22 mei

Amsterdam is going to buy a better world

Sustainable procurement is considered to be a dull issue, but it is not when Hans Dussel, chief procurement of the city of Amsterdam is addressing a conference. “Amsterdam is going to buy a better world”, is the title of his presentation to a packed meeting room. The topic of the day: the Dutch launch of ISO 20400 on Sustainable Procurement. During one afternoon, all speakers repeatedly refer to the Sustainable Development Goals, and SDG 12 on sustainable production and consumption in particular. In practice procurement is about decent payments for work, good labour relations, banning child labour, produce goods in a circular way and striving for zero carbon emission. This just illustrates: sustainable procurement never takes a dull moment.

neviAfter in-depth presentations on the new ISO-framework, Hans Dussel addresses the practice of procurement in the municipality of Amsterdam. With an annually budget around 1.7 billion euro the Dutch capital is confident that their procurement policy will work for a better world. The key factor is the way Amsterdam has integrated sustainability in its organizational processes. The spending of the 1.7 billion euro is highly decentralized over 30 directorates and deals take place over many issues and items, reaching from paperclips to new build neighborhoods. How to organize sustainable procurement regarding this reality? The policy in Amsterdam is simply: all 30 directors have to formulate Key Performance Indicators regarding all their purchase activities in the coming year. “And nobody”, says Dussel, “wants to see a red traffic light after a year” when an evaluation based on the KPI on sustainable procurement takes place. Contributing to the sustainability policy is also a firm commitment of the top management, next to the political commitment of the council’s executive in which left and right wing parties form a coalition. Moreover, Amsterdam employs an open source policy: all information is publicly available on their website; unfortunately for the foreign readers, only in Dutch.

The Amsterdam practice illustrates well the fundamentals of ISO 20400 guideline which incorporated the so-called Dutch wheel model, that describes the interaction between sustainable ideas and policies, sustainable procurement policy and strategies (Dutch Wheel 1) and the actual process of procurement (Dutch Wheel 2). The wheels are connected and rotate constantly, illustrating the continuous flow between policy and implementation. Go to to watch the Dutch Wheel in motion.

What goes for the capital will go for all municipalities in the Netherlands. Together they spent over 27 billion euro annually. The public procurement of all non-national government bodies together is about 41 billion euro. That is far over 50% of the total public budget spent on procurement. Just imagine all this money is contributing to a more sustainable world. And your mind will boggle envisaging all European local governments will purchase sustainable. And what will the impact be if public procurement of all local governments worldwide will address sustainability? In how many KPIs will that result? HR managers will be on cloud nine.

Are all local governments in the world going to buy us a better world then? Well, at least the opportunity is there. And by taking the opportunity, lessons can also be learnt from the private sector. At the same conference multinational Philips explicated the way their sustainable procurement policy transformed from compliance monitoring to support companies in their endeavor for sustainability. Philips is not looking to what is going wrong anymore , but to what can be improved in the production chain. With the new approach they are working together with their suppliers and address important issues effectively, consequently sustainable development is enhanced actually.

So, local government don’t invent the wheel of sustainable procurement yourself. Preferable together, local governments could do the same as Philips does: work together with all the companies in the many sectors local governments are dealing with.

It was a most informative conference with promising perspectives, only the answer was missed out to the question: Who invented that Dutch wheel?

Hans Buis
With many thanks to Martha Klein

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