Supportive processes


Assuming international responsibility by means of social and ecological procurement criteria for products and services

What do we mean by this?

The focus of green and socially responsible procurement is on the influence that can be exerted on environmental impacts, compliance with human rights, and fair working conditions in the value chain through the procurement of appropriate products and services.

Relevance and content
Research institutions often have a large procurement volume in the purchase of IT products, equipment and components, construction materials and activities, travel, and cleaning services. They can use this demand potential to improve the supply of environmentally friendly goods and services and to ensure compliance with international human rights and labour standards by their suppliers and service providers or their suppliers.

Challenges to respect for human rights and labour conditions rarely lie with the direct contractors of public institutions themselves, but rather within their supply chains. Companies are encouraged by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights1 to implement labour rights policies as part of their supply chain management, but they are not legally obliged to do so. Important aspects of decent work that should be considered in the criteria for socially responsible procurement include: Compliance with ILO core labour standards2 , fair pay, occupational health and safety, non-discrimination, and workers' entitlement to basic social security.

Environmental impacts also occur throughout the value chain of procured products and services. Especially in the case of an international supply chain, these may not fall under the strictest national environmental legislation. Environmental requirements in procurement may relate, for example, to recyclability, material specifics (e.g. recycled materials or conflict-free raw material sources), and production conditions (renewable energy sources or environmentally friendly manufacturing processes).

Legal framework for green and socially responsible procurement

In recent years, a number of procurement laws have been passed for public procurement at the federal and state level that facilitate the consideration of environmental and social standards in procurement. The EU Public Procurement Directive of 2014, which was transposed into national law in April 2016, has also upgraded labour, environmental, and human rights standards into general principles for procurement law. Accordingly, both social and environmental standards may be anchored in the contract performance conditions, the award criteria, and in the technical specifications.

How could a research organisation implement this?

  • Inform and teach procurement agencies, for example through the German government's Competence Centre for Sustainable Procurement (KNB)
  • Integrate social and environmental standards into the award criteria
  • Systematically analyse products and services typically procured with regard to environmental impacts and critical working conditions
  • Procure products and services with state eco-labels or other ecological product labels or certifications
  • Procure products with quality labels that guarantee the upholding of social standards

Practical example

Labelling of sustainable articles at Fraunhofer
In the eCommerce platform available throughout Fraunhofer, all articles that meet product-specific social and ecological criteria are labelled with a special symbol.

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Further information

United Nations (2011): "Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights"
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Core labour standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO) 
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Competence Centre for Sustainable Procurement (KNB)
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Sustainability reporting

GRI indicators
Ecology: G4-EN17, 32, 33
Society: G4-LA14 & 15 and G4-HR10 & 11