Public procurement has been considered one of the key policies that
could be used to promote changing unsustainable patterns of consumption
and production. Paragraph 4.23 of chapter 4 of Agenda 21 calls for
governments to exercise leadership through government purchasing.
It is addressed in element C of the CSD Work Programme on Changing
Consumption and Production Patterns adopted at the third session of the
CSD in 1995. The 1997 Programme for the Further Implementation of
Agenda 21 further encourages Governments to take the lead in changing
consumption patterns by improving their own environmental performance
with action-oriented policies and goals on procurement, the management
of public facilities and the further integration of environmental
concerns into national policy-making. More recently, the Plan of
Implementation adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development
calls for promotion of public procurement policies that encourage
development and diffusion of environmentally sound goods and services.
Government spending on goods and
services accounts for typically 15-30 per cent of GDP. For OECD
countries, total procurement (consumption and investment expenditure)
for all levels of government amounts to a total of about $4.7 trillion
in 1998. For non-OECD countries it is estimated at $816 billion.
The public procurement is diverse and covers a wide range of goods and
services, from consumable goods to capital goods, infrastructure,
construction and services. All levels of government are involved
in public purchasing.
Directing government spending to sustainable public procurement has a
number of benefits: it reduces the negative impacts of government
operations and increases the benefits; it expands or creates broader
markets for goods and services that support sustainable development; it
serves as a model for other consumers; and it offers standards and
information for use by other consumers. It is often politically
attractive in that it responds to public demand for governments to be
environmentally and socially responsible in their own operations.