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Public Procurement

Governments devote significant portions of their budgets to procuring goods, services, and infrastructure. This enormous purchasing power needs to be reformed to ensure that the state is buying the most sustainable solutions to address today’s challenges.

However, public procurement decisions are still dominated by the lowest price at the time of purchase, rather than by awarding contracts based on value-for-money across the life cycle of a solution. This is a missed opportunity for creating society-wide benefits and fostering the transition to sustainable and circular economies. When it comes to infrastructure assets, this is especially notable, given their long lifespans and their potential for wide-ranging social, economic, and environmental impacts.

Public procurement is the purchase by governments and state-owned enterprises of goods, services and works.

The Sustainable Development Goals (target 12.7), call for “sustainable procurement practices” linked to governments’ respective policy priorities.

IISD provides policy advice, research, and training to implement sustainable public procurement. We work closely with policy-makers, international donors, multilateral development banks, and NGOs to design policies, programs, and technical assistance that address a wide spectrum of topics. Our Sustainable Asset Valuation (SAVi) also provides quantitative evidence on the multiple financial, economic, social, and environmental gains that can be realized through sustainable public procurement. 

We also serve on several working groups and are engaged in a number of associations. These include the OECD Leading Practitioners on Public Procurement; UNEP 10YFP Sustainable Public Procurement Programme – Working Group on Sustainable Infrastructure; UNCITRAL Working Groups on Procurement and PublicPrivate Partnerships (PPPs); Green Public Procurement Expert Group of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Environment; International Green Purchasing Network (IGPN); Inter-American Network on Government Procurement (INGP); Circular Economy Leadership Coalition; and the Innovation Procurement Working Group of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW).