Construction workers

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. With public procurement representing on average 15 per cent of a country’s GDP, it also holds enormous potential for driving innovation and sustainable development.

Despite progress in recent years, the vast majority of public procurement decisions are driven by the lowest price rather than best value. 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 the long lifespan of projects and the potential for wide-ranging social, economic, and environmental impacts.

Our work on sustainable public procurement is built around three core objectives:  

  • Raise the ambition level of governments in using the public procurement function strategically to promote fairer, cleaner economies, and enhance the accountability of governments towards their sustainable public procurement commitments.  
  • Become a global leader on public procurement of nature-based solutions (NbS) and nature-based infrastructure (NBI).  
  • Redefine the role of public procurement in global value chains and circular economies, recognizing it as a potential demand-side driver of biodiversity protection, climate change mitigation and adaptation, human rights protections, small and medium-sized enterprise development, and job creation.  

The public procurement team works toward these objectives through thought leadership, research, technical assistance, and capacity building activities.

We conduct research about green public procurement tools, the state-of-play of sustainable procurement and approaches for monitoring progress in the field. We also use IISD’s Sustainable Asset Valuation (SAVi) methodology to provide quantitative evidence on the multiple financial, economic, social, and environmental gains that can be realized through sustainable public procurement.

Based on international best practice, the team provides technical assistance to governments and contracting authorities, including advice on making the business case for GPP, creating a supportive legal and institutional framework, fostering market engagement and professionalization, and providing tools for effective GPP implementation and monitoring.

In addition, we train public procurers, infrastructure planners and policy-makers in implementing sustainable public procurement and making informed investment decisions that maximize value for money.

Key partners and donors in our procurement work include the Open Contracting Partnership, ICLEI, UNEP’s One Planet on Sustainable Public Procurement Program, the World Bank Group, the IKEA Foundation, and the Foundation for Climate Friendly Procurement and Business (SKAO).