Sustainable public procurement in a nutshell

Sustainable public procurement in a nutshell

Generally speaking, public procurement is the process through which public bodies buy works, goods, or services from a third supplier. Public bodies are schools, hospitals, local governments, prisons, etc. and what they buy can be for instance the food for meals at school, the cleaning service and cleaning products, buses for public transport, and so on. Within the European Union, public procurement amounts to approximately 15% of the EU gross domestic product (GDP).

The genesis – The first statutory recognition of Public Procurement from the EU can be rooted back in the ‘70s, a period in which the Community also dealt with the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers, among which public procurement (PP). The 70s Procurement Directives were able to promote savings and price convergence, albeit respecting the core economic principles of the EC, namely transparency, non-discrimination, objectivity and open competition, but also free movement of goods and services, right of establishment and the prohibition of discrimination. Over the years the Directives have been amended several times and new, innovative conceptions of Public Procurement have been provided by scholars. Kunzlik talked for the first time about strategic procurement, i.e., a new conceptualization that conceives PP as an occasion for achieving secondary objectives. But which secondary objectives? Here comes the core of this article. Public procurement has enormous potential for achieving environmental and social sustainability, driving the market offer of sustainable products, to promote Research&Development (R&D) and innovation.

Definitions – According to the objectives it pursues PP has been named in different ways: Green Public Procurement (GPP) Social Public Procurement (SPP) or Socially Responsible Public Procurement (SRPP) and Public Procurement of Innovative Solutions (PPI), Circular Public Procurement (CPP). The way public procurement is able to pursue secondary purposes stands in the contract design and in this regard the latest Public Procurement Directives[1] (2014) – in particular, Directive 24/2014 – represent a decent result. Let’s think about public procurement as a series of sequential activities:


Along this cycle, public bodies have several occasions for including within the contract environmental or social criteria that the goods, service or work they want to buy must fulfill.

Analysis of the EU legislation on public procurement – Let’s now take a brief look at how contracts can lever sustainability.

While drafting the contract, for example, the public body could require in the technical specifications (Art. 42), that hospital staff uniforms must be made with recycled and organic textile, labeled with any fair-trade certification. In the case of the provision of the catering service within a university, the public body, e.g. universities, could require, within the contract performance clauses (Art. 70) of the contract, that the weekly menus include only products or recipes from the Mediterranean diet or that the staff ensure a congruent use of the canteen premises (turning off lights in the absence of people, correctly dispose of garbage, etc.). Other relevant provisions of Directive 24/2014 regarding preliminary market consultations (art. 40) “with a view to preparing the procurement and informing economic operators of their procurement plans and requirements”. The importance of this article lies in giving advance notice to third parties who intend to participate in the tender that can allow them to best adapt to the requirements. The contracting authority may want the products supplied to bear a specific label (art. 43) or to meet the criteria determined by this label, without having it. The bidder may need time to adapt the products it produces to the labeling criteria.

Another important aspect established by the directives and not immediately apparent is the scope of the mandatory principle of non-discrimination, equality and avoidance of distortion of competition (Art. 18). These principles are the basis not only of European substantive law but also of procedural law, included in the discipline of procurement. The enormous scope of the principles has an impact on the prohibition of favoring candidates on the basis of nationality or proximity, for example. In a contract for the supply of food products, for example, it is forbidden to select an agricultural company simply because it comes from the same territory in which the supply should be made. Although it may seem contradictory, one of the main purposes of the European Union is to promote the free movement of goods, preventing protectionist practices by member states. Although this implies the impossibility to select a product on the basis of a territorial criterion – let’s think about our beloved Km0 products that have a low impact on the environment also because the means of transport cover shorter distances – the directives still offer other opportunities to pursue environmental sustainability. In this regard, the Directive 24/2014 seeks to protect small and medium-sized enterprises through article 46, which allows contracting authorities to award the contract in the form of separate lots, so that if the scope of the contract, in terms of goods to be supplied, for example, is large, small manufacturers or suppliers are still taken into account. The article is in fact intended to ensure that firms producing on a small scale are not automatically excluded, but rather several small enterprises are involved in the procurement process at the same time. The Directive 2014/24 also provides for mandatory exclusion criteria (Art. 57), for example, if the prospective supplier has been accused of corruption, child labor or human trafficking, financing of terrorist activities. It is not required, but only permitted to exclude participants from the procurement process if they have violated environmental, social and labor obligations (Art. 18) – but the burden of proof is up to the contracting authority.

In addition, according to which principle do contracting authorities generally award contracts? As a rule, following the screening of all bids and their consistency with what was requested in the tender, the authorities award the contract on the basis of the lowest price. However, it is worth mentioning a consistent change made in the EU Procurement Directives (already in the 2004 amendment[2]). The reference to the evaluation not only of the lowest price offer, but also of quality and life-cycle costing (LCC) of that offer (Art. 67/68). LCC refers to costs relating to the acquisition, the use (e.g. consumption of energy), maintenance costs, end of life costs, such as collection and recycling costs of the products and importantly “costs imputed to environmental externalities linked to the product, service or works during its life cycle”.  Last, but not least, the great work carried out by the EU Commission and the experts has been that of drawing up Green (but not yet social) Criteria that can be easily incorporated into contracts by public authorities. The criteria have been drawn up for numerous categories of products and services such as construction, ICT services, canteen services, cleaning products, street lighting, road surfaces, etc. However, according to procurement experts, the directives have some gaps that in fact demonstrate the weak grip of Sustainable Public Procurement.

Limits of the SPP – One of the main weaknesses is that the GPP criteria are not compulsory. Although some member states, among which Italy, have made GPP criteria compulsory for certain categories of products[3], its uptake is still very low, especially considering the ambitious commitment recently undertaken with the EU Green Deal. In December 2020, the EU Commission has stressed its intention to make (part of) GPP criteria mandatory for all member states. Another loophole consists in the lack of training of public bodies about contract design and GPP criteria, in conjunction with lack of engagement with environmental issues. Some studies demonstrate that administrations are more likely to make public procurement greener if they personally want to fight climate change[4]. Another limitation of the directives, as highlighted by Abby Semple[5], is the need for selection criteria, technical specifications, labels and award criteria to be linked to the subject matter of the contracts. In a few words this means that when contracting authorities evaluate different bids, their evaluation must concern just what is considered the subject matter of their contract. Let’s imagine that the City of Oslo would like to purchase renewable energy for the whole city. During the evaluation of the different offers (bids), the City administration may not opt for the company which, beyond the requested amount of renewable energy and their equal price, produces the highest amount of renewable energy as a company, for instance. Public bodies may not, then, interrogate the corporate socio-environmental responsibility, so for example choosing the ‘greenest’ company among those who were competing. Also, if a contracting authority is willing to award the contract to the tenderer which has the lower carbon footprint i.e. in the transport of the products to be supplied, a strict interpretation of the link to the subject matter of the contract may not be efficient. Indeed, the contracting authority may award the contract to a supplier located close to the point of consumption, while the tenderer may need to stock other customers that can be located very far[6].

So, what if the GPP criteria become mandatory? What if the link-to-the-subject-matter will be eliminated? I leave to you the cue.

For more and detailed information please visit

[1] Directive 2004/18/EC – the ‘classical public sector directive’ – and Directive 2004/17/EC – the ‘utilities directive’

[2] Directive 2014/24/EU on public procurement, and Directive 2014/25/EU on procurement by entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors


[4] Grandia J., Implementing sustainable public procurement: An organisational change perspective. (Erasmus University Rotterdam, 2015)

[5] Semple, A. “The Link to the Subject-Matter: A Glass Ceiling for Sustainable Public Contracts?”. In Sjåfjell, B., & Wiesbrock, A. (2016). Sustainable public procurement under EU law: new perspectives on the state as stakeholder. Cambridge University Press.

[6] Idem

Urban resilience and the right to food during the Covid-19 pandemic

Urban resilience and the right to food during the Covid-19 pandemic

Four tips for the Metropolitan City of Turin

Cities will increasingly play an important and strategic role in the next few years. It is not surprising, indeed, that, thanks in part to regional and urban policies for the allocation of funds by the European Union, strong urban sovereignty, unconnected with national sovereignty, is developing. During the initial phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, the urban scenario was perhaps the one in which citizens were forced, more than elsewhere, to change their lifestyles because of the lock-down, but there’s the belief that some of those restrictions and rules imposed by the government were an excellent test, on the one hand for the transition to more sustainable urban systems and on the other hand for local governments to pay more attention to serious, already existing problems such as poverty and lack of access to food. This short and informal contribution aims to analyze and propose, with an eye to the City of Turin, how cities have responded, and could in the future respond, to all those food problems that the Coronavirus has contributed to worsening.

The FAO has recently published a report defining the role of cities in addressing the Covid-19 emergency[1]. The most relevant measures include mapping the most vulnerable communities and their access to nutritious food, monitoring unfair competition practices in food sales and the importance of reopening even smaller food stores (not just supermarkets). This report has been very useful in drafting this article.

New poor, food insecurity and distribution

or… the social issue

In June 2020, Coldiretti reported that Covid has created one million more poor people in Italy[2], including those who have lost their jobs, shopkeepers and artisans forced to close down, workers in the black economy, but also that 39% of Italians are involved in solidarity initiatives through donations, food packs and the farmers’ initiative “Spesa Sospesa”. As pointed out some days later in a Webinar[3] by Alessia Toldo[4], however, it would be wrong to define this as a new crisis, because in reality, it was ‘only’ the worsening of an already existing one. The city of Turin has responded to this problem through a strong mobilization of volunteers who have undertaken voluntary activities and also thanks to experts in the sector such as Toldo herself and Professor Egidio Dansero who have kept the debate and research in the sector alive thanks to the Atlante del Cibo initiative. The examples given are explanatory of the fact that for the moment the problem has been addressed mainly by volunteers and not at an administrative level by the city council. What is here suggested to the administration of the Metropolitan City of Turin is to collaborate closely with these social realities.

The first step could be to map the crucial areas of the city where requests are more concentrated. It would be necessary to set up hubs for food (re)distribution, maybe near the local markets and allow, therefore, the occupation of civic gardens by volunteers not only during working days but also during weekends and during summer. Especially in neighborhoods mainly inhabited by foreigners, an “InfoPoint” could be placed next to the distribution banks, to allow those who have certain food needs, due to their religious beliefs, for example, at least to express preferences and to the volunteers to collect important data for the subsequent distributions and for making specific requests to donors.

The collaboration between Eco dalle Città, Food Pride and Atlante del Cibo led to the creation of a map[5] of all the different food-providing entities in Turin dealing with food surpluses, charitable canteens and food banks, Despite this, the problem of the lack of coordination between these entities has resulted in a partial inefficiency. 

A change in urban mobility and the praise for slowness

or… the environmental issue

The Italian Government launched the initiative of the Green Mobility Vouchers for buying bikes or other electric vehicles just for personal mobility. We have to be aware that this initiative can change the rhythm of (Italian) cities and grocery shopping too. The rise of smart working – that should be balanced with normal working in order not to spend too much time at home and maintain physical contact with society, and a transition to greener mobility will both create slower urban systems. Citizens can profit from this precious slowness to make more responsible shopping, such as going to a farmer’s market instead of the supermarket. Local administrations should care about favoring those subjects of the food chain that have suffered more than others from the lockdown, namely the farmers.  With regards to the Lancet Report[6] and the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact[7] (2015), to build sustainable diets and to respect the Right to Food for all means recognizing the need for healthier and seasonal products. Thanks to this potential greener mobility, Municipalities should push citizens to give more importance to the social function of public markets and local producers. To have more time for food shopping and to buy more fresh products means sustaining local economies and small farmers, eating consciously and preventing waste.

This leads to believe that building green cities and guaranteeing sustainable food should also be among the objectives of urban planners when drawing up the city’s urban development plan. And in this context, the precise objectives set by the SDGs can act as a catalyst. A “city of urban markets and food as a common” favors public transport or bicycle/foot transport of citizens and therefore expands the limited traffic zones (LTZs) and pedestrian islands accordingly.

Access by cars to central or high traffic areas (such as a market square in the early morning hours) should be guaranteed for logistical purposes only and not to such an extent as to discourage the transition to the so-called cycle-logistic[8].

Multistakeholderism and the proposal for a Local Authority for the protection of the right to food

or… the governance issue

As already mentioned above, the right to food has only been addressed by social actors and volunteers. Cities need to create spaces for dialogue where these different actors can communicate not only with the administration but also with private parties involved in food distribution and prevention of food loss to build a comprehensive and common food policy. The metropolitan city of Milan, aware of these urgent issues and in addition to its international commitments for urban development strategies[9] has drafted its own Milan Food Policy.

Another interesting project is Piana del Cibo[10], born in the plain of Lucca, Tuscany from a coordinated initiative of some local municipalities[11]. The initiative provided for the establishment of different platforms for dialogue but not only between public-private and administrative social partners. It has created a real panel of experts on the one hand (the Food Council) and also the Mayors Assembly for the drafting of the inter-municipal food plan. Although it is a different context, the City of Turin can take inspiration from this initiative.
Actually, the idea of creating a Food Council and a Food Commission in the Savoy city had already been taken into consideration a few years ago and recently retracted by the City Councilor[12]. However, Turin must take advantage of this moment of partial stalemate to make the project a concrete reality.

The active role of municipalities in building food education

…or the educational issue

According to the Ministerial Decree of 10 March 2020[13], which entered into force last July, Italy has updated some of the so-called Minimum Environmental Criteria (CAM in Italian) for public procurement in the collective catering sector, which dated back to 2011. As this area also involves school canteens, it is vital that once the CAM is implemented, children in schools in Turin become aware of the reasons for the changes in their school meals. In fact, it is necessary to follow the path of Milan, whose municipality, in concert with schools and farms, is promoting partnerships between these actors[14].

Another possible action in this area could involve not only schools but also universities and public buildings, as well as hospitals. CAM also applies to packaged products contained in vending machines, which are often low in nutrients and rich in calories. For example, vending machines providing fresh fruit, delivery platforms, office water containers, etc. could be used to reduce the consumption of sweetened and carbonated drinks and pre-packaged food. Another important innovation is for example that in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools it will be necessary to use washable tableware and glasses instead of single-use ones and that at least 50% by weight of fruit, vegetables and legumes will have to be organically grown.

The intervention of Alessia Toldo to the webinar “Covid and food system” clarified that certain emergencies should be addressed with a generous degree of practicality, even if at the expense of their formality. It must be said that the cases mentioned in this article only underline the close correlation between law and politics and that the former must be supported by strong popular convictions to work. Where certain activities do not fall directly within the administrative duties, for whatever reason – if only for the fear of slowing them furtherly – it is at least desirable that the PAs can recognize, support and provide spaces for dialogue to the most active citizens. This approach is by no means new in the Turin context where, thanks to the presence of eminent scholars such as Stefano Rodotà and Ugo Mattei, the city has recently adopted a Regulation for Urban Commons[15]. The latter formalizes the “pact of collaboration” as an administrative instrument of public-public partnership so that citizens are the first subjects that take care of the place where they live, sometimes through EU-funded projects[16]. The hope is that this “cure” may one day extend to food, but especially to individuals who have problems related to it.   

[1] Urban food systems and COVID-19: The role of cities and local governments in responding to the emergency, 09 April 2020



[4] Alessia Toldo is Associate professor of Methodologies for social inclusion and participation at the Politecnico of Turin and of Political Geography at the University of Turin





[9] Milan is in fact the leader of the international Milan Food Policy Act “an international pact signed by 210 cities” and it’s a party of the C40 organization for climate change in urban areas and of ICLEI organization for sustainable development at the urban level.


[11] Municipalities of Lucca, Capannori, Altopascio, Porcari e Villa Basilica.


[13] DM n. 65 del 10 marzo 2020,


[14] This initiative is one of the concrete actions related to the third objective of the Milan Food Policy. (

[15] Regolamento per il governo dei bei comuni urbani nella Città di Torino n. 391

[16] Co-City project by UIA (Urban Innovative Actions)

Build Baton Rouge Receives $5M Grant in JPMorgan Chase’s AdvancingCities Challenge

Build Baton Rouge Receives $5M Grant in JPMorgan Chase’s AdvancingCities Challenge is proud to be collaborating with Build Baton Rouge, an initiative that won a 2020 AdvancingCities award!

“Build Baton Rouge’s 2020 AdvancingCities award will help fund Masterplan programs that will eliminate blight, grow small businesses, and preserve housing affordability in North Baton Rouge, Louisiana (US). To accomplish these goals and deliver the grant’s objectives, Build Baton Rouge has partnered with Metromorphosis, TruFund Financial Services, and Co-City Baton Rouge.” (

Baton Rouge Collaborative in partnership will LabGov.City will effectively carry out two activites:

Community Land Trust
The establishment of a hybrid Community Land Trust/Land Bank entity to preserve North Baton Rouge housing and commercial affordability, and grow concentrated wealth, and create a platform for neighborhood-level capacity building.

Pocket Park
The transformation of a vacant, blighted lot at the corner of Plank Road and Myrtlelawn Drive into a community park designed by students at LSU School of Design and managed by BREC.

source of the image: @buildbatonrouge Instagram

About JPMorgan Chase AdvancingCities
The AdvancingCities competition invites applicants to demonstrate plans that address equity issues such as race and income. The proposed plans must present imaginative solutions to complex systemic challenges and demonstrate a collaborative approach to executing the project goals. Build Baton Rouge was one of only eight applicants chosen to receive this prestigious and generous award.

Visit the Build Baton Rouge Website to learn more about their project!

Giornata conclusiva della Clinica Urbana LabGov 2020

Giornata conclusiva della Clinica Urbana LabGov 2020

Save the date! Tuesday, May 5 at 4 pm, there will be the final event of the Interdisciplinary Urban Clinic of LabGov 2020 on the platform Cisco Webex.

For those who are discovering our project, this year we addressed the issue of fashion in relation to sustainability by developing an innovative and sustainable idea to the problem of the environmental impacts generated by this sector. The event will consist principally in the presentation of the final prototype of our project followed by some interventions of our special guests.

The production of the prototype by LabGovers 2020 wants to demonstrate that students can already be part of the answer to the growing demand for sustainable fashion if you cross technological innovation and social and environmental sustainability through circular economy platforms that connect companies, social start-ups, associations and creative digital communities with an urban rooting.

We will also talk about Covid-19, its impact on Made in Italy and the prospects of sustainability and digitalization in the field of fashion.

Guests of the event will be: General Manager Luiss, Giovanni Lo Storto; Rector Luiss, Professor Andrea Prencipe; Giacomo Santucci, President Camera Buyer Italy; Lorenzo Greco, CEO DXC Italy; Vincenzo Linarello, President of GOEL – Cooperative Group; Professor Maria Isabella Leone, executive director of the Master in Open and Innovation; Dr Elena Ciccarelli of NTT DATA and Claudia Giommarini, office ERS lab Luiss.

Don’t hesitate to ask for the link to the video conference room by writing a message to on Instagram or Facebook to participate to this beautiful presentation!

The fifth module of the interdisciplinary Urban Clinic LabGov 2020

The fifth module of the interdisciplinary Urban Clinic LabGov 2020

The fifth and last workshop and co-working of the Urban Clinic, held on the Luiss Webex Platform, had as guest Joaquin Santuber and Lina Krawietz, Co-founders of the start-up “This Is Legal Design” based in Berlin.

After introducing themselves, our guests presented us the world of Legal Design, which is, in the words of Joaquin: “a way of improving people’s lives and making their life easier”. In order to be clearer about the meaning of Legal Design, Joaquin divided the word into two concepts. First “Legal”, that is the legal system that regulates our interactions in our society. For example, legal industry businesses that are provided and work with the legal system (courts, legal firms, legal departments, etc..). Second, “design” is more complicated to define. There are many design notions. Very often we are familiar with the idea of product design. For instance, service design, such as the process and steps of using a computer. In our case, it represents a creative problem-solving approach to complex challenges. When “This Is Legal Design” was founded, they needed to find an original approach, new solutions to make people’s lives better and easier improving users experience. Since the legal side touches us in every aspect of our life, they applied this mindset to the legal system and decided to conceptualize their start-up with the purpose of solving problems from the legal world, such as access to justice or helping legal firms to identify with the businesses they work with.

After being updated on the advancement of the LabGov’s project “Ri-Made”, the Legal Design team presented us some case studies of projects they created for some firms in order to illustrate what types of results we are looking for. Then, they showed us that legal aspects are everywhere, especially on the Internet. A good example might be the use of cookies on webpages. it is important to be innovative to pursue our goal, in every aspect and not only the legal ones. “How can we find innovative ways to overcome legal barriers to our sustainable fashion project?” Joaquin explained that once again the solution is something that has to do with the attitude, by looking at things critically. He then introduced the concept of “legal touchpoints” with the example of the “terms and conditions” that we have to accept every time we register on a social network or on a platform. In fact, these privacy policies are created by lawyers, which do not adapt their content to be understandable for everyone. Often, if some legal aspects are too complex to understand, using visual supports like comics or videos can be very helpful. At the end of the workshop, he left us with some questions to reflect on as homework for the following day. How could this look like in our project? How to share an idea with collaborators? How can we communicate safely our business plan?

Let’s get started with Saturday’s co-working! The students were divided into two groups, one kept on working on the Webex Platform, while the second one held his meetings on the Zoom platform.There were four blocks of activities during the day. Each block started with the Legal Design team providing some inputs to guide the two teams in the realization of innovative legal touchpoints for the project, then both teams met for a brief meeting with Joaquin and Lina at the end of each block to have some feedbacks. The goal of the day was to identify the two main Legal Touchpoints of our project and find original and innovative ways to make them more understandable for our audience. The first group focused on finding an original way to present the “terms and conditions” to the user at the moment of the registration, while the second one worked to solve the legal barriers that may occur when a user’s order is damaged and he has to return it back to “Ri-Made”.

After lunch, Joaquin and Lina asked the students and the tutors of the two groups to prepare a short video that could make the solutions that they had found more comprehensible, in order to present their ideas in a creative and visual way.In the final part of the co-working, the students showed the videos that they created. To conclude the fifth co-working the students updated the tutors on how they are handling the making of video tutorials of sustainable activities that they are filming from home. Moreover, on this last day of co-working, the LabGovers and tutors talked about the planning of the final day of the Urban Clinic which will take place on May 5th from 4 pm to 6 pm with the participation of Director General and the Provost. They will have to present their project an audience of experts, so a lot of work is ahead of us to prepare this exciting day!

We post new content regularly on our social media, come back often to make sure you don’t miss anything!