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Sustainable Procurement

What is sustainable procurement?

Procurement is called sustainable when it integrates requirements, specifications and criteria that are compatible and in favour of the protection of the environment, of social progress and in support of economic development, namely by seeking resource efficiency, improving the quality of products and services and ultimately optimizing costs.

Through sustainable procurement, organizations use their own buying power to give a signal to the market in favour of sustainability and base their choice of goods and services on:

  • economic considerations: best value for money, price, quality, availability, functionality;
  • environmental aspects, i.e. green procurement: the impacts on the environment that the product and/or service has over its whole life-cycle, from cradle to grave; and
  • social aspects: effects of purchasing decisions on issues such as poverty eradication, international equity in the distribution of resources, labour conditions, human rights.

The UN operates to achieve the goals of peace, equality, sustainable development and respect for human rights. The way the UN manages its operations and procures products and services should reflect these goals.

Ensuring lowest environmental and most positive social impact of procurement does not only build on the international community commitments. It also manages the reputational risk of exploitation or environmental damage in the supply chain; it gives a strong signal to the market and encourages the innovative production of cleaner and more ethical products; and it enhances the benefits for the environment and for local communities.

Sustainable procurement is not about “burdening” the market with extra requirements; rather it is a well-defined strategy that gradually phases in sustainable requirements in bids, supports measures, promotes dialogue and open communication between the suppliers and procurers.

Why is sustainable procurement needed?

Procurement's contribution to the goal of sustainable development

The threat of climate change

Evidence of a world under stress

Tools for procurers

Advice and tools on sustainable procurement

Sustainable procurement training

Online sustainable procurement training

The course assessment is available to UN staff only. To access the assessment, please log in and from under the UN User section in the left-hand column, click on link to the Knowledge Centre in the left-hand column, click on Sustainable Procurement Tools and thereafter Sustainable Procurement Assessment.

Tools for suppliers

Assisting the markets to be ready for sustainability

More on sustainable procurement

Sources of information on sustainable procurement outside the UN system