carbonJuly 5, 2024by admin0

Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP): Goals and Principles

Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) is a strategic approach to procurement that seeks to achieve a balance between economic, social, and environmental goals. By integrating sustainability considerations into procurement processes, governments and organizations can leverage their purchasing power to promote sustainable development, mitigate environmental impacts, and drive social progress. This article explores the goals and principles of SPP, highlighting its importance in achieving a more sustainable future.

What are the Goals of Sustainable Public Procurement?

  1. Environmental Protection: One of the primary goals of SPP is to reduce the environmental impact of procurement activities. This involves selecting goods and services that have a lower environmental footprint, promoting the use of renewable resources, and encouraging suppliers to adopt eco-friendly practices. By prioritizing products with reduced emissions, lower energy consumption, and minimal waste, SPP helps in mitigating climate change and preserving natural resources.
  2. Economic Efficiency: SPP aims to achieve economic efficiency by considering the total cost of ownership (TCO) rather than just the upfront purchase price. This includes factors such as maintenance, operation, and disposal costs over the product’s lifecycle. By focusing on TCO, organizations can make more informed procurement decisions that lead to long-term savings and better resource utilization.
  3. Social Equity: SPP seeks to promote social equity by encouraging the inclusion of socially responsible practices in procurement processes. This includes supporting fair labor practices, promoting diversity and inclusion, and ensuring that procurement decisions do not negatively impact vulnerable communities. By prioritizing suppliers who adhere to social standards and contribute positively to society, SPP fosters a more equitable and just procurement system.
  4. Innovation and Market Transformation: SPP encourages innovation by creating demand for sustainable products and services. This can stimulate the market to develop new, innovative solutions that meet sustainability criteria. By setting high sustainability standards, public procurement can drive market transformation, leading to the widespread adoption of sustainable practices across various industries.

The Pillars of Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP)

Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) rests on three fundamental pillars that collectively ensure public procurement practices contribute positively to sustainable development. These pillars—economic prosperity, environmental responsibility, and social progress—guide organizations in balancing their procurement decisions with broader societal and environmental goals.

Economic Prosperity

At its core, SPP aims to achieve economic prosperity by maximizing the efficiency of public spending. This pillar emphasizes the importance of achieving value for money throughout the procurement process. Organizations implement strategies like whole-life costing, which considers not just the upfront cost of goods and services but also their costs over their entire lifecycle, including operation, maintenance, and disposal.

Furthermore, optimizing procurement through centralized activities across government entities helps leverage economies of scale and negotiate better prices from suppliers. By promoting cost efficiency and practices that reduce waste, SPP ensures taxpayer money is used wisely, fostering sustainable economic growth and innovation in the marketplace.

Environmental Responsibility

The environmental pillar of SPP focuses on minimizing the ecological footprint of public procurement activities. It aims to promote goods, services, and works that have a reduced impact on the environment throughout their lifecycle. Key principles include integrating environmental criteria into tendering processes to encourage the adoption of greener alternatives by suppliers.

Life cycle assessment plays a crucial role, assessing the environmental impact of products and services from extraction of raw materials through to end-of-life disposal or recycling. SPP also promotes eco-friendly practices such as energy efficiency, waste reduction, sustainable sourcing, and the use of renewable resources in procurement specifications. By embedding environmental considerations into procurement decisions, SPP not only mitigates environmental harm but also drives market demand for sustainable products and services.

Social Progress

SPP recognizes the importance of social progress and aims to support fair and ethical practices throughout the supply chain. This pillar emphasizes the inclusion of social criteria in procurement processes to ensure suppliers adhere to fair labor practices, promote diversity and inclusion, and respect human rights.

Moreover, SPP encourages procurement practices that support local economies, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and disadvantaged or marginalized groups. Transparency and accountability are essential, promoting open procurement processes and holding suppliers accountable for their social impacts. By prioritizing social progress, SPP contributes to inclusive growth, strengthens community resilience, and enhances public trust in government procurement practices.

Principles of Sustainable Public Procurement

  1. Good Public Procurement is Sustainable Public Procurement: SPP follows the essential elements of good public procurement – transparent, fair, non-discriminatory, competitive, accountable, efficient use of public funds, and verifiable – while integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development: social, environmental, and economic. Good public procurement requires an understanding of the full impacts of a purchase throughout the whole lifecycle of a product or service, from sourcing to end-of-life management (e.g., reuse, recycle, and disposal).
  2. Leadership and Commitment: SPP implementation needs strong leadership from influential senior-level champions. They can ensure sufficient resources are dedicated to implementation and that best practices are shared widely, promoting a culture of sustainability within the organization.
  3. Alignment with Broad Policy Goals: SPP contributes to achieving a wide range of government or organizational goals through strategic spending. These goals can include sustainable natural resource management, resource efficiency, sustainable development, and sustainable consumption and production. SPP can drive markets for sustainable innovative solutions, encourage early market engagement, and create green and decent jobs.
  4. Stakeholder Engagement: SPP requires the support of all parts of society, including policy-makers, politicians, customers, manufacturers, suppliers, contractors, and civil society organizations. Effective communication, negotiation skills, market understanding, and professionalism are essential. Clear lines of accountability and incentives for delivery are also critical for successful SPP.
  5. Sound Organizational Management: SPP is based on a risk-based approach, continually reassessing and targeting areas of highest impact or priority. While “quick wins” can demonstrate immediate success, a comprehensive long-term approach is necessary. Integrating SPP into the organizational management system helps make it a routine procurement practice.
  6. Monitoring and Evaluation: Continuous improvement is only possible if the outcomes delivered through SPP are known. Using monitoring and evaluation systems to measure outcomes is essential for tracking progress and identifying areas for improvement. Outcomes can include environmental performance (reduced emissions, material use, waste generation), economic outcomes (cost savings, job creation, wealth creation), and social outcomes (minority empowerment, poverty reduction, good governance).

Integrating Sustainability into the Procurement Process

Developing a Sustainable Public Procurement Policy

A Sustainable Public Procurement Policy outlines the intentions and principles guiding an organization’s environmental responsibilities. It aims to ensure efficient use of budget resources while minimizing negative environmental impacts throughout the lifecycle of goods and services. Key tasks of the SPP Policy include:

  1. Providing a framework for long-term savings through whole-life costing.
  2. Informing suppliers and vendors about the organization’s sustainable development direction.
  3. Describing general sustainability performance requirements for inclusion in technical specifications and selection criteria.
  4. Promoting environmentally responsible consumption within the organization.

Considerations for SPP Policy Development

When developing an SPP Policy, consider the following:
  1. Support and Commitment: Involve senior management to support SPP integration.
  2. Responsibility: Identify individuals accountable for embedding sustainability within the organization and procurement process.
  3. Analysis: Reflect organizational values, scope, and business ethics, and commit to continuous improvement.
  4. Objectives and KPIs: Include Key Performance Indicators and objectives to measure progress.
  5. Communication and Review: Maintain consistent, concise, and clear communication with staff, suppliers, and stakeholders.

Steps to Develop an SPP Policy

Developing a Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) Policy involves a systematic approach to integrating sustainability principles into procurement practices. Here’s a detail guide:

  1. Investigate Sustainability Issues and Needs:

Developing an effective SPP Policy begins with a thorough investigation of sustainability issues pertinent to the organization’s procurement practices. This involves identifying and assessing the environmental, social, and economic impacts associated with current procurement processes. By conducting this assessment, organizations can gain a clear understanding of where sustainability improvements are needed and prioritize actions that align with their overall goals. Additionally, analyzing the benefits and risks of integrating SPP helps in making informed decisions, such as identifying potential cost savings, enhancing supplier relations through ethical sourcing, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.

  1. Define Organizational Understanding of Sustainability:

Defining what Sustainable Public Procurement means for the organization is crucial in setting a clear direction for policy development. This step involves establishing a comprehensive vision and mission statement that reflects the organization’s values, strategic objectives, and commitment to sustainable development. By articulating specific goals and objectives related to sustainability, such as reducing carbon footprint, promoting fair labor practices, or increasing use of renewable resources, organizations can align procurement practices with broader sustainability targets. This clarity helps in guiding procurement decisions and ensuring consistency in sustainability efforts across different departments and projects.

  1. Develop Guiding Principles:

Guiding principles play a pivotal role in shaping the implementation of SPP within an organization. It begins with identifying and adopting best practice frameworks that provide a structured approach to sustainable procurement. These frameworks, which may include international standards like ISO 20400, help in establishing criteria for evaluating suppliers, setting environmental performance expectations, and integrating social responsibility into procurement strategies. Additionally, formulating key procurement questions ensures that sustainability considerations are embedded throughout the procurement process, from supplier selection to contract management. By harmonizing external and internal procurement drivers, organizations can effectively balance economic efficiency with environmental and social responsibility goals.

  1. Identify Tools and Resources:

Supporting staff with the necessary tools and resources is essential for successful SPP implementation. This step involves providing training on sustainable procurement practices, equipping procurement teams with assessment tools for evaluating environmental impacts, and offering guidance on incorporating sustainability criteria into tender documents and procurement contracts. Establishing robust monitoring and evaluation systems allows organizations to track progress towards sustainability goals, measure performance through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and identify areas for continuous improvement. By ensuring access to up-to-date information and best practices, organizations empower their procurement teams to make informed decisions that advance sustainability objectives.

  1. Develop the SPP Policy:

Developing a comprehensive SPP Policy requires translating strategic goals into actionable plans and procedures. This involves creating an action plan that outlines specific steps, timelines, and responsibilities for integrating sustainability criteria into procurement policies and practices. Clear and transparent regulation of procurement rules ensures fairness, accountability, and compliance with sustainability standards throughout the procurement cycle. Continuous improvement is facilitated by regular reviews and updates to the SPP Policy, informed by stakeholder feedback, emerging sustainability trends, and organizational performance data. By fostering a culture of sustainability and commitment from senior management, organizations can effectively embed SPP into their operational framework and contribute to sustainable development goals.

UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Contribution to SPP

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has been a major proponent of SPP at national, regional, and global levels since 2005. UNEP’s initiatives are integral in promoting sustainable consumption and production, aligning with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12. Their efforts include:

  • Global Action and Data Collection: UNEP is the custodian of SDG 12.7.1, which focuses on sustainable public procurement. They collect data from national and sub-national governments to monitor progress and have produced reports and webinars on the outcomes of these data collection efforts.
  • One Planet Programme on Sustainable Public Procurement: This global multi-stakeholder platform, co-led by UNEP, supports the implementation of SPP worldwide. It includes over 130 partners and focuses on monitoring and sharing best practices in SPP.
  • Global Review of SPP: Every four years, UNEP reviews the state of SPP implementation globally, analyzing trends and challenges. These reviews help in understanding the progress and areas needing improvement.
  • SPP Implementation Guidelines: UNEP provides a methodology to assist countries in designing and implementing SPP policies. These guidelines offer practical tools and examples to support effective SPP adoption.
  • Promotion of Regional Cooperation: UNEP promotes regional cooperation through various projects like the Asia Pacific Green Public Procurement Network and the Compras Sostenibles platform in Latin America. These initiatives enhance knowledge-sharing and stimulate markets for eco-friendly products and services.


Sustainable Public Procurement is a powerful tool for promoting sustainability and achieving a balance between economic, social, and environmental goals. By adhering to the principles of life-cycle thinking, transparency, stakeholder engagement, continuous improvement, and policy coherence, organizations can implement effective SPP practices that drive positive change. As the global community continues to face pressing sustainability challenges, the adoption of SPP becomes increasingly vital in building a more sustainable and resilient future. Insights from experts like Stephanie Safdie and support from organizations like UNEP reinforce the comprehensive and integrative nature of SPP, highlighting its potential to foster substantial and widespread sustainability impacts across various sectors.

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