EU public procurements should take environmental viewpoints into better consideration

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The Finnish Forest Industries Federation’s Director for EU Affairs Riku Eksymä continues: “Finland should show more initiative and incorporate such elements into national regulations as has been done recently by France, for example.”

Using public procurements to promote environmental conservation has gained more of a foothold in recent years. Traditionally, regulation of procurements has had the aim of improving economic efficiency.

“Public procurements can be used to increase utilisation of wood products. A procurement unit can, for example, demand that a product is made from a fully recyclable material such as wood,” Jukka Koivusalo pointed out in his recent Master’s thesis for the Faculty of Law at the University of Turku.

Finland could wield influence through green procurement policies as well 

Wood-based products are made from a renewable natural resource, in addition to which they are recyclable and can be used to produce energy at the end of their lifecycle. Increased utilisation of these products would help the EU and Finland to reach their climate and bioenergy targets.

Several European countries have drafted their own policies for the treatment of wood-based products in public procurements. These policies have, however, lacked a common direction and each nation has set its own criteria and objectives. Different demands make market entry more difficult for new actors or at least make entry less attractive.

Wood products procurement policies should be drafted in a way that encourages the utilisation of wood in the manufacture of procured goods. Procurement policies should not be drafted too strictly or ambiguously because this could make wood utilisation more difficult.

Possible, but not mandatory, to consider environmental viewpoints

A buyer can define the object of procurement and its content without being restricted too much by any Directive. This makes it possible to consider environmental viewpoints from a quite broad perspective. On the other hand, procurement makers are not, according to current legislation, under any special obligation to take environmental concerns into consideration when making a purchase decision.

Environmental properties need to be specified with sufficient exactness, they must be quantifiable and they must be pointed out in requests for tenders or procurement announcements. First and foremost, it is important to safeguard non-discrimination, i.e. buyers cannot make demands stipulating, for example, that the material used for a product be grown at some specific location.

Jukka Koivusalo’s Master’s thesis Environment-positive public procurements in the European Union: legal restrictions from the point of view of the treatment of wood-based products in particular was examined at the University of Turku’s Faculty of Law in September 2009.

Further information:
Riku Eksymä, Director for EU Affairs,
Tel. +358 9 132 6643, +358 40 838 6643