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Environmental footprint method to support the assessment of climate impacts of public procurements

News 2020-04-17 at 12:10
© Joe Beck / Unsplash

The Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method developed by European Commission is used to assess the environmental impact of products throughout their life cycles. A new study by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) proposes that this method is suitable also to be used to evaluate the climate impacts of public procurements.

“Currently, the Product Environmental Footprint method can be considered the most comprehensive and up-to-date method for producing environmental information on products over the course of their life cycles. Compared to previous standards and calculation methods, PEF provides more precise guidelines for modelling the environmental impacts of products", says researcher Johanna Suikkanen.

The Finnish Environment Institute recommends that in public procurements, suppliers would be required to provide PEF-based carbon or environmental footprint calculations at least in connection with the contract. This practice would also prepare markets for the wider adoption of PEF in the future. According to the Finnish Government Program, the Act on Public Procurement and Concession Contracts will be amended to include carbon and environmental footprints as procurement criteria in procurements with significant environmental impact.

“The procurements and investments of cities, municipalities, joint municipal authorities as well as the state have a huge impact. Their annual greenhouse gas emissions are more than 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, which makes up more than 15 percent of Finland’s consumption-based emissions. Information on the carbon footprint of procurements would help public organisations to reduce emissions and to establish markets for low-carbon goods and services", explains Development Manager Ari Nissinen.

Precise instructions for environmental assessment

In public procurement, different products or services need to be compared through tendering, or before that, through market analysis. The environmental footprint method can be used to produce comparable information on the environmental impacts of products and to calculate, for example, their carbon footprints.

“It is important that municipalities acquire new tools for observing climate aspects in their operations. Within the Canemure project, the City of Helsinki has been a pioneer in assessing the carbon footprint of procurements. One of the project’s goals is to spread effective practices for mitigating climate change. We also strive to share the knowledge we have gathered in Helsinki with other Finnish municipalities", says Laura Saikku, Project Leader of the Canemure project.

Low-carbon public procurements can be promoted, for example, by developing criteria for the carbon footprint and by advancing carbon footprint calculations in the procurement process. The newly published study by the Finnish Environment Institute was carried out in collaboration with the City of Helsinki. Helsinki promotes low-carbon public procurements in connection with the Canemure project. Previously, the Finnish Environment Institute has examined the effects of the environmental footprint on the Nordic Ecolabel and other integrated product policies.

Report: Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method - Use for evaluating the climate impacts of public procurement

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Further information

  • Johanna Suikkanen, Researcher, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, tel. +358 295 251 845, firstname.lastname@ymparisto.fi
  • Ari Nissinen, Development Manager, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, tel. +358 295 251 457, firstname.lastname@ymparisto.fi
  • Laura Saikku, Project Leader of the Canemure project, Senior Research Scientist, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, tel. +358 400 148 771, firstname.lastname@ymparisto.fi

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