Sustainability Green procurement

Sustainable procurement: how turquoise green wants to make the economy greener

While Europe fervently hopes that the wave of infections will soon abate, another wave is piling up that will soon sweep across the continent and be useful in rebuilding it. The European Commission is investing 750 billion euros in green investments. Austria is only entitled to a small part of the cake with around three billion euros - and it is unclear whether the government will even tap into the EU pot. But the federal government will also spend a lot of its own money to help the economy get back on its feet, experts expect.

Not only are Brussels' ambitions big and green. The word "sustainable" appears 105 times in the turquoise-green government program. The energy mix in the country is to be sustainable in 2030, mobility as electric and public as possible. The circular economy is to be strengthened and delivery routes shorter. Goals that can hardly be achieved if the state does not lead by example. The catalog of criteria for sustainable procurement is therefore being revised and should be presented this quarter. These purchasing criteria are then mandatory for the federal government. The federal states and municipalities should orient themselves towards this, but do not have to.

An important tool for the green turnaround

"Public procurement is one of the most important instruments in the expansion of environmental and climate protection," explains Berthold Hofbauer, lawyer and expert in tenders. If you use the right levers, green awards not only serve as role models, but can also benefit regional companies, says the lawyer and cites as an example the consideration of short delivery routes in the procurement process: "If I take a supplier from the area, I usually also minimize it the emissions from shorter transport routes. "

The Climate Protection Ministry (BMK) is still keeping a low profile on what the exact catalog of criteria will look like. "The ecological requirements with regard to environmental and climate protection, in particular for vehicles, electricity and food, as well as in construction, are being pushed," the ministry said vaguely. The national health goals and a strengthening of regional added value were also taken into account in the sustainable procurement criteria.

Veggie plates in canteens

As DER STANDARD reported last summer, the BMK is planning, among other things, that the organic proportion of large kitchens in administration, care and educational institutions as well as catering should be a quarter by 2023. A "climate plate" should also be on offer every day, which should be vegetarian or vegan, seasonal and regional. If possible, the public sector should only purchase electric vehicles - emergency vehicles are excluded.

According to STANDARD information, there should be little leeway within European law for regional procurement criteria, as they are important to the Ministry of Economic Affairs - one will probably try to compensate for the matter with quality criteria. The negotiations are also dragging on because of different positions on GM-free feed for meat.

What applies to ecological criteria also applies to social criteria, explains Hofbauer. Public awards can provide important social impulses to the economy and, for example, promote gender equality policy. Because the best bidder procedure not only allows sustainability to be the most important purchasing criterion instead of the cheapest price - that would then be a lowest bidder principle. It also allows the supplying companies to be scrutinized more closely.

Social criteria

An example: If the federal government wants to buy ingredients for a cafeteria, it cannot just make sure that the ingredients are, for example, organically grown. He can also pay attention to how many women a provider employs or how many apprenticeships he creates. In this way, social enterprises in particular could win the bid even if they perform worse than other competitors in other criteria.

According to STANDARD information, social criteria are not a focus of the new procurement criteria for the time being. For Hofbauer, however, ecological and social criteria are related; both are based on the principle of sustainability. The path to a sustainable economy leads away from a consuming economy and towards a generating economy - this affects social aspects as well as ecological ones.

New journal for sustainability law

"Against this background, it becomes clear that the topic of sustainability will grow in political and economic importance and a large number and variety of legal measures can be expected in this context," explains the public procurement law expert, who is therefore also working together with his law firm colleague and environmental law expert Berthold Lindner and publishes a new legal journal for international law expert Markus Beham - title: "Sustainability Law". The first issue will appear in March.

The aim is to think of the topic of sustainability as a cross-sectional matter and not to curl up in a legal ivory tower. For the first edition, they have won over Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) for a contribution in which she presents her climate goals for the country. It is now time to set the course for a climate-friendly future, she writes. We can look forward to the revised sustainable procurement criteria. (Aloysius Widmann, February 17, 2021)