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Using Public Procurement to Regenerate Societies


Outlining the important role public procurement can play in development, helping to create more equal and sustainable societies.

Faced with the twin challenges of accelerating climate change and the economic and social fallout from a global pandemic, not to mention persistent, widespread problems such as inequality, hunger and air pollution, all countries have a tool at their disposal that they are not using nearly strategically enough.

Each year, governments around the world spend around $13 trillion on goods, services, works and utilities to meet the needs of their populations and economies. This public procurement spend represents one-sixth of total global GDP.

Developed and developing economies spend about the same amount but in lower-income countries procurement accounts for a much bigger proportion of the national budget and arguably has more potential to make a difference – if the right system is in place.

The concept of sustainable procurement has been around since the 1990s but has been gaining traction ever since, as public awareness of environmental problems in particular has risen.

Historically, the focus of sustainable procurement has been on mitigating harm, rather than on doing good. Sustainable procurement encourages consideration of social and environmental impacts alongside a focus on price and quality. However, in practice these additional goals are secondary to the original considerations, and are also defined too narrowly.

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