European Parliament supports sustainable procurement

25 October 2011 (Strasbourg) – At today’s plenary session, the European Parliament adopted with an overwhelming majority a Resolution on the modernisation of public procurement. The European Parliament confirms the interpretation of the European Union (EU) rules by the European Court of Justice, which allows public authorities to compare products on the basis of how they have been produced. The Resolution also asks for clearer EU rules to integrate sustainability at each stage of the procurement process. [1]

Public spending accounts approximately 18 % of the European Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and, if used effectively, could be an important economic driver to promote quality employment, services and goods in Europe and abroad. Public Procurement is one of the tools by which public authorities can address the social consequences of the current economic crisis, in particular for marginalised producers and workers.

The Resolution adopted today recognises that is legally possible for public authorities to use sustainability characteristics to compare products and services on the basis of their social and environmental impacts [2]. This confirms that public authorities wishing to buy Fair Trade products can openly state so in the technical specifications of their calls for tenders.

The European Commission is expected to issue a legislative proposal on 13 December 2011 to review the existing EU Public Procurement Directives, to be then agreed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

There are certain aspects where clarifications in the current EU rules are needed, in particular on how to integrate sustainability at each stage of the procurement process. “The future EU rules should prevent public authorities from awarding public contracts ignoring the social and environmental impacts of their purchasing decisions, rather than only looking at the cheapest price” stated Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office.

Link to the resolution as voted in the European Parliament: 2011/2048(INI)

The Fair Trade Advocacy Office speaks out for Fair Trade and trade justice with the aim to improve trading conditions for the benefit of small and marginalised producers and poor workers in developing countries. Based in Brussels, the office coordinates the advocacy activities of the main Fair Trade Networks: Fairtrade International (FLO), World Fair Trade Organization-Europe (WFTO-Europe), and European Fair Trade Association (EFTA). These three networks bring together over 2 million Fair Trade producers from more than 60 countries, 20 labelling initiatives, hundreds of specialized Fair Trade importers, 3000 worldshops and more than 100,000 volunteers.

Contact: Hilary Jeune. Fair Trade Advocacy Office. Rue Fernand Bernierstraat 15 – 1060 Brussels – Belgium. Tel: +32 (0) 2 543 19 23. Email: jeune[at]

Download the press release as a PDF.

[1] Paragraph 14 “The European Parliament (…) calls on the Commission to encourage governments and contracting authorities to increase the use of sustainable public procurement” and Paragraph 19 “Underlines the need to strengthen the sustainability dimension of public procurement by allowing it to be integrated at each stage of the procurement process (i.e. ability test, technical specifications, contract performance clauses)”.

[2] Paragraph 18 “Underlines the fact that whether or not a product or service has been sustainably produced is rightly considered to be a characteristic of the product, which can be used as a criterion for comparison with products or services that have not been sustainably produced, so as to enable contracting authorities to control the environmental and social impact of contracts awarded by them in a transparent way but at the same time not to weaken the necessary link to the subject matter of the contract; points out the need to clarify the scope for including requirements relating to the production process in the technical specifications for all types of contract, where relevant and proportionate; points to the Wienstrom case, which has become the classic example of how and why production characteristics can be categorised as technical specifications

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