide criteria for the sustainable procurement of a wide range of goods (paper, mobile phones, electric toilet seats, carpets, etc) and services (management of government buildings, car maintenance, printing, etc). For each item, ‘evaluation criteria’ and ‘factors for consideration’ are defined. It is mandatory for government employees to follow the evaluation criteria, while factors for consideration are advisory.

The Basic Policies apply to all national, state/regional, and local public authorities, but is only binding on the central government and national agencies. Each Ministry and administrative agency is required to set sustainable procurement targets and report on results annually.

The results of this holistic strategy have been impressive. In 2014, 95% of goods and services purchased by central government were “eco-friendly” – according to the criteria set in the Basic Policies. Over 60% of the electricity supply was purchased through Green Contracts. This has contributed to a low carbon economy in Japan: compared to the year 2000 baseline, the Government estimates that 600,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions have been avoided due to the introduction of sustainable public procurement principles.

Lessons learnt:

To help with adherence to the Basic Policies, each ministry and agency designates staff responsible for green procurement and green contracts.

Making it mandatory for ministries to set targets and monitor and report on results has helped ensure widespread implementation of the sustainable procurement principles. 

Further deployment: 

Many if not all countries have embraced sustainable public procurement in one form or another, but Japan provides a good example of mainstreaming this policy. GML 8.