Green Public Procurement: An Approach to Environment Protection and Waste Reduction
One of the crucial factors detrimental to the environment is the production of large amounts of waste worldwide, on a daily basis. In the course of their daily life, people around the planet generate tons and tons of waste. But so does the industry and the public sector. Given that the public sector is the most important "customer" in each society, its approach to public procurements has a great impact on the environment. According to the World Bank, which defines public procurement as the “process by which governments purchase goods, services and works from the private sector”, 12 percent of global GDP is spent following procurement regulation. The traditional approach, within the linear model of production and consumption, which forms a straight line from production to consumption to disposal, generates large amounts of waste. An alternative, environment-friendly approach is offered by Green Public Procurement (GPP), which is defined in the EU Communication "Public procurement for a better environment" 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”.
While promoting GPP in its documents, the EU left to each EU Member State to determine the extent to which it will include GPP criteria in public procurement procedures. The Republic of Serbia, although not yet a member of the EU, has also taken the obligation, in the EU accession process, to encourage GPP within Chapter 5, related to public procurement. Safer Chemicals Alternative – ALHem, a CSO based in Belgrade, Serbia, whose primary task is promoting sustainable development, with a focus on chemicals safety management, has been substantially contributing to the advancement of GPP in Serbia for several years now. Supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade, this organization, founded in 2013, has now successfully completed its second project on GPP, by launching, as one of its main results, a portal, featuring the GPP Virtual Knowledge Center (GPP VKC).
The GPP VKC portal offers a user friendly and easily accessible online knowledge base with practical tools, guidelines, data, and training materials on GPP. Created as a result of many years of ALHem’s work on the topic of GPP, and especially on the criteria for green procurement for different groups of products and services, it features three sections: Training, Publications, Guides, and a Dictionary of basic GPP terms. The Training section offers basic facts about GPP, the Publication and Guides section presently contain 4 publications and 7 guides, all of them developed by ALHem in the course of the several past years. The Dictionary includes several dozen term definitions. All materials are made available to public procurers, public authorities, civil society organizations and the general public.
Jasminka Ranđelović, program coordinator from ALHem, pointed out that while similar portals exist in the region, specifically in Croatia and Slovenia, no such portal can be found in Serbia. She added that the Croatian and Slovenian portal were funded by their governments, whereas the GPP VKC portal was built entirely by ALHem, with the support of donors. The content of all sections of the portal will be further expanded in the future, and ALHem believes that it will be a significant contribution to the introduction of GPP in Serbia, to the benefit of all its citizens and the environment they live in.
Geir Johansen, Deputy Head of Mission of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade, noted that the work on GPP in Serbia is a part of the green agenda and circular economy, which is one of the topics jointly promoted by Nordic embassies in Serbia. “I am very pleased that the work of ALHem will be incorporated in the green agenda of the Ministry for Environmental Protection during 2021. With their work, organizations such as ALHem lead to tangible changes, and we are proud that they have been our partners for several years”, Johansen pointed out.