The City of Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest municipality. The region aims to be a forerunner in environmental and urban development and uses public procurement as a tool for driving positive change. CSR specialist Johan Davidsson has some top tips for success.

“We include sustainability requirements in our contracts because we know that we can make a difference. The City of Gothenburg is a large and important customer to many of our suppliers, so the criteria we set are important to them. We have strong ambitions within the sustainability field and together with our suppliers, we can make positive change happen”, says Johan Davidsson.

The City of Gothenburg procures products and services to a value of two billion Euros each year. Around 70 people work in the purchasing and procurement department.

Davidsson adds: “We have a good level of expertise and relatively extensive resources to work with sustainable procurement. We set own criteria when we need to, but it is often more efficient to use criteria that are already familiar to the suppliers. To achieve this, we make use of criteria in certifications, re-use contracts we’ve written earlier or learn from other public authorities and use materials from The National Agency for Public Procurement.”

The biggest challenge for City of Gothenburg is not to design the sustainability criteria, but to follow up whether products and factories comply with the set criteria. A criterion that isn’t followed up is meaningless to set in the first place, according to Johan Davidsson.

“We must be able to ensure that suppliers and the products we purchase comply with set requirements. The best strategy is to keep monitoring in mind throughout the whole process, also early in the process during the criteria design phase”, he says.

City of Gothenburg uses TCO Certified

The City of Gothenburg has decided to use sustainability certification TCO Certified as a tool when procuring IT products. Johan Davidsson explains why they see TCO Certified as the most appropriate sustainability certification for IT products:

“Referring to a certification in tender documents creates clarity for both suppliers and the purchasing organization. It is great that a third party verify that the criteria are being met. It is a lot easier and less resource-demanding for us to check whether or not a product is certified than to monitor compliance with all the criteria that are included in a certification.”

TCO Certified includes a large number of social and environmental criteria that go beyond legislation and industry standards. Asking for a certification that covers many parameters is easier and more efficient than setting and following up on these criteria separately, concludes Davidsson.

Ambitious work with conflict minerals

As a part of their work with sustainability, the City of Gothenburg strives for a responsible approach to conflict minerals such as tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold. These minerals, which are used in IT products, are extracted in conflict-affected regions under circumstances where human rights are routinely abused. The City of Gothenburg has published a report describing the complexity of the problem, why it is difficult to entirely avoid products that include conflict minerals, and what organizations can do to lower the risk. One way to do this, according to the report, is to include TCO Certified in the contract language for IT product purchases.

“There are no other applicable certifications that cover conflict minerals. With TCO Certified, the brand owner must have a policy for the responsible sourcing of minerals. They
must also support in-region initiatives working in conflict-affected and high-risk areas”, comments Johan Davidsson.

Tips! How to use certifications in procurement

  • The EU directive for public procurement allows public authorities to use ecolabels and sustainability certifications in procurement.
  • Some preconditions apply. For example, the certification’s criteria must be developed in an open and transparent process, and compliance with the criteria must be independently verified.
  • All third-party certifications that meet the requirements of ISO 14024, Ecolabel Type 1 also comply with the requirements of the EU directive. TCO Certified is one example.
  • To follow the EU directive, including the certification’s criteria in your contracts is preferable to directly asking for certified products. Require that the supplier shows a valid certificate, or equivalent, as proof of compliance.
  • Even if your organization isn’t covered by the EU directiv