With sustainable procurement, authorities give a strong impulse to the circular, carbon neutral economy. RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment helps them to measure the sustainability gain of their sustainable procurement efforts.
Worldwide we face significant challenges: global warming, the depletion of resources, the accumulation of waste on the planet.
Citizens, companies and governments must jointly use materials more circularly and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
Governments can do a lot: create legislation, issue permits, grant subsidies.
And! Sustainable Procurement.
Through their purchases, the central government, provinces, municipalities, schools and hospitals have a considerable influence on how we do business in the Netherlands. They have a joint procurement budget of 73 billion euros.
Take CO2 emissions, for example.
Governments can significantly reduce them, via conscious choices in procurement. In fact, they already do.
Through more sustainable purchasing in 2015 and 2016, the Dutch government saved about five megaton CO2 on the total duration of signed contracts in, among others, the product groups company cars, electricity, and solar panels.
This is equal to the annual emissions from energy and transportation of 600,000 Dutch households. That is almost twice the number of households in the city of Rotterdam.
When governments take the lead in sustainable procurement, climate-neutral solutions can quickly benefit from economies of scale.
Sustainable procurement is not only about the environment, but it is also about people. For example about creating jobs for people with a distance to the labour market.
As public authorities, we can only set up socially responsible procurement if our procurement professionals and contract managers are equipped to do so.
This is where the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, RIVM, can help. We develop and deliver knowledge and expertise for measuring progress in sustainability.
To measure gains in sustainability, public authorities need data from suppliers. With this data, public authorities can improve their procurement policy in every policy cycle. They can also make the gains in sustainability visible and thus increase their support base.
Data provision will get easier as purchasers, and suppliers get used to administrating it.
This sustainable procurement becomes increasingly effective, and the sustainable transition really gets going!
What we advise others, also applies to us, of course.
RIVM signed the Dutch Manifest for Sustainable Procurement.
And drafted an action plan to make our own purchasing more sustainable. We focus on:
Catering: ordered lunches are in principle vegetarian. This delivers on average 0.5 kg CO2 gains per lunch.
Laboratory equipment: we increase the proportion of recycled packaging materials and look for circular alternatives for disposables and chemicals.
And ICT: We use our phones and tablets longer and work on second lives for all our devices.
That is how we, as a governmental institution, set an example and help companies to take steps towards a climate-neutral and circular economy.
Dutch local and central governments aim to minimise any negative effects on human health and the environment resulting from their procurement of products and services. This is referred to as Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP). SPP can help, for example, to reduce greenhouse emissions and stimulate the recycling of more materials (circular economy). In other words, implementing a policy of SPP means that purchases are not made solely on the basis of the lowest price.
CO2 emissions reduced
RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment has estimated the effects of these policy efforts in 2015 and 2016 for product groups involved in transport, energy, office facilities, office buildings, ICT, and the civil engineering sector. As it turns out, SPP has been implemented in all the product groups investigated. As a result, CO2 emissions were reduced by a total of at least 5 megatons during the contractual and user years following the relevant tender procedures.
It is important to collect information regarding purchases in order to be able to determine the effect of SPP. Data is also needed on the degree to which products have a negative impact on the environment. We therefore recommend collecting the necessary information throughout the entire procurement process and keeping a record of it.
In addition, it is important to establish a database for various product groups with information on the environmental impact of products over their entire life-cycle. Such a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) also makes it clear whether or not the environmental impact is passed on to other parts of the production and consumption chain.