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94 percent of Swedes would like their local municipalities to demand that suppliers use more recycled material, according to a poll we made this past summer.

5 tips on sustainable public procurement

Only a handful of Sweden’s 290 municipalities demand or reward products made from recycled materials in their public procurement, a survey conducted by us at Ragn-Sells showed recently. Public procurement in Swedish municipalities is worth 30 billion euros annually. This means that enormous sums of tax money are spent in a way that exacerbates rampant climate and resource problems, instead of being part of the solution.

However, this is not what the voters want. 94 percent of Swedes would like their local municipalities to demand that suppliers use more recycled material, according to a poll we made this past summer. On top of that, 74 percent say they are willing to pay a little extra for goods made from recycled materials.

Our advocacy and practical work in this field has lead to extensive new contacts with municipalities that want to use tax payers’ money in a more sustainable way. Based on our talks, we have put together a list of our five best hands-on tips for municipalities on how to increase the share of recycled materials in products purchased in public procurement.

  1. Ask your suppliers questions. What is the share of recycled material in their products today? Are the products designed to be recycled themselves at the end of their life spans? By making clear that this is a deciding factor in your procurement decisions, you nudge suppliers in the desired direction and create a level playing field for businesses that want to compete for contracts.
  2. Set clear targets. Decide which goals are of paramount importance and when you should reach them. Follow up regularly to find out what you may need to change.
  3. Modify your demands. Various business sectors have reached different maturity in terms of using recycled materials. Modify your demands accordingly.
  4. Reward progress. Spotlight people whose actions contribute to your success. This, together with clearly demonstrated engagement from municipal leadership, will create an important internal pride in your work.
  5. Start now. The most important thing is to get moving! Engage your suppliers in dialogue, then gradually turn up demands. We have yet to encounter a municipal body that has been hit with appeal procedures or litigation after stating demands for recycled material in public procurement.

If we keep extracting raw materials from the earth at today’s pace, we have no chance of combatting climate change. Sustainable public procurement, consistently driving up the share of recycled materials used, is a very important part of the solution. Let’s put it to work.