Itziar Müller | ENT environment & management


The strategic use of public procurement has increased during the last years since it started to be considered as a relevant instrument for the achievement of social and environmental policies and as a useful tool for sustainable development.

Many public authorities from different levels and territories have developed mechanisms to promote the use of strategic public procurement, from the development of regulations and the publication of guidelines, plans and internal procedures, to the organization of workshops and the creation of networks for sharing knowledge and enhancing professionalisation in the field of public procurement.

The current consideration of public procurement as a public policy, and not only as a simple acquisition of goods, services and construction works, can be justified by the need of more coherence between policies, to use public resources effectively and efficiently; by the aim of avoiding or reducing negative externalities related to consumption; and by its influence in the market due to the high associated budget. According to the OECD, in 2019 public procurement represented 13,7% of GDP in OECD-EU countries [1].

In this sense, the Europe 2020 Strategy [2], which considered public procurement as a key element in the promotion of a “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”, and the entry into force of Directives 2014/23/UE, 2014/24/UE and 2014/25/UE, as well as the inclusion of sustainable public procurement as a target within goal number 12 of “Responsible consumption and production” of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) at the UN 2030 Agenda [3], have stimulated a paradigm shift in the conception of procurement procedures.

At the same time, the transposition of the European regulation in Spain through the publication of the framework law called “Ley 9/2017, de 8 de noviembre, de Contratos del Sector Público (LCSP)” and more recently the “Real Decreto-ley 3/2020, de 4 de febrero”, opened a window of opportunity that helped to go forward with the introduction of social and environmental clauses in Spanish public contracts.

However, despite the progress of the last years, according to the special report on strategic public procurement of the Independent Office of Regulation and Supervision of Procurement in Spain (OIRESCON) [4] published in March 2022, 82,43% of the procurement procedures of 2020 did not include any social, environmental or innovation criteria. Regarding the remaining 17,57%, 20,49% was tendered by the autonomous communities, 19,94% by the local authorities, and only 12,00% by the General State Administration in Spain.

In this sense, of special relevance is the proposal of making the introduction of specific environmental objectives and criteria mandatory, as well as its monitoring system, which is planned to be included through European sectoral legislation, and that emerges from the European Green Deal (2019) [5], the Circular Economy Action Plan (2020) [6] and the Proposal for a Regulation for setting ecodesign requirements for sustainable products [7], as well as from several Communications from the European Commission [8, 9] and reports from the European Parliament [10].  

The formal inclusion of the obligation to introduce specific environmental goals and criteria technically endorsed by the European Commission in public procurement, and the condition to apply its monitoring, will suppose a strong impulse in the field of green public procurement and the availability of monitoring data. It should be remembered that, until now, the voluntary approach has been the prevalent, despite the LCSP and the sectoral legislation contained some limited obligations in the field, and the European regulation established mandatory criteria for some specific kind of contracts [11, 12, 13].

In this context, the Government of Catalonia, with a large trajectory in the promotion of strategic public procurement, has recently launched the Plan for green public procurement of Catalonia (2022-2025) [14] and the Catalan Strategy for the improvement of public purchases [15], which includes, among other aspects, measures for promoting responsible public procurement in the Catalan territory.


[1] Government at a Glance 2021, OECD

[2] EUROPE 2020. A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth

[3] Sustainable Development Goals, UN

[4] Informe Especial de Supervisión relativo a la contratación estratégica en el 2020, OIRESCON

[5] The European Green Deal

[6] Circular Economy Action Plan For a cleaner and more competitive Europe

[7] Proposal for a Regulation establishing a framework for setting ecodesign requirements for sustainable products

[8] COM (2022) 140 final “On making sustainable products the norm”

[9] COM (2021) 245 final – Report “Implementation and best practices of national procurement policies in the Internal Market”

[10] The EU’s Public Procurement Framework

[11] Directive 2009/33/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicle

[12] Regulation (EC) No 106/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 January 2008 on a Union energy-efficiency labelling programme for office equipment

[13] Directive 2010/31/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 on the energy performance of buildings

[14] Pla d’acció de compra pública verda de Catalunya

[15] Estratègia catalana de millora de la compra pública