The procurement function links the UN system to the market, provides proof of the moral integrity and transparency of the various agencies, whilst also helping to communicate their intrinsic values.

Sustainable procurement is described as:

"A process whereby organizations meet their requirements for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole of life basis in terms of generating benefits not only to the Organization, but also to society and the economy, whilst minimizing its impact on the environment."

A careful sourcing is also a key tool in reducing the organization's greenhouse gas emissions, by including resource efficiency as a criterion in the requisition of products and services. Fuel-efficient vehicles, energy-efficient office equipment, building systems that allow better control of energy usage, goods and services with a lower life-cycle climate impact - these are just some examples of measures that can be taken to lower our environmental impacts.

Sustainable procurement, however, is not exempt from criticism. If not correctly and transparently applied, sustainable procurement could unfairly exclude some good suppliers from participating bids and, as such, be perceived as a disguised barrier to international trade. In addition, the trade-offs between environmental, social and economic considerations are not always easy to understand.

It is indeed important that sustainable procurement is applied without distorting markets or skewing suppliers' access to UN agencies. Instead, it should be introduced gradually and with great attention to local conditions and requirements, and in accordance with respective UN organizations' governing bodies' decisions.

In 2007 the UN Environment Management Group asked UNEP to produce guidance materials in the form of product criteria, training and information to procurers and requisitioners interested in sustainable procurement.

Examples of our work:

Policy advice:

We encourage and enable the transition towards sustainable procurement policy within all UN agencies by providing advice on legal and procedural modifications to ensure the inclusion of sustainability considerations in procurement manuals.


We provide a number of tools to facilitate the introduction and implementation of sustainable procurement:

Capacity building:

We provide training sessions for procurers and requisitioners - and other audiences - tailored to specific needs. Our on-line e-learning tool will be available, here, from May 2010.

Case studies:

We collect and share examples of best practice in sustainable procurement across the UN.

For more information contact Isabella Marras or Farid Yaker (