Institute for Sustainable Commodities (ISCOM)

Buying green! a handbook on environmental public procurement


Courtesy of Courtesy of Institute for Sustainable Commodities (ISCOM)


What is the connection between public purchasing and the environment?

Public authorities are major consumers in Europe, spending some 16 % of the EU’s gross domestic product (which is a sum equivalent to half the
GDP of Germany). By using their purchasing power to opt for goods and services that also respect the environment, they can make an important contribution towards sustainable development. Green public procurement covers areas such as the purchase of energy-effi cient computers and buildings, offi ce equipment made of environmentally sustainable timber, recyclable paper, electric cars, environment-friendly public transport, organic food in canteens, electricity stemming from renewable energy sources, and air conditioning systems complying with state of the art environmental solutions.

Green purchasing is also about setting an example and infl uencing the market place. By promoting green procurement, public authorities can provide industry with real incentives for developing green technologies. In some product, works and service sectors, the impact can be particularly signifi cant, as public purchasers command a large share of the market (in computers, energy-effi cient buildings, public transport, and so on).

Finally, if you consider life-cycle costs of a contract, green public procurement allows you to save money and protect the environment at the
same time. By purchasing wisely, you can save materials and energy, reduce waste and pollution, and encourage sustainable patterns of behaviour.

This handbook is designed to help public authorities successfully launch a green purchasing policy. It explains the possibilities offered by European Community law in a practical way, and looks at simple and effective solutions that can be used in public procurement procedures. For practical reasons the handbook follows the logic and structure of a procurement procedure. It also gives many practical examples of green purchasing by public authorities across the EU (1).

We have produced this handbook chiefl y for public authorities, but we hope that it will also inspire corporate purchasers. It should also help suppliers, service providers and contractors — particularly the smaller companies — to understand and meet the environmental purchasing requirements imposed on them.

The handbook is available on the Europa website of the Commission on green public procurement, which contains further practical information, useful links and contact information for contracting authorities who want to make their purchases greener (

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