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					FAQ: Frequently asked questions

         FAQ: Frequently asked questions
1. What is sustainable procurement?
Sustainable procurement means making sure that the products and services your organisation
buys are as sustainable as possible – with the lowest environmental and most positive social
At its most basic this can mean simply making sure you always buy recycled paper or Fair
Trade coffee. At its most comprehensive it means systematically integrating environmental
and social considerations into all procurement activities, whether purchasing goods, services
or works - from defining the true needs, to setting appropriate technical specifications and
evaluation procedures, to monitoring performance and results.
It can mean considering a whole range of characteristics of the products and services you
buy, for example:
    The use of non-toxic substances and renewable materials;
    Energy and water consumption during use;
    Disposal, reuse and recycling options at the end of life;
    Working conditions in service delivery.
It can be as simple as excluding certain chemicals in the tender technical specifications for
cleaning products, or as comprehensive as reassessing the entire cleaning plan for your office.
Only by considering the full range of life-cycle costs and benefits of your procurement
actions can you ensure the efficiency of your operations. Procurement and sustainable
procurement should be one and the same.

2. Is sustainable procurement more expensive?
Sustainable procurement, if a suitable approach is taken, should not involve additional costs
for a public authority – indeed money may often be saved. Although some sustainable
products have a higher purchase price, if the whole life-cycle costs are considered, including
use and disposal costs, savings may often be achieved.
There are a number of other factors which can help to keep costs down, including a careful
consideration of whether a product is really needed at all, and changes to the way
procurement is organised and carried out (in some cases, greater centralisation of
procurement, the use of e-procurement and joint-purchasing may offer substantial financial
It is also important to recognise that although costs may increase for certain products and
services, these will generally be balanced by savings for others. A price capping mechanism
can also be applied within the tendering process to ensure that spending does not increase
substantially for certain products.

3. Has sustainable procurement been tested?
Sustainable procurement is not a new concept; it has been implemented by pioneer public
authorities across Europe, and the world, for many years. A great number of public
authorities have had positive experiences in this area and a number of these are included in
the Procura+ manual.

Procura+ Manual – A Guide to Cost Effective                                                  1
Sustainable Public Procurement – www.procuraplus.org
FAQ: Frequently asked questions

4. Does sustainable procurement mean more work?
Sustainable procurement does not have to entail a lot of time and effort. It is advisable for
authorities to take a step-by-step approach to implementation – it is too ambitious to aim to
make all procurement sustainable in one go. Instead, authorities should start with just a few
products or services, and gradually build on this depending on administrative capacities. It is
important that authorities also build on existing experiences from other authorities rather than
starting from scratch. A great deal of assistance in terms of criteria and procedures is
available from a variety of sources, which can greatly reduce the time and resources required.
The Procura+ approach has been designed so that it is easy to implement, with a minimum
demand on time and resources, and is based on a few ready-to-use criteria for use in

5. Does sustainable procurement comply with EU law?
Yes, it is perfectly acceptable under EU law provided the principles of objectivity,
transparency and non-discrimination are not compromised, as has been demonstrated by a
number of European court rulings. The new Public Procurement Directives explicitly indicate
how to include environmental demands in tendering.
There are a variety of opportunities and these are clearly outlined in Chapter III of the
Procura+ manual.

6. How can a non-expert decide what is a “sustainable” product or service?
For this manual a “sustainable” product/service is one with a better environmental
performance more positive social impacts throughout its life-cycle than a standard
product/service that delivers the same or better functional performance, quality and end-user
satisfaction. When determining what is sustainable, it is of vital importance to consider all the
impacts of a product or service right through its life-cycle, from the extraction of materials
for production, the production and delivery stages, the use phase, to the disposal/recycling of
the product and to ensure that quality is not compromised. A great deal of assistance is
available to authorities trying to decide what a sustainable product is, including product
labels, guidebooks and guidelines, and internet databases. The Procura+ approach provides a
ready-to-use set of criteria for determining this within the procurement process. Chapter III of
the Procura+ manual gives more information on this.

7. Do sustainable products offer the same quality?
Yes. The quality of the product or service is central to effective sustainable procurement. It is
a widely held misconception that sustainable products are of a lower quality but in the vast
majority of cases this is not true. The key criteria developed for the Procura+ product groups
are based on the existence of suitable alternatives.

8. What are the benefits for the public authority itself?
Sustainable procurement is not just a vital tool for achieving global sustainable objectives
such as reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; it offers a great many benefits to the
administration itself.
Financial savings may be achieved through reduced life-cycle costs, and reviewing
consumption needs. Local environmental and health goals, such as the reduction of water and

Procura+ Manual – A Guide to Cost Effective                                                    2
Sustainable Public Procurement – www.procuraplus.org
FAQ: Frequently asked questions

air pollution, or healthy working environments can be achieved, not to
mention contribution to global environmental solutions. Social improvements
may also be targeted through favouring marginalised groups, or encouraging job creation for
example. Sustainable procurement is a key tool in driving innovation. Sustainable
procurement is of course also a highly effective and visible way of demonstrating your
organisation’s commitment to sustainability.
Chapter I of the Procura+ Manual contains more information on these issues.

9. What are the benefits for the local community?
Beyond an improvement in the efficiency of public procurement activities, and consequently
the better use of tax-payers' money, local communities will also benefit specifically. Many of
the environmental impacts that can be addressed by sustainable procurement are felt locally:
cleaner public transport, for example, would improve local air quality; a reduced use of toxic
chemicals in cleaning provides a healthier working environment and so on. Sustainable
procurement can also act as a useful channel for raising environmental awareness within the
local community – by introducing greener products to the community and providing
information about the benefits of sustainable procurement.
Chapter I of the Procura+ Manual contains more information on these issues.

10. Where should a public authority start with sustainable procurement?
It is important not to be over-ambitious when implementing sustainable procurement. It is
better to concentrate initially on just a few products or services, and gradually increase the
number as the authority becomes more experienced, and other employees and political
representatives become interested and convinced by the concept. In the beginning it is a good
idea to make contact with other administrations that have successfully put sustainable
procurement activities into practice, and explore some of the assistance available online. It is
also a good idea to look at how procurement is currently organised within the authority and
identify appropriate starting points, including how best to bring environmental and
procurement staff together. Political support is also important in encouraging implementation
and helps ensure that the efforts of procurers are recognised. The existence of a sustainable
procurement policy is a useful motivation for action.
The Procura+ Milestones Process outlined in Chapter V of the Manual is designed for
implementation in all public authorities, regardless of their size, location, or level of

11. Who needs to be involved?
Who needs to be involved depends of course on administrative structures, but should
certainly include environmental officers and those responsible for procurement, whether
centrally or within different units. It is also important to try to involve the political level in
activities to provide encouragement for the administration as a whole to work together, and
ensure the recognition of efforts. Finance officers should also be involved in implementation.
Externally, regular suppliers should also ideally be involved in the process, with transparent
communication of how procurement requirements will be changing and why, and also to
encourage them to try to meet these new demands.

Procura+ Manual – A Guide to Cost Effective                                                     3
Sustainable Public Procurement – www.procuraplus.org
FAQ: Frequently asked questions

12. Will local suppliers suffer?
Sustainable procurement must be considered as an opportunity rather than a hindrance for
suppliers to develop sustainable solutions and for smaller and new innovative suppliers to
find markets for their goods and services. Authorities should work together with their
suppliers, informing them of changing requirements, the reasons behind the changes, and the
potential benefits for the suppliers themselves. Such collaboration should lead to an
improvement in the competitiveness of local suppliers on national and international markets,
as international demands for improved environmental performance increase.

Procura+ Manual – A Guide to Cost Effective                                               4
Sustainable Public Procurement – www.procuraplus.org