15.02 Sustainable procurement

Sustainable procurement involves improving the efficiency of public procurement while using public market power to bring about major environmental and social benefits locally, regionally and globally.

Sustainable procurement is about combining social and environmental factors with financial considerations when making purchasing decisions. It involves looking beyond the traditional economic parameters and making decisions based on life-cycle costs, environmental and social risks and benefits, and broader social and environmental implications.

Purchases that are good for the environment often are also profitable for UNAIDS, as resources saved translate into money saved. Quality and the environment are often closely linked, as quality usually means a longer life for the product and thus less consumption of resources.

An efficient product will often use less energy and produce less waste, either because it is included in a recovery or reuse system or because it does not contain hazardous substances (and thus it is not defined as hazardous waste).

When buying a product or services, we must consider more than the cost of acquisition. Calculations of price must include all the costs relating to the product or service throughout its life. The goal is a closed cycle, with minimal consumption of energy and raw materials, negligible pollution and as little waste as possible.

The benefits of sustainable procurement

Potential benefits of sustainable procurement include:
  • promoting savings through long-term efficiency;
  • making more efficient use of public resources;
  • stimulating the market to innovate and produce more sustainable options;
  • demonstrating to industry and the community that UNAIDS is serious about sustainability;
  • reducing the potential negative publicity associated with using products, services and suppliers that have poor environmental records; and
  • improving working conditions and productivity.

A green continuum

UNAIDS is advocating a strategy to effectively achieve sustainable procurement through incremental steps. This means that when approaching the purchase of green products and services, offices are encouraged to move along the “green product continuum” to procure a greener product than what is currently being used. The new product should be an improvement on the product last procured.

Over a relatively short period of time, the products procured by UNAIDS offices will move towards the greener end of the continuum and the practice of environmental procurement will be the norm.

Useful information on sustainable procurement is available from the following web sites:

 UN "Greening the Blue" http://www.greeningtheblue.org/

"Greening the Blue", Procurement Resources