Local authority priority

25th of November 2010

News on an environmental initiative from Tom Crockford in Scandinavia.

Much is talked and written about the development of ‘green’ cleaning products, and the need to minimise their impact on the environment. A quick glance through the ads in this magazine will confirm this trend, with companies everywhere trumpeting their focus on environmental friendliness. This, of course, is the ‘push’ side of the equation. But there is also a ‘pull’ side.

Public authorities are more and more demanding that the products they buy conform to certain sustainable guidelines. Nowhere is this more emphasised than in the Procura+ campaign, which was established in 2004 by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). Procura+ is an initiative designed to help support public authorities in implementing sustainable procurement, and to help promote their achievements. Within this programme, six product groups have been identified as having a particularly high potential for emphasising sustainability, one of which is cleaning products.

The current chairman of the global Procura+ campaign is Pekka Sauri, deputy mayor of the City of Helsinki, and I recently interviewed him to find out more about it. “Helsinki has been very active in promoting sustainability and we have been part of Procura+ from the very beginning,” explains Sauri. “Already in the 1990s we won an important ruling from the European Court of Justice. The Court upheld our right to include environmental criteria in the tendering of city busses, and thanks to this ruling, cities across Europe are today specifying such environmental criteria in their tenders.”

For each product group identified by the Procura+ campaign, there is a set of simple purchasing criteria that address the most important environmental and/or social aspects for procurers. These criteria can be inserted directly into tender documents, and are designed to address the most significant lifecycle environmental impacts related to the product group; to be legally compliant and easy to apply and verify; and not lead to a significant increase in costs. For cleaning products and services, the most significant environmental impacts identified are air pollution, ozone formation, bioaccumulation or food chain exposure, possible hazardous effects on aquatic organisms due to the use of certain chemicals within cleaning agents, and negative impacts on the health of employees.

The campaign is growing in popularity around the world, but surprisingly support for it in Scandinavia has been somewhat sporadic according to Pekka Sauri. “In Finland we are doing well with all the major cities already on board, but this isn’t the case throughout the Nordic countries. For example, even Copenhagen is not a member of Procura+,” he says. This may be because many cities already have their own environmental guidelines but it is surprising.

The Procura+ seminar 2010 is being held this month (November) in Helsinki, with some 200 attendees expected. The government of Finland’s capital city is a staunch believer in this campaign. “We see many benefits,” explains Sauri. “The most obvious is that by paying attention to potential environmental impacts we improve the quality of life for the city’s residents. For example, a leading British magazine recently rated Helsinki as the fifth ‘most liveable city’ in the world, and we strive to set a benchmark for others to aim at.”


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