The new EU Directive on public procurement: a step forward for sustainable public procurement

A network of civil society organisations welcomes the adoption of new EU directives that allow for social and environmental criteria in public procurement and calls upon Member States to put an end to cost-­‐centred approach. 

Brussels, 15/01/2014 – The Network for Sustainable Development in Public Procurement (NSDPP) welcomes the new public procurement Directives approved  today  by  the  European  Parliament.  The  new  Directives  will  allow  public  authorities  in  Europe  to  make  sustainable  choices  and  spend  taxpayer's money wisely. 

The new provisions affirm that contracting authorities may introduce social and environmental considerations throughout the procurement process as long as these are linked to the subject matter of the contract. Additionally, public authorities can differentiate what they purchase on the basis of the process and production methods that are not visible in the final product. It will be easier for them to rely on labels and certifications as a means to proof compliance  with  the  sustainability  criteria  they  have  set.  Health  Care  Without  Harm  (HCWH)  Europe,  a  member  of  the  NSDPP,  applauds  the  EU  Institutions for including green and social considerations in the procurement process as it will allow public authorities within the healthcare sector to give  preference  to  bidders  that  offer  environmentally  sustainable  and  socially  responsible  goods  and  services,  better  working  conditions  to  their  workers, and who favour the integration of disabled and disadvantaged workers.

Medical equipment, such as surgical instruments, gowns or gloves used in European hospitals is often manufactured in low-­‐income countries under poor working conditions and with the involvement of child labour. Anja Leetz, the Executive Director of HCWH Europe, comments “the impact this will have on the healthcare sector is huge – by procuring for example medical devices and equipment that do not contain hazardous chemicals or that are ethically produced, patient safety will significantly increase”.

Importantly, the right for public authorities to provide services directly was approved and concepts of ‘in-­‐house’ and ‘public-­‐public cooperation’ were defined. Compliance with environmental, social and labour obligations, including collective agreements, is now enshrined in the principles of this law and tenderers can be excluded in case of non-­‐compliance. The new law also makes it easier to identify subcontractors along the supply chain -­‐ although it will be up to Members States to establish their joint liability.

Regrettably,  the  final  text  of  the  Directive  would  still  allow  the  purchase  of  the  cheapest  option  -­‐  despite  objections  from  the  NSDPP  and  European  Parliament -­‐ subsequently adding confusion to the criteria for assessing tenders. Although life-­‐cycle costing provisions have been improved, the social externalities cannot be taken into account in the life-­‐cycle calculation.

In  implementing  the  new  rules,  Members  States  should  improve  some  of  the  elements  left  to  their  discretion  in  the  new  text.  For  instance,  they  can  prohibit or restrict the “use of price only” criterion, and leave contracting authorities the choice between either assessing other aspects in addition to cost  effectiveness,  or  base  their  purchasing  decisions  solely  on  that  criterion.  The  NSDPP  calls  upon  Member  States  to  take  responsibility  for  the  environmental and social impacts of public purchasing when implementing the new Directives in their respective countries.  

The NSDPP also stresses that having a clear and enabling legal framework is not enough and needs positive measures to support its application. The Network  also  calls  on  the  European  institutions  to  take  a  coherent  approach  to  sustainability  in  public  procurement  and  to  develop  a  “buy  socially  responsible  and  sustainable”  strategy  with  targets  and  a  monitoring  and  evaluation  program.  Ms.  Leetz  emphasises  that  it  will  only  be  “through  the development of a socially responsible and sustainable strategy to effectively implement the Public Procurement Directive in the Member States, will the new Public Procurement Directive translate into more responsible and safer purchasing practices that protect human health and the environment in Europe and across the globe”.

The Network for Sustainable Development in Public Procurement (NSDPP)

The NSDPP is a European network uniting social and environmental NGOs and trade union organizations that have the joint aim to achieve progress in sustainable development through enabling EU public procurement legislation and policies.

Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe

HCWH Europe is a non-­‐profit coalition of European hospitals, healthcare systems, medical associations, healthcare professionals, local authorities and environmental and health organisations. They aim to transform the health care sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment.


For more information about the new Public Procurement Directive, please contact the NSDPP Coordinator, Elba Estrada at estrada@fairtrade-­‐ or HCWH Europe’s Anja Leetz at