I apologise for being a little delayed. I was opening a conference.
The Government supports the move towards more green public procurement and recognises that the public service must demonstrate its commitment to sustainable development and use its influence to persuade others of the changes required to reduce our collective impact on the environment.
Work to promote the incorporation of social and environmental considerations in public procurement is being progressed by the Office of Government Procurement, OGP, under the national public procurement policy framework, which is the overarching policy framework for public procurement in Ireland. Under this framework, proposals to implement environmental considerations in public procurement are being developed through the cross-departmental social considerations advisory group, chaired by the OGP.
The Minister and I have been in discussions with our colleague the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment on green public procurement in the context of our climate action plan. We have agreed that the incorporation of green criteria into public procurement will be achieved in a structured manner, with progressive implementation focusing on areas that have the greatest impact.
In this regard, the OGP, in co-operation with the Department of Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, is currently developing a circular for Departments and offices on promoting the use of environmental and social considerations in public procurement. The circular will direct Departments and offices to consider including environmental criteria in their procurement, where such clearly defined, quantifiable, verifiable and measurable criteria have been developed by the Department of Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
An overarching objective of all public procurement is the achievement of value for money. In implementing environmental considerations in public procurement, it is crucial that an approach is adopted that will further Government policy while also ensuring a competitive market place where suppliers can compete aggressively, resulting in the desired pricing outcome. In areas where the market is not yet sufficiently competitive, a phased approach to environmental considerations in public procurement may be necessary to encourage the emergence of new suppliers with innovative solutions. Care should be taken to ensure the addition of environmental considerations to public contracts is achieved in a manner that does not mitigate against small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs as they may not be in a position to bear the additional costs or administrative burden.