The term sustainable public procurement might not seem so exciting at first glance, but it actually holds quite a bit of potential. In fact, the 10 of the cities that are part of the Global Lead City Network on Sustainable Procurement came together at COP23 in Bonn to explain how sustainable procurement can be a tool to change the rules of the game and accelerate climate action.
A city like Oslo, Norway spends $3.5 billion every year on public procurement. This large budget can have a significant impact if spent wisely. It is this belief that brings together the 14 cities that joined the Global Lead City Network on Sustainable Procurement launched at COP21 by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
Mayor Raymond Johansen of Oslo shared his conviction that public procurement can drive the transition to sustainable production and consumption, particularly in transport, energy efficiency and buildings. Most recently, Oslo started working with the private sector to make sure all new public buildings are built on zero emission construction sites that use zero emission vehicles and construction machinery.
The City of Ghent, Belgium takes a comprehensive approach to sustainable procurement. They established procurement standards with environmental and social dimensions. Having had a long history with the textile industry, Ghent remembers the effects of poor working conditions in that sector. The city has decided to push the fair trade clothing industry. To do so, they start by leading by example and buying fair trade uniforms for employees.
The path to sustainable public procurement is not always easy. The cities need to work hand-in-hand with suppliers to help them prepare to comply with new standards. Public communication is also key to get support from residents on new policies. Councilor Hulse from Auckland, New Zealand emphasized that city staff need to tell the right stories so that residents understand why city might be willing to pay a higher price for materials.
Legislation is also another obstacle to sustainable public procurement. Cities need to be creative, when dealing with national or even international regulations that might go against sustainable procurement objectives. Local leaders call on networks like ICLEI to support them in changing this legislation.
The cities at the event express regret that they sometimes lack the means to take the necessary action. Sustainable procurement holds promise, and can be a tool for both national and subnational governments. It is worthy of discussion as all levels of government and climate stakeholder meet at COP23 in Bonn drive forward climate action and raise global climate ambitions.