Public procurement is involved with the purchase of goods, services and works from bidders on behalf of a public entity. Without public procurement, the government would not be able to perform its service functions towards its citizens. But governments can lead by example and given their extensive purchasing power, can shape patterns of growth. A Green Public Procurement (GPP) program aims to have all departments, offices and agencies of the government fall under the same plan. GPP emerges from the Earth Summit in 1992 and the ensuing understanding of sustainable development. The developments since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 have moved towards what became the concept of Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP).
The Local Agenda 21 (LA21), concluded in 1992, the onus was on governments, cities and municipalities, which took on-board to practice GPP. The approaches to GPP have been a plurality of sources such as stationary goods, IT equipment, cleaning detergents and possibly even investment goods like buildings and vehicles. The various ministries and departments of the environment were at the forefront of GPP pioneering. Within their purview of nature conservation and pollution prevention they established emissions thresholds.
Eventually the main approach was to promote a new kind of product label with enough detailed information to determine the attributes of green products, known as eco-labels. However, in practice, industries were reluctant to apply eco-labels because of the added cost or else simply the availability of certification bodies. The awareness has increased that environmentally-friendly products and services could best be promoted not only by regulation but through the directorship of governments as purchasers of products and services.
At the present stage, a considerable number of countries worldwide are seeing the benefits of embracing GPP. In the EU, the introduction of GPP can be traced back to the year 2001 with a communication of the European Commission on a ‘Community law applicable to public procurement and the possibilities for integrating environmental considerations into public procurement’. Further clarification was forthcoming with the communication on ‘Public Procurement for a Better Environment’.
Common GPP criteria of product and service groups the European Commission began considering are: cleaning products and services, construction, electricity, catering services and food products, gardening services and products, office IT equipment, copying and graphic paper, textiles, transport and furniture.
There are sound foundations on which the future building blocks of GPP can be extended, with dedicated major players and proper assessment of the market's parameters. The blending of the GPP into the established procurement frameworks creates a harmonious integration that significantly counteracts the risks of failure. Resisting the temptation of segregating GPP from conventional procurement helps to lessen the burden of GPP penetration is diffused in the general challenges of mainstay public procurement, such as whether the supplies are available, affordability, and appropriate technical specifications. If approached differently, GPP might be relegated to the 'Cinderella' of public procurement and never actually prosper. A recommended plan of attack is of having piecemeal GPP project plans with the experiences and lessons of one GPP project plan being analysed before being taken on board the next project plan.