2014 January 29

New EU Directive: Good news for socially responsible public procurement

The revision procedure initiated three years ago has finally come to a conclusion. The new public procurement Directives approved recently by the European Parliament should allow public authorities across Europe to spend taxpayer's money more responsibly.

Electronics Watch welcomes the fact that contracting authorities can now:

  • Introduce social considerations throughout procurement stages as long as these are linked to the subject matter of the contract.
  • Differentiate based on process and production methods even if these are not visible in the final product.
  • Accept labels and certifications as proof of compliance with the criteria they have set and therefore give preference to bidders that offer better working conditions to their workers.
  • Demand compliance with obligations stemming from social and labour legislation during the execution of the contract, such as ILO Conventions and collective agreements, and tenderers can be excluded in case of non-respect.
  • Refer to a list of possible award criteria set out in the Directive which include social and fair trade aspects.
  • Include sustainability aspects in technical specifications.

However, Electronics Watch highlights the following drawbacks:

In practice, even if there is a requirement in law, control is unlikely to be effectively exercised over early stages of the production chain that happen outside of the EU. Particularly in the case of supply contracts for products that are already ready for sale, the production stage could be claimed to have occurred prior to the actual performance of the contract.

Unfortunately, the final text of the Directive would still allow to buy the cheapest option –and adds confusion to the criteria for assessing tenders. Although life-cycle costing provisions have been improved, social externalities cannot be taken into account.

In conclusion, Electronics Watch welcomes the new Directive, and looks forward to see how each country will incorprate this into their contractual law. It will be closely studied and incorporated in the development of the initiative and all upcoming work with its affiliate members. In the meantime, echoing the request of the NSDPP working group, Electronics Watch would also call for a clear guidance to ensure the correct application of this new Directive.