Buying green is good for business and good for the environment

Date released: Sep 11 2014

Alan Kelly T.D., Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government today launched Green Procurement Guidance for the public sector at the Environment Ireland conference.  The guidance was prepared by the EPA in collaboration with a number of State Agencies and Government Departments.  It is a practical resource tool designed to assist procurers to build green criteria into public tenders and a deliverable under the Government’s National Action Plan for Jobs. 

Procurement across all Government Departments and Agencies accounts for 10-12 per cent of Ireland’s GDP (approx. €14 billion in 2011).  Including sustainable and green practices in public procurement can drive significant behavioural change as well as the expansion of markets for green products and services.  Green procurement allows public bodies to influence the marketplace in a positive way, driving demand for secondary resources and incentivising job creation in the green economy. 

Speaking at the launch, Dara Lynott, EPA Deputy Director General said:

 “Through its purchasing activities, the public sector can take the lead in sustainable consumption and production.  Green Public Procurement is an essential tool in incentivising Irish businesses to adopt more sustainable business practices and in doing so differentiating themselves in the marketplace.” 

The purpose of the Guidance is to provide a practical overview of the issues at stake, best practice examples and detailed criteria for insertion in tenders. It covers eight sectors:

  • Road transport vehicles and services 
  • Energy 
  • Construction 
  • Food and Catering services 
  • Cleaning products and Services 
  • Textiles and Uniforms 
  • Office IT Equipment 
  • Paper

Ms Jane Kennelly, EPA, and author of the Guidance said,

“The public sector has a responsibility to display leadership on environmental issues such as energy, water use and waste management.  The EPA will be promoting Green Public Procurement as an essential component of a resource efficient economy and encouraging Government Departments and Agencies to ensure its successful implementation and progression.”

At European level, a resource-efficient Europe is one of seven flagship initiatives of European strategy, aiming to deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Ireland has adopted the EU voluntary target for 50 per cent of procurement (both by number of contracts and by value) to include at least core Green Public Procurement criteria.

The Green Public Procurement Guidance is available on the EPA website.

Notes for Editors: 

Environment Ireland
Environment Ireland, now in its tenth year, is Ireland’s major annual conference on environmental policy and management. The conference is organised in association with the EPA and the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.

The conference programme is available on the EPA website

Key themes for this year's event include:

  • Environmental Policy 
  • Flood Risk Management 
  • Climate Change 
  • Water 
  • Waste and Resource Efficiency 
  • Natural Capital

What is Green Public Procurement (GPP)?
A process whereby public and semi-public authorities meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities by choosing solutions that have a reduced impact on the environment throughout their life-cycle, as compared to alternative products/solutions. Article 11 of Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) states: “Environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the Union’s policies and activities, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development.” The concepts of life-cycle analysis (LCA) and life-cycle costing (LCC) are at the heart of GPP, and require buyers and suppliers to consider not just the up-front purchase costs of a given solution, but its total economic and environmental cost from cradle to grave. These are not new concepts, but they are becoming increasingly mainstream as part of procurement in both the public and private sectors by means of including green criteria in their tenders.

GPP (core and comprehensive) criteria
The core criteria are those suitable for use by any contracting authority and address the key environmental impacts of each product or service, including basic legal compliance. They are designed to be used with minimum additional verification effort or cost increases. The comprehensive criteria are for those who wish to purchase products with enhanced levels of environmental performance. These may require additional verification effort or a slight increase in purchase price compared to other products with the same functionality.

Green Tenders- An Action Plan on Green Public Procurement
Nationally the publication of Green Tenders - An Action Plan on Green Public Procurement and the National Framework for Sustainable Development in Ireland – Our Sustainable Future establishes the clear vision and place of Green Public Procurement (GPP) in future national governance arrangements.

Green Tenders was jointly launched by Ministers Hogan and Howlin of the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in 2012. The overall objective of Green Tenders was to provide assistance to public authorities to plan and implement green public procurement (GPP) by highlighting existing best-practice and outlining further actions to boost green public procurement. Ireland has adopted the EU voluntary target for 50% of procurement (both by number of contracts and by value) to include at least core GPP criteria. The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) were tasked with furthering the objectives of GPP.  In order to assist the DECLG in this regard, the EPA through its Green Business initiative was tasked with co-ordinating the development of practical GPP guidance for procurement officers.  The production of guidance was cited as action 308 within the National Action Plan for Jobs (2014).

How was the GPP guidance developed?

The project team carried out two buyer and one supplier workshops in January 2014. The public sector workshops were attended by procurement personnel, environmental managers and central government personnel involved in policy development. The supplier workshop was attended by representatives of business organisations and central government personnel involved in policy development. The project team focused on issues such as; main environmental impacts associated with the products/services  economic cost, the level of verification required, impact of new Procurement Directives, environmental law and ECJ cases, barriers as identified in the consultation phases, Good EU procurement practices and Irish policy requirements.

Next steps
EPA will continue to promote GPP as an essential component of a circular economy and a critical driver for sustainable consumption and production behaviours. It is intended to roll out a similar programme of guidance for suppliers wishing to tender where green procurement criteria are specified to assist businesses to best present their green credentials when applying for public tenders. More details will be announced through the EPA’s Green Business programme ( in the coming months.