Green Public Procurement

According to the European Commission, public authorities in Europe spend approximately €1.8 trillion annually, representing approximately 14% of the EU's gross domestic product. Clearly therefore by using the purchasing power of public authorities to purchase services and goods with environmental benefits, a significant contribution will be made to the net zero target.  In addition this shift in purchasing practices will also influence the market and incentivise industry to respond by developing green technologies and products. Accordingly green public procurement can deliver a myriad of benefits for contracting authorities, businesses and society as whole. 

The European Commission has identified a number of barriers to be addressed. These include the perceived increased costs of green products, lack of expertise in applying environmental criteria, lack of practical tools and information and integration of environmental assessment into management systems. Consistency of coordination and application across public authorities as well as a deficit of clear and verifiable criteria for assessment purposes have also been identified as obstacles.

In general green public procurement is voluntary. Current Irish policy on GPP encourages public bodies to implement green elements into their procurement processes and to consider full life cycle costs. Guidance is provided to public bodies for the implementation of GPP. Current Irish GPP policy includes:

  • the programme for government involving a shift towards mandatory GPP and requirements to include green criteria in procurements using public funds
  • the Climate Action Plan 2019 which outlines various proposals to reduce Ireland's greenhouse gases including a number of GPP measures
  • guidance on green procurement published by the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Circular 20/2019: Promoting the use of environmental and social considerations in public procurement which instructs government departments and bodies under their aegis to consider including green criteria in public procurement processes in certain circumstance and requires relevant green procurement measures to be incorporated into planning and reporting cycles
  • the National Action Plan – ‘Green Tenders' (January 2012) which outlines examples of GPP best practice to assist public bodies in implementing green procurement

The public procurement rules include GPP elements and mechanisms. The GPP options below are subject to further consideration in the context of the public procurement rules. It is important to consider whether the criteria are linked to the subject matter of the contract and their inclusion may also need to be considered in the context of the general principles of European law outlined below:

  • award criteria can include social and environmental characteristics of goods, services or works, e.g. electricity from renewable sources or fairly traded products
  • technical specifications can be formulated with reference to particular production processes e.g. organic agriculture
  • contracting authorities could request evidence of environmental management measures which a supplier will be able to apply in the execution of any contract at selection stage
  • third-party eco-labels may be requested to evidence compliance with (a) technical specifications (b) award criteria or (c) contract performance conditions provided these meet certain standards of openness and transparency
  • abnormally low tenders must be rejected where the tender is abnormally low due to breach of certain international social or environmental conventions

Our expert team of procurement specialists regularly advise on all aspects of procurement law, providing businesses with practical solutions to their procurement queries at both an Irish and European level. Our team has a range of experience in assisting clients with green public procurement options, including development of a GPP policy, navigating the public procurement rules, ensuring that GPP criteria are incorporated into tender documentation correctly and carrying out risk assessments. 


  • Irish Water

    on the procurement and installation of a new aerobic granular sludge technology for the Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade Project

  • Gas Networks Ireland

    on the delivery of a network of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) refuelling stations

  • Kildare County Council

    on procurement of operators for the collection, bulking and marketing of glass and metals from bring sites and civic amenity sites

  • Ervia

    on incorporation of green criteria and specifications relating to carbon footprint, waste management and environmental innovation in a single supplier framework

  • Bord na Móna

    on procurement relating to the Clean Energy Hub project and the construction of the windfarms at Mountlucas and Templetuohy

  • Belfast Harbour Commissioners

    in relation to incorporation of environmental and social criteria into various infrastructural projects