Build support and capabilities
Build support and capabilities

Build support and capabilities

Establishing supporting and capability-building mechanisms

At this stage of planning your SPP implementation strategy, you have already assessed what you can do within your procurement enabling environment, decided where to focus your efforts, and established your goals.

However, as we mention in the introduction, implementing SPP means procuring in a different way. As this can be challenging for procurement officials, public authorities should consider what they can do to build capabilities.

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In this section we introduce some of the mechanisms public authorities can put in place to support procurement officials effectively implement SPP, together with examples of how they are used across the world.

Engage with stakeholders

One of the main ways in which public authorities can build their procurement capabilities with respect to SPP is by reaching out and engaging with stakeholders.

As we highlighted at the beginning of this guide, governments will have to buy things in fundamentally different ways and explore new technologies and solutions to address the climate crisis. Stakeholder engagement, sharing information and exploring solutions will be vital to this shift, given that the government alone does not yet always know what to buy and how to buy it.

This will be a huge shift in the traditional box ticking, compliance-based approach to procurement and may feel uncomfortable, but it takes two to make a market. Opening up your contracting process and seeking out a wide range of stakeholders to inform your procurement strategies will improve competition and improve your chances of reaching vendors with the best solutions for your needs. It will also give you insights into the market, what is working and what isn’t.

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Engagement is not a one-off, you should plan the appropriate and best moments to engage civic and business actors across the entire cycle of planning, tendering, awarding and delivering public contracts. The golden rule: engage early, engage often. If you don’t design for inclusion and engagement right at the start, it won’t happen.

Below we include some  of the main ways that this can be done; the key is repeated and sustained engagement. A great example of this is our case study on Mexico City’s Ecobici bike share system renewal process. It shows how by rethinking the process and relying on sustained engagement with vendors and communities, the city was able to extend its bike share scheme to poorer and more underserved parts of the city, resulting in radically better results than previous tenders.

Beyond individual tenders, open and sustainable public procurement will need smart, data-driven policy changes. This will include sustained leadership and buy-in from the marketplace and communities, so again, engagement and feedback will be crucial to driving change and delivering results. There are some great examples of how civil society organizations are monitoring the outcomes of public procurement and tracking the results for citizens in Ukraine, Nigeria and India.

Capacity-building workshops with procurement practitioners

Organizing workshops with procurement professionals to inform, contribute to and celebrate  share the final Action Plan will be essential to shape it and maximize its benefits and buy-in.

Similarly, you should plan for sustained engagement with the vendor community to plan, and to explain how procurement practices in prioritized categories will change and to stimulate investments in the marketplace. It is essential to communicate the benefits of the plan and increase application confidence.

SPP training sessions can be organized throughout the year to build capabilities and implementation confidence amongst suppliers. These workshops are also a good opportunity to share best practice amongst practitioners.

Sustainability workshops with suppliers

Public authorities should collaborate with suppliers and sector-specific organizations to determine what sustainability standards should be recommended for procurement processes. Workshops and events can be organized to assess market capability, and work with suppliers to create a roadmap for continuous improvement regarding sustainable practices. These events can help public authorities to work with local suppliers, especially SMEs, to ensure that they are not left out from the introduction of sustainability requirements in procurement processes.

Sustained outreach with civil society, academia and other civic actors Organizations (CSOs)

Engaging with civil society CSOs across the entire cycle of your action planning and implementation can be key to informing best practices, supporting change and fostering political will and leadership can be helpful for SPP implementation in different ways:

  • Depending on the area of focus, these organizations can provide guidance regarding the best targets to pursue or how to best design the procurement process to, for example, buy green, promote SMEs, or gender equality. In this way CSOs can help to design SPP policies, as well as to prepare and deliver capacity-building workshops with practitioners.

  • These organizations can also provide additional subject matter knowledge and analysis, linking different data across disciplines to provide new insights. In India, the research lab CivicDataLab built a data model combining three larger datasets to track the investments made on flood relief, response and preparedness and to assess the extent to which this builds climate resilience or meets the most urgent humanitarian needs. The data they looked at included satellite and meteorological data to assess the exposure to floods in a particular area, socio-economic data to understand the degree of vulnerability for the population residing in flood risk areas and fiscal data such as past contracts to see how the government has been responding to floods historically and where urgent interventions are needed in time to come.

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More examples and resources for stakeholder engagement can be found on Open Contracting Partnership’s website.

Standardize sustainability criteria

Governments buy a huge range of materials and most procurement practitioners don’t have the knowledge, or resources, to know which sustainability standards should be applied across different industries and categories. So, as we mention in the prioritizing procurement categories section, one of the steps when getting started with Open SPP is identifying existing sustainability standards and ecolabels, and then providing guidance on which are the best standards for different procurement categories, and how these should be included in procurement processes.

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A good example of this guidance is the U.S. General Service Administration’s Green Procurement Compilation (GPC) tool, which provides guidance regarding regulations, environmental considerations, and available labels for over 36 procurement categories.

Create and share sustainability registries and catalogs

In the enabling framework section, we introduced how introducing sustainability criteria in framework agreements can constitute an SPP enabler. Another way to create a pre-selected list of more sustainable suppliers is through public and accessible catalogs and registries.

The suppliers included in these can be chosen according to the certain sustainability standards set by existing environmental labels and accreditations, or the standardized criteria developed. The catalog, or registry, would help to tackle legal concerns from procurement practitioners, as it would be understood that purchasing products or services from the catalog is supported by the government, despite prices being higher. It is important to create clear and fair routes, especially for smaller businesses to get onto the registry and to have regular updates.

For more guidance on how to use procurement data to create SPP supplier registries see Option 9 in section three.

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An example of a catalog for environmental purchases is Thailand’s Green Cart, which is recommended within the legal framework as a way to purchase more sustainably. In Paraguay, the National Registry of Family Agriculture (RENAF) served as a way to facilitate and promote the procurement of food and catering services from this economic group. Another example comes from Chile’s framework agreement for necessary goods and services in case of emergencies; selected suppliers are pre-screened by ChileCompra, the central purchasing body, to buy products from them in a fast and easy way when disaster hits.

Set up a Help Desk and central information point

Changing public procurement processes to allow for the introduction of sustainability considerations can be challenging for procurement practitioners. As well as trying to facilitate the process by standardizing sustainability criteria, or creating registries and catalogs, a Help Desk should be set up to provide practical hands-on support or advice to practitioners. For example, providing a service to look over SPP tender documents can help to tackle procurement practitioner’s concerns that they are framing the award criteria correctly.

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The Help Desk, as well as the rest of the supporting mechanisms developed for the implementation of Open SPP, can be made easily accessible by creating a central information point with all available resources. An example of this is the German Competence Center for Sustainable Procurement (Kompetenzstelle für nachhaltige Beschaffung, KNB), which provides information regarding laws, regulations, guidelines, and examples, from federal, state, and local authorities. The KBN also has a Help Desk, from which it provides tailored support via telephone and email.

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Case Study In 2005, the Government of The Netherlands set up PIANOo, a knowledge network for government procurement officers and contracting authorities. PIANOo was created with the aim of professionalizing procurement, seeking to improve efficiency and compliance.

It also now incorporates a specific section of Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP), offering learning materials, guidance, and a criteria tool for public authorities to identify possible environmental requirements to include in tendering processes. The expertise center also includes information regarding best practice exchange meetings amongst procurement practitioners.