Responsible Public Procurement
Public procurement - the operating and investment expenditure of a nation - represents a significant annual amount of GDP. It is often wrongly perceived primarily as a set of technical, legal and administrative tools and standards enabling public authorities to purchase goods and services. In reality, however, it is first and foremost a political tool at the service of these public bodies and reflects certain ambitions and projects for society. Until recently price criteria and competition prevailed but the concept of Responsible Public Procurement (RPP) have integrated social and environmental criterias into their current procurement practices. Responsible Public Procurement is increasingly identified as a key policy lever for innovation, local development and the ecological and social transition of territories. While devising and implementing innovative approaches, promoting social responsibility throughout the supply chains is one of the most powerful tools urban governments have at their disposal as a transformative lever.
The idea is twofold :
- that suppliers are complying with the required social and environmental standards. For example, to reach more sustainable food consumption and production patterns, public food systems like hospitals, care homes, schools, universities, prisons, armed forces, and canteens in government buildings – represent a significant part of the procurement of any national food economy that can be acted upon. But beyond food, concerned products and services can go from cleaning services; construction; furniture; gardening services; healthcare; information and communication technology; social services; textiles; to transport, mobility and waste.
- to advance marginalized populations such as migrants, young people, women, persons with disabilities, for example prioritizing women-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses, businesses operating in economically disadvantaged areas, providing economic opportunities to disadvantaged groups, etc.
In areas where the SSE operates — such as water management systems run by the community, ressourceries and improved waste management, social integration via job creation, co-design of public services that better meet people’s needs, and solidarity finance for better access to credit — tax incentive systems, public purchase programmes for integration or less polluting businesses, and investments in companies that create jobs, reduce their carbon footprint or offer innovative resource management solutions can make all the difference.
For example, the Guide to Fair Trade Procurement (French, 2012) cites food products for collective catering, end-of-year gift parcels and buffet receptions, Fair Trade cotton-based textile products for work clothes, promotional products for community-supported events, etc..
To carry out this approach, public actors need to master the technical and commercial aspects (identification of products, labels, technical implications, definition of needs) as well as the legal and managerial aspects. The task is to set up a coherent system that makes it easier for SSE initiatives – for example work integration social enterprises - to obtain the financial and technical means that provide access to public contracts and public investments, along with legislation that backs up the sector’s commitment and action within the paradigm of an economy that is once again at the service of people and the planet.
Socially Responsible Public Procurement
History of the concept
France : In the 1990s, Strasbourg was pioneer in the implementation of social clauses in their public contracts. The reform of the public procurement code in 2006 and later in July 2015, stated to take into account social (anti-discrimination, for example) and environmental aspects in a perspective of sustainable development. It was reinforced by the SSE law of 30 July 2014. In Spain, Law 9/2017 was passed, for a public procurement in support of common social objectives. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland published a Guide to Socially Responible Public Procurement in 2017. The European Parliament adopted Directives 2014/23/EU, 2014/24/EU and 2014/25/EU on public procurement for "smart, sustainable and inclusive growth", with an emphasis on Fair Trade.
Main networks working on this issue
In addition to its advocacy work, the Responsible Public Procurement website of the Red de Economía Alternativa y Solidaria (REAS) brings together the necessary documentation - guides and legislations - for local governments to adapt their tenders with social clauses and even a course for experts in responsible public procurement (in Spanish).
Responsible Public Procurement in the world
The Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland, Ohio, USA, are a pioneering example of leveraging the power of public procurement, focusing on strengthening low-income neighborhoods through small, worker-owned businesses that work with large anchor institutions as hospitals and universities. In 2008, Evergreen was launched: they created Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, a green laundry facility that provides linens for Cleveland hospitals, hotels, nursing homes and restaurants. Evergreen Energy Solutions, a solar company that designs, develops and installs solar panels for commercial businesses and governmental institutions and Green City Growers Cooperative, a urban farm. Anchor institutions are thus spending money on those local worker-owned businesses, thus boosting the local economies, by providing livable wages and keeping the cash flow from going elsewhere.
In Spain, as highlighted in the previous section, the REAS has taken up the cause head on with a dedicated website and campaigns and many municipalities have implemented social or environmental clauses in their procurement policies (Zaragoza, in Andalucia, in the Basque country, etc).
With Ripess NL articles or position papers
You will find the articles of the Ripess Newsletters here.
- ENSIE #BuyResponsible Campaign, December 2021
With pedagogical tools in socioeco.org
- Buy Social : A practical guide to socially responsible procurement, European Commission, 2014
- Resources on Fair Trade Towns, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland, 2019
- Buying Social - a guide to taking account of social considerations in public procurement (2nd edition), 2021
- Guide to socially responsible public procurement, 2017