International Perspective

Global Best Practice

Green Purchasing in Europe

Green Public Procurement is the process by which public authorities seek to reduce the environmental impact of the goods and services that they buy. The aim is to foster a voluntary framework to ensure the procurement of goods and services that have the least impact on the environment throughout their whole life cycle. The Communication will cover all public procurement procedures.

The 10 priority sectors for implementing GPP have been selected on the basis of the following: scope for environmental improvement; public expenditure; potential impact on suppliers; potential for setting an example to private or corporate consumers; political sensitivity; existence of relevant and easy-to-use criteria; market availability and economic efficiency. Construction is the top of this list.

As a result, the Commission proposes that, by 2010, 50% of all tendering procedures should be ‘green’. At present the adoption of a green purchasing policy is voluntary but it is proposed to make it mandatory at some unspecified date in the next number of years.

On 16 July 2008, the Commission presented a proposal to set ambitious targets for green public procurement as part of a broader action plan for ‘sustainable consumption and production’. According to research pdf file carried out for the European Commission, only seven EU countries currently manage a large amount of Green Public Procurement (GPP). These are the ‘Green 7’: namely Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. Other EU countries lag way behind and sometimes do not practise any GPP at all.

If Ireland is going to address its climate change targets the Government (both local and central) must introduce a green procurement policy without any further delay.

Information on Green Public Procurement can be found at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/gpp/index_en.htm.

Green Purchasing in Ireland

The Office of Public Works (OPW) was the first Government body to introduce Green Procurement. Under EC directive 2004/18/EC environmental performance is permitted to be used as a contract awarding criteria. Just looking at a two extracts from the directive we see that:

  • Article 26 states:

    …The conditions governing the performance of a contract may, in particular, concern social and environmental considerations…

  • Article 53 allows the Contracting Authority to weight the various awarding criteria of which “environmental characteristics” may be one.
    The OPW took this onboard and under the sustainability section of their tender documents they included the following paragraph:

    The OPW require the specification and use of more environmentally friendly cements in publicly funded construction projects, in compliance with EU procurement and environmental policies. This will involve the partial replacement of Portland Cement by existing waste products to yield significant improvement in the environmental performance of concrete.

Because the OPW introduced Green Purchasing to their projects they have been responsible for saving 10’s of 1000’s of tonnes of CO2.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) also requires that GGBS is used on their projects, but this primarily for technical reasons. To extend the life of bridge structures GGBS is used in the concrete within the splash zone where chlorides in the spray could reduce the working life of the structure. It is not required to be used for environmental reasons, but the effect has been that 100,000’s of tonnes of CO2 have been saved.

US Government policy on sustainable development in construction

There is already one example of a policy of preference for GGBS over Portland cement on the grounds of its contribution to reducing CO2 emissions.

On January 24th, 2007, President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13423,

“Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management.”

The order sets goals in recycling and sustainable buildings. In addition, the order requires more widespread use of Environmental Management Systems as the framework in which to manage and continually improve these sustainable practices. This supersedes the previous EO 13101). Under this executive order the US government gives “purchasing priority” to a range of products on grounds of environmental characteristics.

Guidelines issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under this Order require suppliers and contractors to prepare concrete containing the highest practical amounts of GGBS.

EPA recommends that procuring agencies prepare or revise their procurement programs for cement and concrete or for construction projects involving cement and concrete to allow the use of coal fly ash, ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBF slag)…as appropriate.

For full details on this initiative, go to:

Updated 24th September 2008.

Updated 13th December 2008.

Benefit of GGBS to LEED certification

Ref: Slag Cement Association

LEED™ stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a product of the U.S. Green Building Council. It is a set of national standards used to certify high-performance, sustainable buildings.

LEED-NC is the most widely-used of these standards and is used for new construction or major renovations. LEED-NC utilizes a point-based system to rank specific levels of sustainable performance in six categories. Slag cement can contribute to achieving 9 specific LEED-NC points.

Cement Sustainability Initiative

The Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) was formed to help the cement industry to address the challenges of sustainable development. The business leaders of a group of major cement companies lead the initiative under the auspices of the World Business Council.

The results and recommendations of a number of detailed studies over a 3 year period were published during 2002 and are accessible at www.wbcsdcement.org. A further 5 year study was undertaken and the results of this were published in June 2008.

There are 18 cement companies participating in this study: Ashgrove (USA), Camarco Correa (Brazil), CEMEX (Mexico), Cementos Molins (Spain), Liz Cimentos (Brazil), Cimpor (Portugal), CRH (Ireland), Grasim (India), Heidelberg Cement (Germany), Holcim (Switzerland), Italcementi (Italy), Lafarge (France), Secil (Portugal), SCL (India), SCG (Thailand), Taiheiyo Cement (Japan), Titan (Greece), Votorantim (Brazil).

The Cement Sustainability Initiative (CSI) studies found that:

  • The cement industry emits approximately 5% of global man made CO2 emissions. Current proposals (i.e. The Kyoto Treaty) to curb CO2 emissions will profoundly affect the activities and finances of the industry. Changes in the scheme will occur next in 2012.
  • Between 1990 and 2006 members on averaged reduced their CO2 emission by 12%. The cleanest producers tend to be the newer plants in the developing countries.
  • The use of substitutes such as slag and fly ash has increased from 17% in 1990 to 22% in 2006. The cement industry continues to increase the % of green substitutes to reduce their CO2 emissions.
Cork Civic Offices

Cork Civic Offices