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Sustainable Procurement

  • Sustainable procurement in the United Nations

    The combined purchasing power of UN organizations holds significant potential to influence the market in favour of sustainable development. Sustainable procurement practices “integrate 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” (United Nations High Level Committee on Management Procurement Network - HLCM PN, 2009).

    As part of the ASR, participating UN organizations report annually through a voluntary online survey on the extent to which sustainability considerations have been integrated into their procurement processes.

    This section includes data from the most recent survey on sustainable procurement. An overview of recent trends can be found in the Report.

  • Sustainable Procurement on UNGM

    In addition to these statistics, UNGM provides a range of other materials and tools related to sustainable procurement in the UN context.

    This includes information on the set of indicators developed in 2019 by UN organizations through the United Nations High-Level Committee on Management (HLCM) to improve the tracking, measuring and reporting on sustainable procurement implementation in UN procurement processes.

  • Policy, strategy and targets

    The inclusion of sustainability considerations in an organization’s procurement policy and strategy reflects the high-level commitment of an organization to more sustainable procurement practices and provides the foundation and framework for action. UN organizations continue to develop and implement policies and strategies for sustainable procurement. Additionally, for reporting and accountability purposes measurable targets and objectives are set by some participating organizations.

  • Sustainability considerations in tenders

    As part of the sustainable procurement survey, participating organizations are asked to estimate the percentage of administrative and technical tenders in which sustainability considerations were incorporated. Administrative tenders are considered to relate to the procurement of office needs such as paper, computers and furniture, while technical tenders correspond to the procurement of project–related needs that are not administrative (see graph below). Please note, these two categories are general descriptions and do not correspond to the taxonomy of the UNSPSC.

    Total cost of ownership

    Total cost of ownership is defined as the sum of all recurring and one-time costs over the full life span of a good, service, structure or system. It includes, among other things, the purchase price, installation costs, operating costs, maintenance and repair costs and the remaining residual or salvage value at the end of ownership or its useful life.

  • The Annual Statistical Report on United Nations Procurement is produced by UNOPS on behalf of the United Nations. More information 

  • Sustainable procurement integration in the procurement process

    Sustainability considerations can be incorporated into different stages of the procurement process. The sustainable procurement survey for the ASR concentrates on three areas of interest: sustainability criteria in requirements definitions, total cost of ownership in the financial evaluation, and sustainability aspects in contract terms.

  • Sustainable procurement outlook

    All survey questions taken together provide an outlook on what activities participating organizations plan to implement throughout the coming year in order to advance sustainable procurement considerations in their operations.


  • Internal capacity development

    Providing training and developing internal capacity in sustainable procurement can be important enablers for organizations to successfully integrate sustainability considerations into their procurement processes. UN organizations regularly undertake and organize training sessions on sustainable procurement for their personnel or make other investments to enhance their internal capacity on sustainable procurement.

    Supplier engagement

    Suppliers also play an important role in the advancement of more sustainable practices and supply chains. Through the United Nations Supplier Code of Conduct, the UN has summarized its expectations of all suppliers in terms of labour and human rights, protection of the environment and ethical conduct. Ensuring that suppliers comply with the Code of Conduct and collaborating with them to enhance sustainability practices can help UN organizations address potential and current sustainability risks throughout the entire supply chain. 

  • Procurement from the United Nation Global Compact participating suppliers

    As a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General, the UN Global Compact is a call to companies everywhere to align their operations and strategies with ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Launched in 2000, the mandate of the UN Global Compact is to guide and support the global business community in advancing UN goals and values through responsible corporate practices. All UN suppliers, regardless of their size or location, are actively encouraged to align with the ten principles of the UN Global Compact and join the initiative. Participation in the UN Global Compact is voluntary and requires the submission of an annual report outlining the actions undertaken to advance sustainability. As of December 2019, the UN Global Compact had more than 10,000 participating companies and 3,000 non-business signatories based in over 160 countries, and more than 60 Local Networks, making it the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world. 

    As part of the ASR, the amount of procurement that is conducted with UN Global Compact participants is estimated. Please note that for analytical purposes, suppliers where the supplier name is unknown are excluded from this analysis. 

  • Types of sustainability considerations

    To capture trends in the type of sustainability considerations addressed, participating organizations are also asked to report on whether they include environmental, social and economic considerations in their procurement processes.

  • Sustainable Procurement Indicators
    Benchmarking and measuring SP implementation based on quantifiable indicators