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Brussels, 5 July 2001

Interpretative Communication on public procurement and the environment frequently asked questions (see also IP/01/959)

According to the interpretative communication, is it possible to adequately take into account environmental considerations under the public procurement Directives?

The Communication makes it clear that there are numerous possibilities for the 'greening' of public procurement under the directives. This is particularly so if three guiding principles are followed non-discrimination, transparency, and thought about where in the tender process environmental elements should be taken into account. Generally speaking, the earlier in the tender process (definition of the subject of the contract, technical specifications) you place environmental considerations, the more is possible.

Is it possible to ask for process and production methods under the Directives?

In the technical specifications of the tender, process and production methods can be requested where these help to specify the performance characteristics of the performance or service. This includes both process and production methods that physically affect the end product (e.g. absence of chemicals) and those that do not but nevertheless affect the nature of the end product for example organic food, or furniture produced from sustainable timber. It is not possible to require that the factory producing the goods use recycled paper in its office, as this does not relate to the production of the goods.

Can I ask for specific materials for example, that windows be made of wood in the technical specifications?

It is possible both to ask for specific materials to be used in an object supplied or in a works contract, and also to ask for a type of material to not be used. So you could ask for your windows to be made of wood, or not to be made of a specific product, for example.

How can I use Eco-labels in my procurement?

You can use Eco-label criteria to help determine your environmental technical specifications. You can also accept an Eco-label certificate as proof of compliance with those criteria, although you must accept other means of proof you cannot say that you only accept products with an Eco-label certificate.

How can I use company environmental management systems in my procurement?

The references a contracting authority may require as proof of a company's technical capacity are listed exhaustively in the public procurement Directives. Environmental management systems can play a role in so far as these fall within one of the categories or references listed in the Directives.

Thus, environmental management systems can be accepted as proof of technical competence where the specific scheme applied has an impact on the capacity of the company to execute a contract with environmental requirements. Other means of proof of technical capacity must also be accepted. It is also possible to require the putting into place of specific environmental management systems for works contracts where there are significant environmental issues to deal with, for example.

What happens where I want to ask for better performance than a European standard in the environmental field?

The purchaser is obliged to refer to the European standard, but may request better environmental performance than the standard in the technical specifications.

What kind of environmental criteria can I use at the award stage?

Only those criteria that have a link to the subject matter of the contract and give the contracting authority a direct economic benefit. This could include giving a bonus to products that are more energy efficient, that will last longer, or that will cost less to dispose of. In case the environmental aspects do not bring an economic benefit to the contracting authority, these aspects can only be taken into account at the beginning of the tender procedure, where the contracting authority defines the technical requirements of the contract.

How can contracting authorities balance their budgetary constraints and the intention to "buy green"?

Although green products will often save the public purchaser money in the longer term, they may have a higher up front cost. . If contracting authorities want to make a balance between environmental choices and budgetary restraints, they may define one or more variant options in addition to their "basic" option. In the variants they can define a higher environmental performance. At the end of the tender procedure, contracting authorities can decide which variant best meets their needs.

Can I request that products or services be supplied using specific methods of transport?

Yes in the contract clauses for the execution of the contract, the means of delivery of the goods can be specified, as long as this does not lead to discrimination. Other possible ways of reducing the environmental impact of transport activities linked to the provision of goods or services, could include requesting that deliveries of goods be made in bulk, or that cleaning products are transported in concentrated form, and diluted at the place of use.

The interpretative Communication mentions a handbook. What will this consist of?

This will give practical advice to public purchasers on how to take into account the environment in their purchasing policies.

It will be user-friendly focussing on the simplest way to do things, and giving examples of best practice in green public procurement from the whole of the EU.

Because the availability of scientific and technical information is essential for making well-balanced decisions we will create a website with further information on best practice in greening public procurement, and links to other websites where such information is available.

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