Stronger together: public buyers join forces for a greener economy

20 June 2024

“When used strategically, public procurements can make our economy more productive, public institutions more trusted, and our public sector more efficient,” says Jean-Yves Muylle, Head of Unit Public Procurement Policy at the European Commission.

In the current context of pressing issues such as climate change, digital transformation, strategic autonomy and disruptions in supply chains, the role of public procurement is increasingly vital. To ensure its development, the European Commission (EC) is working to enhance collaboration among public buyers, and between public buyers and the EC.

The goal is to transform public procurement from a strictly procedural and legalistic tool into a strategic instrument capable of effecting European societal changes. “This shift in approach necessitates a change in policy focus from ‘how to procure’ to ‘what to procure,’ with the broader aim of enhancing productivity in the economy, efficiency in the public sector, and trustworthiness of institutions,” emphasises Muylle.

Public procurement can be a catalyst for innovation, which is one of the key reasons behind the Big Buyers Working Together project – to create impact on the market, leverage purchasing power and share collective intelligence.

A powerful tool to shape the future

“Procurement is a powerful tool that can drive sustainability, innovation and efficiency across public services and infrastructure,” explains Danko Aleksic, Project Coordinator of Big Buyers Working Together.

Bringing all actors and public buyers together is crucial for maximising the impact of public procurement. When stakeholders collaborate, they can pool their expertise, resources and purchasing power to create a larger influence on the market. This collaboration not only helps to set higher standards and foster innovation but also ensures that public procurement processes are more transparent, efficient and aligned with broader societal goals.

The collective effort can address common challenges and develop solutions that might be too complex for individual entities to tackle alone. “Within the Big Buyers initiative, our ten Communities of Practice are leveraging procurement to significantly influence market trends, encourage the adoption of new technologies, and promote environmentally friendly practices,” says Aleksic.

Ten areas of work

The initiative is comprised of ten Communities of Practice (CoPs), each focused on different sectors and areas of procurement to drive innovation and sustainability.

These CoPs include: Circular Construction, promoting material reuse and sustainable building practices; Zero Emission Construction Sites, reducing emissions in construction; the Digital CoP, integrating sustainable digital solutions; the New European Bauhaus, creating beautiful, sustainable urban spaces; the Mobility CoP, emphasizing sustainable transport; and Efficiency in Healthcare, improving healthcare procurement.

There is also: Social Procurement, which is developing socially responsible procurement practices; Sustainability in Healthcare, focusing on sustainable healthcare procurement; Heavy Duty Electric Vehicles, working towards electrification of heavy-duty vehicles; and the Sustainable Solar PV CoP, promoting transparent and sustainable solar energy solutions.

The ten Communities of Practice have identified needs in which they will work in the coming years. These include the adoption of environmentally friendly practices, the reuse and recycling of materials, and the development of robust criteria and standards to guide procurement processes.

“We see a clear demand for effective recycling and reuse of construction materials, the promotion of zero-emission machinery, the definition of sustainability criteria for ICT procurement, or the need to address infrastructure requirements for electric and hydrogen mobility,” explains Aleksic.

Despite the diversity of sectors, these CoPs share common challenges and goals in public procurement. All sectors aim to integrate sustainability, innovation and efficiency into their procurement processes. They face similar requirements to develop clear criteria and standards, understand market capabilities and implementing environmentally friendly practices. This shared focus allows them to learn from each other’s experiences and develop best practices that can be applied across different areas.

“To address these needs, we are engaging with the market to understand the state of the art of technologies and innovations,” adds the coordinator. “We are developing and testing procurement documentation through real-world pilot projects, and creating regulatory frameworks to support our sustainability ambitions. Moreover, we are focusing on capacity building, awareness activities, and the development of best practices and guidance for public procurers.”


The Big Buyers Working Together (BBWT) team organised its first in-person annual conference on 24 April 2024. All insights of the Conference are available here.


Lucía Garrido Eurocities Writer