Establishing an enabling environment
Clearly, you want to make sure that buying sustainably and making contract awards according, in part, to sustainability criteria are compliant with the existing legal and policy context for procurement in your country.
Quickly evaluate your enabling environment
For a simple and quick way to carry out an overview of your enabling environment, we have created the following checklist:
For a more detailed account of the process, and concepts, introduced on the checklist, keep reading this section.
Check evaluation or award criteria
In most countries, the existing laws and policies do not establish explicit provisions for considering sustainability in the procurement process. However, they always include certain principles, such as “fairness”, “equity”, “economy”, “value for money (VfM)”, “efficiency”, “effectiveness” to guide procurement decision-making processes.
When such principles are established, this often means that practitioners are urged to find the solution that best responds to the needs identified, while still offering the best price. Considering factors such as the quality of the solution, or how effective it is addressing the needs identified, often leaves room for also considering sustainability.
However, it might not be possible to consider these factors when setting evaluation criteria, as, in many cases, the contract has to be awarded to the lowest-price bid.
As this can be a key barrier, start by checking what your enabling environment establishes or requires regarding evaluation or award criteria, which are normally established at the national level, or by an international institution if a project is being funded by, for example, international development assistance. Depending on what the provisions regarding the use of award criteria are, we provide guidance on how you can implement SPP.
Many procurement regimes only allow you to award the contract to the lowest-price bid. There are different ways around this, including the following:
- Establish sustainability criteria as essential requirements for suppliers.
Every public contract establishes certain criteria that have to be met by suppliers in order for them to be considered, this is often referred to as essential criteria, or technical specifications. Including sustainability as part of these criteria is one of the main ways to procure more sustainably while still selecting the lowest price bid.
To do this, you will have to ensure that these criteria are clearly linked to the subject matter of the contract, and engage with the market to ensure that these criteria can be met by a sufficient number of suppliers. For more information on this see sections Set sustainability criteria, and Engage with the supplier market.
- Consider applying Life Cycle Costing (LCC) calculations.
When you consider costs beyond just the acquisition price, including the operation, maintenance, and disposal costs of the goods purchased, more sustainable alternatives can become the cheapest option. So considering the life cycle costs of the solution can result in selecting the most sustainable alternative. For more information on LCC see this section.
- Ensure compliance with existing sustainability regulations.
Finally, there are already many sustainability regulations in place at the international and national levels. Ensuring that all suppliers comply with these existing regulations is also a way to procure more sustainably. Existing regulation can include, for example, national waste management regulations, or ratified international conventions such as those of the International Labour Organisation (ILO)).
Some procurement regimes might allow you to use criteria other than price to evaluate bids. For example, in Europe this is done under the concept of most economically advantageous tender (M.E.A.T.).
In this case, you can also design the evaluation process so that sustainability is part of the award criteria (as well as using the SPP practices mentioned for contexts which only allow to select the lowest-price bid). When deciding what criteria to include, it can be useful to align with priorities expressed on existing national, and local, sustainability plans and policies (e.g. net zero goals). For more information on setting this criteria see section Set sustainability criteria.
Identify key enablers for SPP
Within your procurement regime, there will be certain policy vehicles, such as framework agreements or competitive dialogue procedures, that can also play a major enabling role to deliver sustainable procurement. In this section we include information about what some of these mechanisms are, and what role they can play in the context of SPP.
Share your compliance trail
Once you have evaluated your enabling environment, you should clearly communicate how it underpins your SPP approach. This can translate into two key actions:
- National authorities should clearly communicate the current enabling environment for SPP implementation in their SPP Action Plans, as well as any plans to develop new enabling policy or regulation.
- Procurement practitioners should clearly communicate how their SPP approach is compliant with the existing enabling environment on a contract-by-contract basis. This can be by referring to the relevant section in the SPP Action Plan, or the documents that have been checked as part of the assessment.
As a quick way to go over the different regulatory and policy documents you might need to refer to, we have put together the following checklist:
This process will help to establish trust across the supplier market, as well as procurement practitioners, that SPP approaches have been well-designed and fit well into the current rules.
Reach out to support networks
When you are thinking about implementing SPP practices for the first time, it can be useful to learn from other teams who are also working on SPP initiatives. These networks provide an opportunity to openly share insights and best practices and learn from each other.
Some of the key international best practice networks include: