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Green Procurement Guidelines Exploiting purchasing power to help meet environmental goals

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Green Procurement Guidelines make Hamburg a purchasing pioneer. The city purchases goods, products and services to the sum of around €250 million each year. § 3b of the Hamburg Public Procurement Act (HmbVgG) stipulates since 2013 the objective that contracting authorities have to ensure that negative environmental impacts are avoided in the production, delivery, use and disposal of the items or services to be procured, insofar as this is economically justifiable. Since 2011 Hamburg bears the title of Fairtrade-Town, it was in 2011 the Environmental Capital of Europe and has joined the network of organic food cities in 2016.


Exploiting purchasing power to help meet environmental goals

In Hamburg purchasing is based to a great extent on ecological criteria. The guideline on green public procurement (GPP) for the City of Hamburg is a 170-page catalogue of criteria that defines ecological standards for purchasing products and awarding contracts – for goods such as printer paper, light bulbs, cleaning agents, wall paint and even company cars.

Environmental criteria play a great role in the selection and awarding process. Examples of such criteria include life-cycle costs, reparability and recyclability, packaging, transport, climate impact and resource consumption. In addition to price, these factors may now be taken into account as a binding element when awarding contracts. The GPP guideline also contain a list of products that the administration may no longer purchase in future. Such items include: coffee makers with capsules, mineral water in non-returnable bottles, microplastic in soap and cleaning detergents, disposable crockery in canteens, and chlorinated cleaning agents.

The GPP guideline for Hamburg has first been issued in January 2016 and was updated in May 2019. It is mandatory to use the criteria of the guideline for each purchase over €1.000.

As the Senator for the Environment Jens Kerstan explains: “Hamburg’s administration has a leading role in Germany when it comes to procuring sustainable goods and awarding contracts. The guideline sends out an important signal to business and private individuals, encouraging them likewise to take greater account of the consequences of their purchasing decisions and to pay attention to each product’s history. With a purchasing power of several hundred millions of euros per annum, the city can help ensure that environmentally harmful products are purchased less frequently and that sustainable products achieve even greater acceptance in the market. Our objective is to increase the share of environmentally friendly products significantly in order to help combat climate change.”

Example 1: Interior wall paints have to fulfil the standard of the Blue Angel, the environmental label organised by the federal government of Germany for the protection of people and the environment. The Blue Angel guarantees that a product or service meets high standards when it comes to its environmental, health and performance characteristics. Products and services are evaluated across their entire life cycle.

Example 2: Letter and parcel post were awarded according to strict environmental requirements and have since been carried out without CO2 emissions. The Deutsche Post | DHL Group has been awarded the contract. Around 100 electric street scooters are currently being used for postal delivery in Hamburg. In addition, the GoGreen climate protection program was agreed for letter and parcel deliveries. According to this programme, greenhouse gases which are generated in transport and logistics, for example because it is not yet possible to use zero-emission vehicles throughout, are offset by regional and global climate protection projects. Every year, the Hamburg administration receives proof of the offset amount of greenhouse gases in the form of a certificate for both letter and parcel shipments.

Example 3: Hamburg has invited tenders throughout Europe for a framework contract for hygiene papers and cleaning agents for the authorities and schools of the city. The products meet the criteria of the Blue Angel. The soaps and cleaning agents do not contain any microplastic. The hygiene papers consist of 100% recycled paper. Requirements were set for the packaging and low-pollution transport. The environmental requirements have not led to additional costs.

Example 4: Consumption of Fair Trade coffee in the core administration (excluding provincial operations) rose from 2.8 tonnes in 2016 to 6.0 tonnes in 2017 and 7.8 tonnes in 2018, almost tripling.

Example 5: Paper consumption in the administration (public authorities, offices and state companies, excluding schools) fell by 8.2 % from 2017 to 2018. The proportion of recycled paper used in administration (public authorities, offices and regional companies, excluding schools) increased from 78.5 % to 90.2 % from 2017 to 2018.

Example 6: The life cycle costs (LCC) of products that have costs during the use-phase are considered in the procurement process. The guidelines contain calculation sheets for many product groups, enabling a life cycle assessment to be made. Such assessments reveal that long-term savings can be made if products are durable, if parts can be replaced easily or if low maintenance costs are involved. This may be the case, for example, when energy savings can be made in vehicles, illuminants or computer centres. In such cases, energy-saving variants represent the smarter purchasing decision in the long run, even if the purchase price is slightly higher in the first instance.

With the Agenda 2030 of the United Nations, the world community has agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2015. Among the new projects is the plan to orientate the Hanseatic city's procurement towards sustainability. Social aspects, especially under the aspect of "fair trade", will in future be a decisive factor in the purchase of products such as furniture or textiles, in addition to ecological and, of course, economic criteria.

Senator for the Environment Kerstan went on to explain: “GPP assists in climate protection: it encourages energy savings, energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies, helping to reduce the harmful greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. Green products are usually more durable, and often require less energy during the production and use phases.”

In Hamburg, environmentally compatible procurement is stipulated in § 3 b of the Hamburg Public Procurement Act (HmbVgG). This aspect has now been fleshed out in the “Green Procurement Guidelines of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg” (GPP guideline), providing assistance. The implementation of the GPP guideline is mandatory. Public enterprises are recommended to apply it when awarding contracts.

The tax authorities are responsible for strategic purchasing in the City of Hamburg. In addition, there are four central offices for awarding contracts. Comprehensive controlling in this area is currently being established. The city’s annual procurement volume for the scope of the Environmental Guidelines is approximately €250 million.


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