16 September 2022 · Article

Sustainable development – from “could” to “should”

At the UN summit in the autumn of 2015, the countries of the world adopted Agenda 2030 and 17 new global goals for sustainable development. The goals and their sub-goals cover several dimensions of sustainable development in the form of economic, social and environmental sustainability. Public procurement and sustainable public business can contribute to the fulfillment of several of the global goals. One of the sub-goals, 12.7, is about promoting sustainable methods of public procurement.

Through public procurement, it is possible to reduce environmental impact, promote innovation and social sustainability, reduce costs and, not least, create increased awareness of environmental and sustainability issues. Contracting authorities can, for example, set requirements regarding the choice of materials, energy performance and emissions in order to contribute to sustainable development. One way to identify what requirements and conditions can be set is for the authority in its needs and market analysis to investigate what sustainability risks exist in a particular industry and in what way the procurement can minimize these risks. Below are some examples of sustainability aspects that can be taken into account in procurement.

  • When procuring IT products and furniture, it may be relevant to set requirements for the products to be recycled or reused.
  • When procuring consulting services, it may be relevant to set requirements for travel to be minimized and done in a sustainable way.
  • When procuring construction works, it may be relevant to set requirements that there must be environmental knowledge among responsible personnel and that the materials used and the work to be carried out must contribute to as low emissions as possible.

Furthermore, contracting authorities may impose contract performance conditions requiring suppliers to perform, for example, certain social services under the procurement contracts.

Until today, sustainability in public procurement has in principle been voluntary for the contracting authority. Chapter 4. Section 3 of the LOU today states only that a contracting authority ought to take into account, among other things, environmental considerations. However, the report En skyldighet att beakta vissa samhällsintressen vid offentlig upphandling (Ds 2021:31) proposes that a requirement be introduced for contracting authorities to take into account the climate, the environment, human health and animal welfare in procurement. The proposal is proposed to enter into force on 1 July 2023.

If the proposals become a reality, sustainability aspects will become even more important than they are today and companies thus have a lot to gain from developing sustainable, long-term and strategic business models. Something that is already very common in procurements is requirements for quality and environmental management systems. Ensuring that the business, for example, is certified according to ISO or some equivalent certification body is therefore a measure that many companies would benefit from taking today. Furthermore, there are a number of proposals within the EU for stricter rules regarding certain products, etc. regarding the environment.

It is not only the Riksdag and the EU that regulate the area of sustainability, but also the government and authorities can decide on various regulations, ordinances and mandatory provisions in the area. This makes the area important even at the micro level.

Moll Wendén stays continuously updated on these issues and is happy to help you adapt your business to the increasingly high demands of the future on sustainable public business.

If you want to promote sustainability and sustainable development, public procurement is an excellent smorgasbord. If you have any questions, please contact lawyer and partner Catharina Piper, who is currently writing a book on sustainable public procurement that is likely to be published in 2023.