|Title||Revision of the EU Green Public Procurement Criteria for Food Procurement and Catering Services – Certification Schemes as the Main Determinant for Public Sustainable Food Purchases?|
|Source||European Journal of Risk Regulation 9 (2018)2. - ISSN 1867-299X - p. 316 - 328.|
Law and Governance
|Publication type||Refereed Article in a scientific journal|
|Abstract||Changing public demand in favour of sustainable products is recognised as an important part of “greening” the production of goods, so-called green procurement. 1 Famously, green procurement has been defined as “a process whereby public authorities seek to procure goods, services and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle when compared to goods, services and works with the same primary function that would otherwise be procured”. 2 However, when it comes to public buying, public authorities are not free to do what they want. Public authorities are required to advertise the contract, carry out one of the recognised procurement procedures, process bids in the qualification and selection stage according to predetermined criteria, and award the contract according to award criteria, all while respecting binding time frames. Therefore, public procurement regulation has always been characterised by a strong tension between budgetary considerations that would favour the most economically advantageous bids, and the pursuit of other considerations relating to social or environmental goals.
EU public procurement rules only gradually allowed the inclusion of certain “green” considerations. Fearing challenges to their procurement procedures, contracting authorities therefore often resort to normal tenders, as “green” tenders are seen as difficult to undertake correctly and marred by legal uncertainty. The Green Public Procurement criteria (“GPP criteria”) were drawn up in order to remedy this problem by providing an example catalogue of permissible tender specifications with the aim of facilitating the take-up by contracting authorities of “green” criteria in their tenders.
Food and catering services, with €206.3 billion annual expenditure (in 2011) by the Member States an economically important sector, were an obvious target for the formulation of GPP criteria. 3 An initial version of the GPP criteria for food and catering services was published in 2008, but did not contain very far-reaching example specifications. In the following, we discuss the current revision of the GPP criteria for food, catering services, and vending machines. 4 We outline the relevance of so-called secondary considerations in EU public procurement policy, bringing forward the originally very reluctant approach on behalf of EU policy makers to embrace the greening of public expenditure. We then present the GPP criteria policy-making process, and clarify the different types of procurement criteria that can be included in tendering procedures. We cover the ongoing revision of the GPP criteria on food and catering services, with specific emphasis on food procurement. We argue that the new proposed criteria represent a pragmatic compromise that emerged from intensive stakeholder consultations. The confinement to “green” criteria, while being an improvement to the initial version of the food and catering services GPP criteria, falls shy of full sustainable food purchasing and fails to integrate different policy initiatives at EU level. Lastly, we observe that for the food GPP criteria, reliance on certification schemes remains prevalent as a main determinant for what counts as “green”. In terms of referring to certification schemes in tenders, however, the revised GPP criteria may induce contracting authorities to refer to voluntary food schemes in their tender specifications in a way that is not obviously in line with the procurement law requirements.