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Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP): Goals and Principles
Blog...Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP): Goals and Principles

Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP): Goals and Principles

Legislation & Standards
sustainable goods in a reusable bag
What is Sustainable Public Procurement, otherwise known as SPP, and how do its main goals and principles help entities in their transition towards sustainability and develop the three pillars of sustainability: such as social, environmental, and economic?
sustainable goods in a reusable bag

Sustainability has become all the rage: with people seeking more sustainable choices from fashion to business owners becoming aware of the importance of developing a sustainable company to attract new customers and investors – things like Sustainable Public Procurement, or SPP, or only likely to become more prevalent as we continue to fight against climate change.

👉 What is Sustainable Public Procurement, otherwise known as SPP, and does it work to help companies  transition towards greater sustainability?

What is Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP)?

Sustainable Public Procurement, more commonly referred to as SPP for short, is the process where public entities strive to implement a viable balance across all three pillars of sustainable development – which are economic, social, and environmental.

Therefore, in order to fully understand the goals and principles behind Sustainable Public Procurement – it is vital to understand the three different pillars of sustainable development.

The economic pillar in sustainable development refers to a company's economic growth and development – which can be depicted through their efforts to mitigate environmental harm through their industrial and financial activities. For instance, some companies may encourage recycling or the use of renewable energy in order to aid their economic pillar of sustainable development. Companies ultra committed to developing their economic pillar may seek to receive an ISO 50001 certification – which can help to improve a company’s energy efficiency and further improve their sustainable and economic performance.

The social pillar of sustainable development represents a company’s value in promoting individual rights, respect, and equality for all people supporting their project or business. Principles that fall under the social pillar of sustainability include preventing discrimination, promoting solidarity, fair wages, and ensuring the well-being of stakeholders. Programs like Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, or DEI – can help companies to develop their social pillar of sustainable development.

Lastly, the environmental pillar refers to a company’s commitment to protecting the environment, such as by reducing various environmental risks, seeking to reduce emissions, or altering their business models to not have such a heavy environmental impact. Companies can demonstrate their dedication towards environmental form such as by valuing finite resources, protecting agricultural resources, seeking to understand all three scopes of their carbon emissions to reduce their carbon footprint more effectively, and ensure the source of clean water. 

Sustainable Public Procurement, or SPP, works in action when products are in the process of being secured from start to finish. Through the efforts on behalf of SPP to seek more sustainable products, SPP helps companies to further develop all three pillars of their sustainable development.

sustainable toothbrushes

What is the main goal of Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP)?

Given that the Sustainable Public Procurement aids in the development of all three pillars of sustainability, the SPP values business improvement on all fronts: including protecting employees, consumers, and investors, seeking environmental reform, and encouraging economic improvement. However, given this multivarious approach to curating sustainable products and services – the Sustainable Public Procurement policy still has one overarching goal in mind. 

One of the main goals of Sustainable Public Procurement, or SPP is to source sustainable products that ultimately aid in the further development of a company’s three pillars of sustainability. Think of SPP like someone picking a workout that not only encourages some to be more active, but one that also presents opportunities for someone to socialize or improve their mental health. Sustainable Public Procurement aims to curate sustainable goods and services that will not benefit just one pillar of sustainable development, but all three.

person looking up in nature

Sustainable Public Procurement works to achieve this principle, alongside another one of its main goals – which is to help develop various markets to elevate the capability of public purchases and encourage energy efficient equipment across these markets. Therefore, one of the more indirect goals of Sustainable Public Procurement is that it helps to reduce the emissions from the overall government or state entity seeking to implement these sustainable purchasing policies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately, SPP can also provoke other state or semi-state entities to also seek sustainable procurement – and result in even more environmental, social, and economic awareness in sustainability. 

Sustainable Public Procurement is easy to be viewed as nothing more than another form of ethical sourcing – what makes SPP more valuable than other sustainable procurement or ethical sourcing policies in place?

What is the difference between Green Public Procurement (GPP), and Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP)?

Sustainable Public Procurement often goes by the name of green procurement or sustainable purchasing – often allowing for people to get Sustainable Public Procurement confused with other types of procurement policies, such as Green Public Procurement.

Similar to the goals of SPP, Green Public Procurement, or GPP, is being implemented by several public entities across the European Union as an effort to ensure that all goods and services are cultivated with as little environmental harm as possible. Many public authorities in the EU are implementing GPP as part of a broader approach to sustainability in their purchasing, which also addresses economic and social aspects.

However, the difference between Sustainable Public Procurement and Green Public Procurement is that GPP can serve as a greater influence to encourage companies to develop new eco-friendly business measures, products, and services. GPP can also financially benefit a company, as it promotes the value of improving the life-cycle of products and ultimately reducing business costs. Sustainable Public Procurement is more concerned with the well-rounded development of a company’s sustainability – something that GPP is not as well versed in. 

Another type of procurement that is often used interchangeably with Sustainable Public Procurement is ethical procurement, despite the fact that the two aren’t one and the same. Ultimately, the main difference between Sustainable Public Procurement and ethical procurement, which seeks to ensure that a business or organization is able to manage various procurement processes while pertaining to ethical values –   is that sustainable procurement functions beyond the company or organization itself: seeking to elicit environmental, social, and economic change beyond the premises of their product creation while still seeking to ensure quality and eco-friendly products and services to customers.

product in mason jar

How does Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) work?

Sustainable Public Procurement works when state or semi-state entities seek to procure the necessary products for their goods, services, and other various utilities in a financially lucrative manner to sustain and further develop the success of the company – while still keeping societal, environmental, and economic benefits in mind.

In this way, the ideal of the Sustainable Public Procurement possesses the same values of ESG investing, impact investing, and socially responsible investing.

This is because sustainable procurement ultimately acts in a similar way to other investments and public policies – despite the fact that SPP can still pertain to private sectors. Companies seeking to implement sustainable procurement must develop a strategy to acquire products and services while keeping the environmental and societal impact of those products in mind while also taking note of how the sustainable procurement of these products can aid the economy. Therefore, sustainable procurement requires a new level of awareness and collaboration between all components of a company’s supply chain – as the root of many negative environmental impacts and excessive emissions start at the source of developing a product. 

Public procurement as a whole accounts for over 12% of gross domestic product, meaning the entities choosing to transition this practice towards sustainability can elicit substantial change. Some of the ways that businesses can implement sustainable procurement is to take a closer look at their supply chain, and one of the ways this can be done is by seeking the assistance of a carbon accounting software to send out questionnaires to their suppliers and collect data on their environmental impact. Therefore, supply tiering may also prove useful when implementing new measures to comply with sustainable procurement. 

To be time efficient, companies overwhelmed by the notion of monitoring all of the products right away should start with the goods and services with the potential to create the worst environmental impact. This will ease businesses into the habit of doing the same for the rest of their products and services, and allow the opportunity to accumulate the knowledge necessary to implement those new sustainable procurement strategies across the rest of the business.

file cabinet with pens and paper

What are the benefits of Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP)?

Sustainable Public Procurement presents a wide array of benefits for entities seeking to incorporate sustainable purchasing practices into their business endeavors. For instance, SPP can help businesses to protect and improve their brand reputation and develop better risk management strategies. Therefore, SPP can help businesses to improve upon their supplier management and engagement – both of which can also encourage greater sustainability and reduce emissions. Sustainable Public Procurement can also help companies to avoid greenwashing scandals, which also help to protect brand image. 

SPP also encourages companies to comply with current and future environmental legislations, employ new markets for sustainable products and services, improve overall energy efficiency throughout a business, prevent excessive waste contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and allow for better capital access and increased value of sustainability as a whole. Sustainable Public Procurement also presents the opportunity to improve customer’s opinion and individual participation in the company’s overall mission – provoking new customers and more business revenue. For example, cosmetic fanatics might feel good about shopping for cosmetics that seek to reduce their environmental impact.  Lastly, sustainable procurement can help to reduce the utility bills at the entity seeking to follow the goals of Sustainable Public Procurement due to increased energy efficiency – and also allow for better financial control due to the increased awareness of the types of products and services being procured. All of these benefits companies will reap due to SPP provides them with the ultimate competitive advantage: as investors and customers alike will be drawn to the sustainable practices of the enterprise. 

In addition to all of these individual benefits to be had by entities that choose to comply with the ideals of Sustainable Public Procurement, SPP can also influence other companies to also source their products and services sustainably – meaning it can help to curate a more sustainable economy and society with demonstrating the business values to be had when seeking to protect the environment. Ultimately, if a company is lost on how to enhance or further develop their social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainability – SPP serves as the perfect place to start.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about the goals and principles of sustainable public procurement, otherwise known as SPP, has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

It can be difficult to alter your business model to adhere to the values of sustainability, and Greenly’s got you covered – click here to book a demo and learn more about how we can help you to measure and reduce your various scope emissions. 

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

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