A new global programme, launched Tuesday, will harness the power of the trillions of dollars that governments spend on public procurement each year towards a shift to a more resource-efficient world.

The Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) Programme – the first action to get underway as part of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP) – will assist governments to redirect public spending into goods and services that bring significant environmental and social benefits.

“The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development nations spent an average 13 per cent of Gross Domestic Product on public procurement in 2011, while in some developing nations this can hit 20 per cent. This adds up to trillions of dollars globally, demonstrating the scale of the opportunity ahead,” said Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. “Governments can use this potential to lead markets onto a sustainable path by demanding goods and services that conserve natural resources, create decent green jobs, and improve livelihoods around the globe.”

The SPP Programme – co-led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and the Korea Environmental Industry and Technology Institute (KEITI) – will enable this shift by improving knowledge of sustainable procurement’s benefits and supporting implementation through access to experts and tools.

Existing initiatives from around the globe prove that sustainable procurement transforms markets, boosts eco-industries, saves money, conserves natural resources and fosters job creation. For example:

  •  Indian Railways replaced more than one million incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent lamps in 400,000 employees’ homes, saving more than 100,000MWh of energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 90,000 tonnes each year.
  • In Brazil, the Foundation for Education Development saved 8,800 cubic metres of water and 1,750 tonnes of waste by using notebooks made from recycled paper in Sao Paulo schools. 
  • In France, a contract for the purchase of toner cartridges was awarded to an organization that, between 2009 and 2011, recovered 11,500 kilogrammes of waste, saved the government 30 per cent in costs and created nine full-time jobs for disabled people.

Many other nations, including the Republic of Korea, have created sustainable public procurement policies that will bring further such benefits in the near future.

In the United States – where the federal government procures more than US$500 billion a year in goods and services – the Federal Government has incorporated sustainability requirements into purchasing regulations. Additionally, an Executive Order stipulates that 95 per cent of all new contracts use products and services that are energy- and water-efficient, environmentally preferable, non-ozone depleting, and contain recycled content.

Chile’s public procurement and contracting bureau set a target of 15 per cent of procurement orders meeting sustainability targets by 2012. This goal was fulfilled a year ahead of schedule: 17.2 per cent of orders included sustainability criteria by the end of 2011. The bureau oversees US$8 billion in transactions, accounting for more than 3.2 per cent of GDP.

In Japan – where a 2010 study found that government bodies spent US$672 billion (17.6 per cent of GDP)- green purchasing laws now require ministries, provisional governments and an increasing number of cities to make 95 per cent of their purchases from designated “green product” categories.

The programme, by working to ensure such purchasing decisions are the norm rather than the exception, aims to play a vital role in transitioning the globe to an inclusive Green Economy.

The launch comes just a few months ahead of the first United Nations Environment Assembly, when the world’s environment ministers will meet to discuss the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, with a special focus on sustainable consumption and production.

“A rapid transformation, which will support the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, is eminently possible,” said Mr. Steiner. “Governments from across the globe signed up to the UNEP-led Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative at Rio+20, and are backing this commitment with action. This demonstrates that the political will is already in place.”

The programme is also supported by the European Commission, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, the China Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Republic of Korea, ISEAL Alliance, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Swedish Ministry of the Environment, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.


  • “If public money is spent on products and services that reduce environmental impacts, encourage social improvement and achieve financial efficiency, a huge step forward could be made towards sustainable development,” said Gino Van Begin, ICLEI Secretary General. “This is what the 10-Year Framework Programme on Sustainable Public Procurement aims to achieve.” 
  • “The Republic of Korea has gained strong expertise in the implementation of green public procurement based on an electronic monitoring system over the past ten years,” said Yongjoo Kim, President of KEITI. “We wish to contribute to the programme, in close partnership with UNEP and ICLEI, by identifying and disseminating good practices.” 

About the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP)

The 10YFP is a global framework for action that enhances international cooperation to develop, replicate and scale up Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) and resource efficiency initiatives around the world. It was established after Heads of State at Rio+20 agreed that SCP is a cornerstone of sustainable development, and an important contributor to poverty alleviation and the transition to low-carbon and green economies. The SPP Programme is the first of an initial suite of programmes to be launched under the 10YFP. Other programmes on consumer information, sustainable lifestyles and education, sustainable buildings and construction, and sustainable tourism are expected to be launched in 2014. UNEP hosts the Secretariat of the 10YFP. For more information, please visit www.unep.org/10yfp