Green Public Procurement (GPP) is a potentially powerful vehicle for improving sustainability by ensuring that national and local government buy products and services that are more sustainable and thus help develop the market for such products.
The potential impact of GPP is high, so it is vital that the purchasing criteria are sound and well founded. Criteria for public procurement in the cleaning sector must:
- consider all three pillars of sustainability – social, economic and environmental
- consider the full cleaning life cycle, including products, tools and equipment
- be scientifically sound and risk-based
Because a major part of the environmental impact arises or is determined during the cleaning process, it is also essential that GPP doesn’t stop at purchasing. There must be a parallel effort to ensure the cleaning is done in a sustainable way.
Early initiatives in GPP for cleaning products and services left much to be desired, but better approaches are being developed. Currently, EU guidance is based on eco-label criteria, which are controversial in being hazard-based and sometimes not reflecting best available science. The UK Government Buying Standards are much improved, though still relatively unambitious as some criteria are mandatory.
Important guidance has, however, been compiled through a joint initiative between UKCPI and BACS working with the Defra Chemicals Stakeholder Forum. This includes guidance on ingredient selection rooted in scientific risk assessment, importantly focusing on what is necessary and helpful. Impacts of ingredients are often only a minor part of the life cycle impact, but choice of the right ingredients can sometimes sharply reduce other impacts such as use of energy during cleaning. The guidance emphasizes it is the role of the formulator to achieve the most sustainable blend in the context of all other impacts in the cleaning life cycle.
The Guidance sets out three key steps towards sustainable professional cleaning:
- Choose products that are designed for sustainability as well as safety
- Work with suppliers so that they responsibly manage their manufacturing impacts
- Minimize the environmental impacts that arise during your cleaning operations
For an article on the background and development of GPP guidance for professional cleaning click here.