With the approval of the new Public Contracts Code in 2016, Italy is the only European country that has made Green Public Procurement mandatory. This means that all public authorities have to employ Minimal Environmental Criteria (Criteri ambientali minimi) in choosing contractors during public calls for tenders.
Green Public Procurement (GPP) is defined by the European Commission as “a process whereby public authorities seek to procure goods, services and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle when compared to goods, services and works with the same primary function that would otherwise be procured.”
Therefore, GPP represents a substantive political strategy aimed at converting the economy toward sustainability.
The GPP4Growth project
Lombardy Region is working on different levels in this regard, enacting concrete measures to promote its territory and businesses. In 2016, Lombardy’s government issued Regional Council deliberation no. X/1051, concerning initiatives for green public tenders and the promotion of eco-sustainable businesses. Subsequently, in 2017, Lombardy Region took part in GPP4Growth – Green Public Procurement for resource-efficient regional growth. This project was approved as part of the Interreg Europe 2014-2020 programme, with funding amounting to 1.7 million euros, with 200,000 euros going to Lombardy Region.
GPP4Growth unites the experience and practices of nine European public agencies with the goal of improving their ability to enact policies that favour eco-innovation and green growth through GPP. In the EU, 14% of GDP is spent by public authorities: this spending on goods, services and works has an estimated value of 1.8 trillion euro a year. This purchasing power has the potential to be used to stimulate green innovation, efficiency and growth by promoting goods and services that respect the environment and its resources.
Lombardy Region obtained the second-highest amount of resources and was initially given the responsibility of “Specifying the needs of GPP4Growth” (Action A1.1). This involved verifying the status of GPP implementation in various countries through the creation of an online survey for European stakeholders, aimed at collating needs, criticisms, topics for discussion and improvement and to identify high-priority areas on which to concentrate efforts and resources.
It is down to Lombardy Region to set out the basic output for the project, the Regional Action Plan for Green Procurement. This document contains the fundamental guidelines for improving the use of GPP by public authorities.
The Lombardy Region Action Plan on Green Procurement
With a view to simplifying relations between businesses and public administration, the Region has a long-standing collaboration with Unioncamere Lombardia for the development of the Lombardy Region Action Plan on Green Procurement. The goal is to use a systemic approach to converge activities, skills and instruments, with the technical and scientific support of Milan Polytechnic’s Consorzio Poliedra and of Lombardy’s Chambers of Commerce. The Action Plan is an instrument that should be used as a guide towards sustainable production and consumption, and to aid the transition towards a low-emission economy. The Plan also sits within the framework of Lombardy’s action lines for sustainability, set out in the Protocol for Sustainable Development of the Territory and the Environment.
The Action Plan, which will be approved at the end of 2019, will allow Lombardy Region to conform to the directions in the equivalent national plan, PAN GPP. This was adopted by interministerial decree in April 2008, and updated in April 2013, inviting regions to develop their own plans.
In addition to promoting the application of the GPP guidelines introduced in the Public Procurement Code – which are often disregarded, inadequate or not well-known – the Regional Plan includes the goal of improving Lombardy Region’s sustainability by incentivising the adoption of sustainable behaviour within public offices.
The proposed action lines that are being defined are derived from the online survey that was created in the context of Action A1.1 of the GPP4Growth project, and from the questionnaire that was distributed to stakeholders. The requests that emerged are linked to issues of training, activating technical support, sharing successful experiences and good practices, but also the necessity of improving the managerial aspects of public administration and the behaviour of individual officials.
In particular, among the proposed action lines there are measures in response to the need to reduce the impact of initiatives organised and promoted by the Region.
GreenFest: Sustainability for Events
In a way, events – such as festivals, exhibitions of art and culture, sporting events and activities with a significant impact not just on the economy and the territory, but also on the environment – can be seen as a perfect microcosm of GPP. This is because their organisation and execution require activities and supply chains with a high impact on themes like mobility, catering, materials, furnishings and energy. It’s possible to act on all of these issues in a coordinated way, obtaining significant environmental advantages. Furthermore, any event – given the element of public participation – can be very useful in terms of communication. For this very reason, the Ministry for the Environment has scheduled the publication of Minimum Environmental Criteria (MECs) related to “sustainable events.”
GreenFest – Green Festivals and Events through Sustainable Tenders – is focused on this issue, having received financing through the Life Ambiente programme. The project involves Anci Lombardia as promoter and Federculture, Fondazione Ecosistemi and a number of municipalities, associations and syndicates as partners. The goal is to draft MECs for cultural events, which will then be added to calls for tender and regulations.
Specifically, MECs for events aim to reduce environmental impacts tied to:
- use of energy, water and natural resources;
- greenhouse gas emissions and pollution of air, water and soil;
- waste production, prevention and separate collection, specifically for packaging, to favour circular economy;
- protection of biodiversity;
- accessibility and sustainable mobility;
- protection of the rights and dignity of workers in the supply chain.
In this context, the GreenFest project attracted the interest of Lombardy Region as a key stakeholder. Lombardy made available its dedicated “control room” for event organisation, to allow experimentation in the field. The perfect occasion presented itself with Lombardy Region’s Presidency of EUSALP – EU-Strategy for the Alpine Region – for the year 2019. The first “MEC-oriented” event was the EUSALP Young Administrators Convention, held in Como (21-22 September) and organised with Anci Lombardia. For this event, commitment to environmental sustainability affected various aspects, including low-impact and recycled set-ups, short-supply-chain organic catering, removal of single-use tableware and transport optimisation. A demonstration that sustainability is not just a matter of policy, but is also being applied concretely in the field.
GreenFest Green Festivals and Events through Sustainable Tenders, www.greenfest.eu