Public Procurement


More and more public authorities (at international, EU, national, regional and local level) and bodies governed by public law are playing an active part in sustainable development through their daily decision making, including their purchasing decisions of goods and services.

As well as introducing environmental and social considerations into their procurement procedures, an increasing number of public authorities are going one step further towards supporting sustainable development, by promoting Fair Trade in those procedures. Their purchasing decisions will not only have an impact on the lives of producers in developing countries but will also set an example for others.

Thus, like the concept of ‘green procurement’, ‘Fair Trade public procurement’ can be defined as introducing Fair Trade considerations into the different stages of public procurement procedures.

Following case-law and a legislative revision, the 2014 EU Public Procurement Directive clarified that it is perfectly possible in calls for tenders to give additional points to Fair Trade products and give the possibility to refer to specific labels, provided compliance with the required standards can be proven. These provisions should have by now been transposed into national legislation across all EU Member States.


FTAO is pleased with the positive changes introduced by the 2014 EU Public Procurement Directive. Having said that, the Directive only regulates ‘how to buy’ when a contracting authority has already decided to use their purchasing power in support of Fair Trade and sustainability. There is however much more the European Commission could and should do to promote uptake of Fair Trade and sustainability; ensuring that all sustainable procurement in the EU by 2030 is in line with their commitment to Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, namely, target SDG 12.7. For example:

  • The European Commission should put in place a strategy and action plan to gradually increase the quantitative commitments of public authorities in the EU to ensure all public procurement in the EU by 2030 includes sustainability criteria. This should include support measures for contracting authorities to overcome difficulties, such as help-desks at a national level, guidance documents, European platforms to exchange good practices and tools to help them find suppliers that offer products and services with the required Fair Trade and sustainability criteria.
  • EC should make special efforts to ensure social and solidarity economy enterprises, such as Fair Trade enterprises, can access public procurement markets across the EU. The business models of these enterprises, which don’t have short term economic gain as their main purpose, mean that contracting authorities can ‘kill two birds with one stone’ by procuring from them. Given their sustainability impact in society, these enterprises offer better long-term ‘value for money’ by reducing negative social and economic impacts and maximising their positive impact. 


You can find out how this work links to our work on EU policies here.