Socially responsible public procurement (SRPP) is about achieving positive social outcomes in public contracts. Procurement affects a large number of people, whether as users of public services, those involved in production and delivery, or staff of the buying organisation. Beyond those directly affected, SRPP has the potential to influence the broader market on both the demand and supply sides.
By purchasing wisely, public buyers can promote employment opportunities, decent work, social inclusion, accessibility, design for all, ethical trade, and seek to achieve wider compliance with social standards. For some products, works and services, the impact can be particularly significant, as public purchasers command a large share of the market in sectors such as construction, healthcare and transport. Public buyers are major investors in Europe, spending 14% of the EU’s gross domestic product. By using their purchasing power to opt for goods and services that deliver positive social outcomes, they can make a major contribution to sustainable development. Increasingly, the need to address all three pillars of sustainability (social, environmental and economic) in procurement is recognised by both the public and private sectors.
The 2014 Public Procurement Directives1 make it clear that social aspects can be taken into account throughout the procurement cycle, from preliminary market consultation, through to the use of reservations and the light regime, and to social award criteria and contract performance conditions. Public buyers across Europe are starting to take advantage of these opportunities and demonstrate real social impact in their purchasing. Despite this, Member States are not yet fully exploiting the possibilities of public procurement as a strategic tool to support social policy objectives.
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