Adam, I., Fazekas, M. and Zellmann, C. (2021). Open and sustainable procurement. Towards deepened collaboration between reformers. GTI-WP/2021:01, Budapest: Government Transparency Institute.
Public procurement as a major area of government spending has the potential to act as a driver for social change and sustainable development. Its strategic use has recently gained traction with two related policy movements emerging: sustainable public procurement (SPP) and open contracting (OC). This paper explores paths towards a deepened collaboration between open and sustainable procurement advocates and practitioners. Building on literature and key informant interviews, it outlines the two fields, their potential for mutual reinforcement and positive impact as well as possible tensions. Both fields can reinforce each other by generating interest, motivation and capacity among key stakeholders to build on the sustainable and open dimensions of procurement. OC principles and practices can create the transparency and trust, help prevent corruption needed at early stages of reforms and help overcome pressure from incumbent non-sustainable suppliers. It can help address ‘cost’ concerns that hold back wider adoption of sustainable procurement by providing detailed data on long-term savings. Application of OC principles will also help ensure interoperability of procurement data systems. At the same time, engagement of SPP advocates can make a major contribution to wider OC reforms by creating a public policy focus on tackling critical challenges through strategic procurement. Both SPP and OC reformers deeply recognize the importance of public procurement as one of the key financial levers for progressive government policy. They bring highly complementary expertise to this task. In some cases, reformers from both fields are already collaborating. Increasing this engagement has great potential to build stronger momentum for the strategic use of public procurement. Joined-up approaches at the technical level can help ensure that reforms stick and make a difference in practice.