Resource-wise public procurement requires stronger resources

News 2019-08-14 at 13:13
© Shutterstock

Public procurements help facilitate circularity and create safer living environments. The state of public procurement has been assessed with a number of surveys, the results of which keep highlighting the same themes: lack of resources and information. The extent to which circularity is considered in public procurements can be affected by municipalities’ strategic objectives, procurement guidelines, competence development and cooperation.

Public procurements have influence and responsibility

The annual value of public procurements in Finland is nearly EUR 20 billion. In the future, public procurements need to be carried out with an emphasis not just on price, but on the sustainability and safety of the products and services being procured as well. Giving due consideration to circularity and hazardous substances in particular is essential in public procurement for reducing the unsustainable consumption of natural resources and creating a safe living environment. By demanding products and services that are low in chemicals and comply with the principles of circularity, public organisations can change the market and promote the availability of new, more sustainable and innovative solutions.

Considering environmental perspectives and sustainability in procurement is not just a vision, as circularity is already being successfully promoted in procurement. One excellent example of this is the City of Hyvinkää, which in 2017 built the first day care centre in Finland certified with the Nordic Ecolabel.

Lack of information and resources among the largest obstacles to sustainable procurement

The state of public procurement in Finland has been studied in recent years through several surveys targeted at municipal personnel responsible for public procurement. According to the results of the Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency in Public Procurement survey conducted as part of the Circwaste project this year, lack of time and financial resources are the most common obstacles to taking circularity into consideration in municipal procurement.

The same themes were also highlighted in two other surveys conducted in recent years. According to the results of the Hazardous Substances in Public Procurement survey conducted in 2017 by the Turku University of Applied Sciences as part of the NonHazCity project, procurers need more information to carry out environmentally friendly procurements that contain fewer hazardous substances.

Similarly, in the Competence Centre for Sustainable and Innovative Public Procurement KEINO’s the State of Sustainable and Innovative Public Procurement in Finland 2018 survey, the majority of the respondents wanted to deepen their competence, and learning the basics was considered necessary especially in the implementation of circularity and taking hazardous substances into consideration in public procurement.

Strategic commitment, competence development and cooperation are key

The extent to which circularity and hazardous substances are considered in public procurements can be significantly affected by municipalities’ strategic objectives, procurement guidelines, competence development and cooperation. The most important means of facilitating the management of procurements are the municipality’s procurement strategy and procurement guidelines, which can be used to highlight the objectives of procurements promoting circularity and thus motivate commitment at the management level and solve resource problems.

Circular procurement is facilitated by comprehensive competencies and networking. This is also reflected in the growing importance of various training and consulting services. Competence can often be developed through cross-sectoral cooperation between municipal procurement personnel and subject-matter experts. The accumulation of knowledge and competence also changes attitudes and operating methods.

Information on sustainable and safe procurements is available

In response to the need for increasing information revealed in the Hazardous Substances in Public Procurements survey, the Turku University of Applied Sciences prepared several guides on procurement in early 2019. The Guide for Chemical Smart Public Procurement for municipalities provides public procurement specialists with practical tools for reducing hazardous substances in procurements.

In addition to this, the consideration of circularity in public procurement is being developed in the ongoing Circwaste project, which promotes resource-efficient public procurement by means such as advising and assisting public and private actors on how circularity objectives and criteria can be utilised in procurement. One of the project’s key objectives is to increase the use of recycled materials and waste-free solutions by increasing their demand in public procurements.

The Circwaste project is also producing a series of webinars and podcasts on hazardous substances in resource-efficient procurements, which helps municipal actors understand how public procurement can help reduce the release of hazardous substances into the environment.


More information