Two of Europe’s leading experts in EU-law and public sector purchasing believe that the new EU Purchasing Directive makes it easier for public sector buyers to include ILO’s Core Conventions in specifications when sourcing products and services. Peter Kunzlik, Professor of Law and expert in public purchasing at the University of East Anglia and Catherine Barnard, author and Professor of EU-law at the University of Cambridge led the discussion at a recent conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

Kunzlik comments, “It’s no longer risky or difficult to include environmental or social criteria according to the new Directive, but buyers probably need to be a bit bolder and more creative”. Barnard agrees: “The new EU Directive and article 18.2 opens up the opportunity for buyers to include criteria that production methods follow ILO’s Core Conventions, as related to the product in question. When doing so, the risk of violating EU-law is low, but it’s critical that the buyer is creative in wording the contract to include social and environmental criteria that really make a difference.”

The new Directive makes it possible to fulfill the best economically preferable bid based on a)lowest price, b) lowest life cycle cost – which opens up the opportunity to include environmental requirements, and c) lowest price in relation to quality – here the bid evaluation criteria must be made very clear to vendors. This requirement also allows for the inclusion of environmental and social criteria but they must be directly related to the specific product or service.

If purchasers consistently connect social and environmental requirements to the specific product included in the contract, then there are more opportunities to include these requirements in a purchase. Catherine Barnard emphasizes the importance of including these specifications early in the process. “Typically a purchase happens in 5 phases. The first is the pre-contracting phase and it is here that there is typically space to lay out environmental and social specifications. The other phases included in the new Directive include : 2)technical specifications, 3)selection of vendor(s), 4)allocations and 5)performance.”

As long as the social and environmental requirements are specific to the product in question, this makes using certifications easier, continued Barnard and Kunzlik.

“Debate about the new Directive has become politicized”, comments Kunzlik, “and rightly so. This is a political issue – what do we want to achieve as a result of public purchasing?”

Ardalan Shekarabi, doctoral candidate specializing in public purchasing and member of the Swedish Parliament, agrees with these comments and proposes a national strategy for public purchasing that identifies specific goals based on available resources. He refers to a similar example in Scotland. In Sweden alone, the annual public purchasing budget is approximately 55 billion Euros. Shekarabi adds “We also need to raise the profile and importance of the purchasing function and strengthen our support for those managing the process”

View the seminar, on-demand.

Part 1

Samuel Engblom, TCO Chief Counsel, at minute 8.55 (Swedish)
Professor Catherine Barnard, minute 22.35 (English)

Part 2

Professor Peter Kunzlik, at minute 3.40 (English)