EcoProcura conference highlights strategic potential of sustainable and innovation procurement in Europe

After three days of exciting exchange, delegates at the EcoProcura conference in Ghent (Belgium) concluded that for Europe to gain maximum benefit from procurement practices, sustainable and innovation procurement must be placed at the heart of strategic decision making. The European Commission’s revised Public Procurement Directives will play a significant role in harnessing the immense capacity of the public sector to foster sustainable and innovative solutions, and move procurement from being seen as an administrative to a strategic concern.

The conference, organised by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the City of Ghent, demonstrated the consensus that the pressing issues facing Europe today require public authorities to work with the market to develop sustainable and innovative solutions, rather than viewing the market as unchangeable. The move towards a more cooperative and transparent relationship with business was emphasised. These outcomes will inform policy processes, and will be fed into the Procura+ Campaign, a movement of public authorities at the forefront of sustainable and innovation procurement in Europe.

“Sustainability and innovation are moving from secondary considerations to central elements of procurement as highlighted by the recently revised European Union Public Procurement Directives. ICLEI’s Sustainable Procurement Campaign, Procura+, is playing a crucial role in this movement. This year it celebrates its 10th anniversary of supporting public authorities in implementing sustainable procurement. I urge all public authorities to rethink the importance of procurement in making the shift towards sustainable patterns of production and consumption to the benefit of our society, the environment and future generations,” said Pekka Sauri, Deputy Mayor of the City of Helsinki (Finland) and Procura+ Chair.

At the close of the event, the City of Ghent demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by signing a strategy on sustainable procurement and a Charter that obliges the city to spend 10 percent of its ICT budget on innovative solutions.

Daniël Termont, Mayor of the City of Ghent, said: “We are proud that ICLEI has chosen Ghent as the host city for its EcoProcura Conference. Sustainability is in all that we do, exemplified by our aim to achieve a climate neutral city by 2050. Moreover, Ghent wants to be a ‘smart city’ that employs creative solutions to everyday problems, and unites citizens to learn from one another. Ghent is a firm believer in the important role procurement plays in making our city more sustainable and in obtaining innovative products and services.”

In addition, EcoProcura saw the first ever Public Procurement of Innovation Award presented. For more information on the award, read the press release.

The close of the conference will see the conversation move online. Procurers are invited to sign up to the Procurement Forum to exchange with other stakeholders from around Europe.

Winner of the Public Procurement of Innovation Award revealed

Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam (the Netherlands) was announced as the winner of the Public Procurement of Innovation Award at a ceremony held during the EcoProcura conference, in Ghent (Belgium) yesterday. The Dutch hospital, which overcame competition from five other finalists, was praised by the jury for its innovative robotic bed washing facility. The award was presented by Bonifacio Garcia Porras of DG Enterprise and Industry, European Commission.

The Erasmus University Medical Centre asked the bidders to design a more cost and environmentally efficient solution to disinfect the hospital's 70,000 beds and mattresses. The contract was won by IMS Medical, who proposed a creative approach - high precision cleaning robots that disinfect the beds in a conveyor belt format, similar to the set-up employed by car manufacturers. Through the facility, the cleaning costs per bed were lowered by 35 percent compared with the existing solution, and the CO2 footprint reduced by 65 percent. The City of Oslo (Norway), Région Rhône Alpes (France), and A Coruna City Council (Spain) were given honourable mentions during the ceremony. A more in-depth profile of each finalist, detailing their organisation, procured innovation and supplier, is available here.

The jury also praised the private companies who supplied the innovative solutions, with each company involved in the procurement processes commended for contributing to a more efficient and competitive Europe. "Public procurement has a significant role to play in stimulating innovation to ensure that Europe successfully meets future economic, social and environmental challenges. Procurement requirements that demand innovative solutions can stimulate new sources of jobs and growth in Europe. I warmly congratulate the winner of the PPI Award and I hope that the procurement practices of the winner and the nominees will act as an inspiration to others." said European Commissioner Ferdinando Nelli Feroci.

For more information, read the press release.

First day of EcoProcura provides wealth of examples and ideas

The inaugural day of EcoProcura 2014 has attracted hugely positive feedback from participants, with the speakers, networking opportunities and venue all complimented. Martine De Regge, Deputy Mayor of Human Resources, Facility Management and Administrative Simplification, City of Ghent and Mark Hidson, Deputy Director of ICLEI Europe, warmly welcomed participants, with Facilitator Peter Woodward effortlessly engaging the audience in his inimitably warm style. 

Aline de Tremerie and Mieke Peters presented the City of Ghent’s take on sustainable procurement: an exemplary strategic approach, which highlighted many examples of how this is implemented across various products and services. The speakers provided an inspiring blueprint for public procurers to emulate, emphasising the benefits inherent in sustainable and innovative procurement.

The plenary then explored sustainable procurement’s relationship to the human psyche, with Dr Leutz Preuss speaking eloquently about the psychological barriers that must be overcome to ensure that sustainable and innovative procurement become commonplace in Europe. Dr. Preuss concluded that public procurers need to be exposed to a range of ideas in order to take positive action.

Participants were given the opportunity to break into smaller groups during the Market Lounge, allowing for more free-flowing conversation. It was in these groups that procurers had the chance to delve into issues, soliciting the experience and knowledge of their international colleagues. A lesser facilitator would have struggled to wrap up each session!

The  Market Lounge segued into the final plenary of the day, which focused on how public procurement can be professionalised – in other words how can the right staff, the correct frameworks and the necessary support can come together to ensure that procurement is a central part of any organisation.

Paul McNulty, Deputy Director of the Scottish Procurement Directorate highlighted the role of leadership in ensuring that procurement is seen as a vital part of public and private organisations. Sustainable procurement - or (in the words of Barbara Morton) good procurement - can only be achieved if the right environment is created, one that recognises and encourages the value of embedding sustainable development goals from the outset, stated Mr. McNulty.

He presented his experience in reforming procurement legislation in Scotland, citing strong political leadership as a reason for the legislation’s success. He also expressed positivity towards the European Commission’s revised Public Procurement Directive, praising the enhanced opportunities to seek sustainable and innovative procurement.

The portion of the evening spent in ICC Ghent came to a close with a wine reception, where an impressive array of seasonal, locally sourced cuisine was enjoyed – one attendee even went so far as to say that the EcoProcura had set a “new standard for healthy, quirky and delicious canapés!”

The evening finished with three tours of Ghent. The architectural and culinary tour revealed the changing face of the city, showcasing the modern edifices among the historical facades. The tour finished with a nod to Belgium’s reputation for producing world-class beers, with a tasting at the Gruut Brewery.

The Boat tour to the design museum brought participants on an eco-friendly electric boat trip on the canals of Ghent to the exhibition “No Design to Waste” at the Design museum of Ghent.

The Historical tour stopped at each of the city’s landmarks in the old town, as well as some modern gems.

Positivity is high as the conference moves into its second day.