State of Play in Sustainable Public Procurement

By Nuper Chowdhury, Anandajit Goswami on November 23, 2007

Together with The Energy Resource Institute (TERI) in India, IISD performed a comprehensive and global review of sustainable public procurement initiatives. The review includes an analysis of legal instruments within trade and investment regimes, SPP initiatives around the world, and conditions for the implementation of SPP programs in emerging and developing economies. With regards to the latter, it found a number of striking observations and conclusions. For example, it found that local governments are often leaders in SPP, more than procurers at the national level.

To allow for high-level SPP, the review found that national laws and policies are an important prerequisite. At the same time, sector-specific SPP programs can support national sustainable development priorities, though few such initiatives exist at the time of writing. National SPP projects increasingly move away from awareness raising and the compilation of tools and guidelines, to the identification of environmentally and socially preferable alternatives, and to increasing the capacities of public sector procurers, financial planners and accountants in including externalities and highlight medium-and long-term cost-savings. There also seems to be a positive, increasing focus on transparency at all stages of the procurement process.

In addition, there are specific conditions for enabling SPP in emerging and developing economies. While it is generally advised to move away from raising awareness to learning-by-doing in areas of high and priority spending, there may be the additional difficulty that SPP initiatives need to be merged with transparency reforms. Therefore, it may be advisable that pilot initiatives are undertaken in sectors with higher standards of transparency and public disclosure requirements. At the same time, countries with modest experience in SPP can learn from those with established track records. Learning-by-doing can thus be complemented by learning-by-interacting.

Report details

IISD, 2007