On 3 July 2012 Rainforest Alliance, Max Havelaar (the Dutch member of Fairtrade International) and UTZ Certified submitted a coordinated message to the Dutch State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment regarding its sustainable public procurement policy, advising the inclusion of additional social criteria.
Sustainable public procurement refers to government purchases according to defined criteria relating to the social and environmental impact of products and services. Government purchases account for a large share of global GDP, and by putting in place sustainability requirements on products ranging from coffee to building materials to fuels, the market for green products can be drastically scaled up.
The three organisations, which specialise in agricultural standards, have advised the State Secretary to include an additional income norm which states:
"The income that farmers and workers in developing countries earn by selling their products is sufficient to meet the basic living needs, such as adequate food, clean water, shelter, clothes, education, healthcare, transport and energy of an average-sized family in a particular economy."
To make this norm operational, Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade and UTZ recommend the following options for procurement officials:
1) either through using the living wage/living income principle;
2) or through using the Fair Trade principle, made explicit through minimum price and pre-financing;
3) let the supplier chose between the principles of living wage/living income or minimum price and pre-financing.
The organisations also would like to cooperate with the government in communicating with public procurers, for example through a joint brochure, to have them better understand what the effect is of the choices they make. The ultimate goal is 100% sustainable coffee, tea and cocoa purchased by the Dutch government.
Sustainability standards have an important role to play in ensuring that public procurement policies are strong and recognise good practice and credibility in standards. By collaborating in their interactions with governments, especially in areas of common interest and expertise, sustainability standards can improve their chances of successfully influencing procurement policy.
One of the main objectives of ISEAL's project with SECO, launched in March, is indeed to increase the use of credible sustainability standards, such as those set by ISEAL members, in public procurement. For more information about this project click here.
For more information about this story, visit the UTZ Certified website.