Helsinki is the largest public procurer in Finland, and the annual volume of the City’s procurements is about four billion euros. In accordance with its procurement strategy, Helsinki is committed to promoting environmental, social and financial responsibility in its procurements. Procurements are one of the key ways of implementing the Helsinki’s new City Strategy prepared in 2021, according to which the City of Helsinki will be managed according to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and climate change mitigation and adaptation and the protection of biodiversity will be prioritised.

In 2021, the execution of the updated procurement strategy started. A working group was appointed to promote responsibility and effectiveness and to assume responsibility for promoting the measures in the procurement strategy theme. In procurement development, the focus was on reducing climate emissions and harmful substances and the development of monitoring.

On average, the environmental criteria were used in around 51% of the procurements of the City’s divisions and enterprises in 2021 when examined as individual procurements. However, there are differences in how the City divisions and public enterprises use environmental criteria: for example, up to 100% of the Service Centre’s and Culture and Leisure Division’s procurements included environmental criteria in 2021, while 80% of Stara’s procurements include such ceiteria. Some of the City divisions still faced major challenges in monitoring the environmental criteria.

The criteria used most frequently last year were the criteria in the environmental management system. In addition to this, the environmental criteria, energy efficiency, reduction of harmful substances and recyclability were emphasised regarding vehicles and machinery. The selection of the criteria applied shows the impact of the Green Deals that entered into force last year.

City of Helsinki’s efforts towards sustainable procurements were recognised

At the end of the year, the City Of Helsinki received the Procura+ Award from the ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability in the ‘Procurement Initiative Of The Year’ category. The award focused especially on the work done for responsible procurements in the Towards Carbon Neutral Municipalities and Regions (CANEMURE) project. 

The Procura+ Award highlights sustainable and innovative procurements and offers visibility for public buyers and initiatives that aim for the future. 

Emissions from worksite operations and harmful chemicals were reduced with a Green Deal agreement

The realisation of the Green Deals on procurements started in earnest in 2021. Regarding both deals, several market dialogue events and education sessions were organised.

The first requirements agreed on in the Green Deal for zero-emission worksites entered into force on 1 July 2021. This means that procurement criteria that control exhaust emissions will be set for all worksites of the City of Helsinki. In 2021, zero-emission worksites, in accordance with the Green Deal, were implemented in 11 infrastructure projects, for example. Several projects are already going beyond these requirements, and worksites are being implemented as low-emission ones by using renewable diesel fuels, for example. The aim of the Green Deal agreement for emission-free worksites is to reduce the emissions generated by worksites and promote the electrification of machinery.

The Green Deal on reducing harmful substances in the procurements of the early childhood education sector finalised the procurement criteria for cleaning agents and sanitation services. Within the deal, criteria for the procurement categories of indoor and outdoor playing equipment and furniture were prepared in 2021. The aim of the procurement criteria and market dialogue events is to minimise the amount of harmful substances in daycare environments through procurement processes, and, therefore, reduce the total chemical exposure of children. 

Green Deal is a voluntary agreement between the government and the public sector or businesses. Besides Helsinki, the agreements involve a large number of Finnish cities and other public procurers, which is why the agreement has the potential to have a great impact on the market.

New initiatives on a national procurement strategy and metropolitan cooperation

In 2021, Helsinki was especially active in networking regarding responsible procurements. In Finland, the execution of the national procurement strategy started, and Helsinki assumed an active role in it. In the ecological sustainability theme group of Hankinta-Suomi, ecologically sustainable food procurements were promoted, and discussion was initiated on promoting biodiversity through procurements. The municipalities in the Metropolitan Area started closer cooperation in the Metropolitan Policy Procurements working group, which prepares funding applications to promote low-emission procurements, in particular. 

At the international level, Helsinki continued working in the European Commission’s Big Buyers cooperation groups, which developed zero-emission worksites and electric worksite machinery and. Helsinki also actively participated in peer learning events and cooperation groups organised by ICLEI, such as the group for responsible ICT procurements and the group for circular economy procurements.

Legislation on clean vehicles introduced changes to vehicle and transport service procurements

The Act on Environmental and Energy Efficiency Requirements for Vehicle and Transport Service Procurements, and implementation of the EU Clean Vehicles Directive, entered into force on 2 August 2021. The Act will accelerate the increase in the proportion of low-emission and zero-emission vehicles of the City of Helsinki’s vehicle and transport service procurements in the coming years. The objectives of the law are in line with Helsinki’s carbon neutrality objective, in addition to which Helsinki has also prepared minimum environmental criteria even for vehicle and transport service procurements that remain outside the law. 

Of other procurement categories, the development work was directed especially at ICT devices, property maintenance procurements and food and restaurant services.

Climate impacts are taken better into account in various procurements

The development of the City’s low-emission procurements continued under the six-year Towards Carbon Neutral Municipalities and Regions (Canemure) project. Helsinki’s subproject examines nine different procurements that have a significant climate impact. The possibility of taking the carbon footprint into account was assessed during their preparation. In 2021, tenders were invited for the last pilot procurement within the Canemure project: food services for senior homes and the Service Centre. Additionally, the project compiled a report on the application of carbon footprint data to public construction and food procurements. The report was published in early 2022.

In June 2021, the project organised the ‘Sustainable school meals – environmentally responsible meal services in municipalities’ webinar in cooperation with the cities of Espoo and Vantaa. 

Image 14. One of the forms of procurement followed in the Environmental Report is business trips by air by City employees. The COVID-19 pandemic further decreased their number in 2021. The City’s travel instructions state that the carbon neutrality and low-emission perspectives need to be taken into account in all business and business trips.

Eyes on the future

Management of responsible procurements, training and operating models will be made more systematic with the implementation of the procurement strategy. The areas to be developed next include the responsibility of ICT device procurements, better consideration of social and financial responsibility and the protection of biodiversity through procurements. The procurement work will focus increasingly on producing impact and developing monitoring.