What is Open SPP?
Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) relates to how organizations buy goods and services across the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social, and environmental benefits.
We heard from users that, often, assessing and delivering better environmental impacts is the most challenging of these three objectives. So whilst we are keeping the wider ‘sustainable procurement’ framing, this guide will focus on approaches to improve environmental sustainability (also known as “green procurement”) without compromising goals related to economic or social sustainability.
Open SPP is adding an open government and an open data approach to SPP to improve its adoption and impact. This includes an open government approach to include stakeholders in planning and delivering better purchasing, and using open data to unlock, share and analyze what is being brought, for whom, and with what SPP outcomes and impacts. Both of these approaches were clear topics that government stakeholders wanted help with.
- The most common definition of Sustainable Public Procurement comes from UNEP: “a process whereby public sector organizations meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole life basis in terms of generating benefits not only to the organization, but also to society and the economy, whilst minimizing, and if possible, avoiding, damage to the environment.”
- You can see the Open Contracting Partnership’s approach to open contracting here and how it helps reforms scale and stick here.
How openness helps SPP
At its simplest level, it is hard to argue procurement will encourage sustainable development if it is not open and transparent. But, more strategically, our governments are going to have to buy things in a fundamentally different way if they are to tackle the many environmental challenges that we face, so they will have to engage new stakeholders and scale innovations.
We are all still learning how to do this, so we will also need better data on who is buying what from whom, when, for how much, and what the associated environmental and other sustainable development impacts are. This will require collecting new forms of data and analysis.
Openness is a mindset shift, covering open contracting data, open communication channels, and open regulatory approaches. In fact, we think that there are seven key ways that openness can help the sustainable procurement process, captured below.
Throughout this guide, we will refer to these different types of openness as key drivers of sustainable procurement.
Open SPP means clearly disclosing your policies and approach to drive sustainability and how it complies with any international, national or local legal frameworks and policies that govern your procurement rules.
Open SPP means sharing the process that has led you to prioritize certain procurement categories or projects as you focus your SPP efforts.
Open SPP entails clearly communicating what sustainability criteria will be used to select suppliers, how they will be evaluated against these criteria, and the reasons behind these decisions.
Open SPP includes the creation of effective supplier registers, contract databases, and reporting mechanisms that track implementation of SPP objectives and support proactive monitoring and feedback on purchases
Open SPP is characterized by establishing clear channels for engagement and receiving feedback from suppliers, civil society organizations, and citizens. This is especially valuable in planning what to buy, especially if it involves innovative technology or will involve impacts of specific communities as well as in monitoring implementation of contracts to check they have delivered on their environmental and social outcomes.
Open SPP relies on measuring, and clearly communicating, the impact of SPP practices on a contract-by-contract basis, using appropriate metrics.
Open SPP involves shaping, testing, and scaling SPP practices, based on reporting data and feedback gathered. This involves using data on outcomes of your SPP approaches to evaluate and scale what has worked.
The importance of good data as a foundation
To deliver on these seven dimensions of openness high-quality data is crucial. This means standardized data in open, machine-readable formats.
We have already compiled a piece of guidance that explores how open data can help you to drive SPP, and recommends the first steps in your open data journey. This guide can be found here.
Green Flags can help you think about the key data categories you need to be able to plan and implement green public procurement. The graphic below illustrates some of the key data points that you can capture across the stages of planning, tendering, awarding and delivering public contracts and how they help tracking, reporting and analysis of procurement.
The critical role of identifiers in tracking SPP performance
Identifiers enable you to link data together from different systems. Central to the Open Contracting Data Standard is a unique, non-proprietary ID for every public contract that allows it to be tracked across its commercial life cycle.
The Open Contracting Data Standard provides guidance on identifiers that can be used to help you join and cross reference contracting data.
Also in the OCDS schema is further guidance on identifiers that can be used to help you join and cross reference contracting data, including corporate IDs for contractors and organizational identifiers to track who is involved in the formation and management of contracts.
A lack of coherent identifiers in government information systems structurally damages data quality and can seriously hamper data collection and analysis but there are some simple strategies that can help anyone make progress.
Our "Green Flags" guide outlines how to "tag" specific procurements as green as a key first step towards measuring SPP outcomes. This is only possible if you have good quality contract data, with clear contractual identifiers. In section three of this toolkit, we show you how to build on this approach to generate detailed, granular SPP evidence.
So before getting started with SPP, make sure you have tackled the key data foundations.