Mr. Falocco, on the basis of your experience, what was, in your opinion, the common strategy pursued by the various Regions with which you have collaborated and what is your personal overview?
The regions that have adopted strategies for the dissemination of Green Public Procurement have invested, first of all, to remove the main problems that hinder their adoption, namely the training of human resources, in particular of procurement managers, involved in public tenders. The critical factor that facilitates or hinders green public procurement is the ability of a public administration to change direction, starting to deal also with the environmental and social performance of a good, service or work. And all this from the moment the needs of procurement are detected, to get to build real green tenders, know how to assign the right emphasis on technical specifications or environmental clauses and be able to monitor the execution of the contract. That is where the real challenge of environmental requalification of public demand lies: without decisive investment in training and accompaniment to this transition phase, I do not believe that we will succeed in achieving ambitious objectives.
What are the future scenarios and how will companies adapt in an attempt to contribute to the environmental and social conversion of the economy?
Future scenarios have changed greatly since the date on which GPP became mandatory, with Law No. 221/2015 and its implementation in the Procurement Code. In future months, especially in the product areas where the adoption of Minimum Environmental Criteria is mandatory, it could be assisted, if the procurement stations continue to not adopt the CAM, to appeals by economic operators who produce or distribute goods or services that they respect the environmental performances foreseen by the CAM. I believe that this will lead to more attentive public administrations and companies more careful in meeting GPP requirements.
With the approval of the Environmental Connection (Law No. 221/2015) and of the Procurement Code, what novelties are there? Could the mandatory CAM slow down tender procedures?
2016 was a turning point, given that it saw the publication of Law 221 of 2015 - the so-called Environmental Connection, with the “Environmental provisions promoting measures of green economy and containing the excessive use of natural resources”- and the Procurement Code (Legislative Decree No. 50 of 2016), which, in Article 34, provides for the mandatory adoption of Green Public Procurement and Minimum Environmental Criteria in public procurement of goods, services and works. What changes concretely with the approval of this fundamental law? It is envisaged that - within the eleven product categories identified in the “Action plan for environmental sustainability of consumption in the public administration sector” - the Minimum Environmental Criteria are mandatory, through inclusion, in the relevant tender documentation, of technical specifications and contractual clauses. The obligation covers 100% of contracts affecting the objectives of reducing climate-altering gases and the efficient use of resources, namely: the procurement of high intensity discharge lamps, electronic ballasts and LED modules for public lighting, purchase of lighting equipment for public lighting and allocation of public lighting system design services; personal computers, printers, multi-functional devices and photocopiers; energy services for buildings, lighting services, heating and cooling of buildings. However, the obligation concerns 50% of the value of tenders for the remaining categories of supplies and allocations: urban waste management services; supplies of toner and inkjet cartridges; public landscaping services, for purchase of soil and ornamental plants, installations of irrigation systems; collective catering and foodstuffs; cleaning services and supply of hygiene products; textile products; office furniture; building and construction/road maintenance. This obligation, according to the provisions of the Ministry of the Environment Decree of May 24, 2016, will be increased, for some categories of economic activity (cleaning, management of public parks, soil, urban waste management, urban furniture and paper), over the next five years, from the current 50%, it aims to reach: 62% from 2017, 71% from 2018, 84% from 2019 and 100% in 2020. It should also be considered that the obligation also applies to the supply of goods and services and to the allocation of works subject to further ministerial decrees adopting the minimum environmental criteria: and this means that, for any future category of product or minimum environmental criterion, the same GPP obligation will apply. It can thus be said that the public procurement stations - that is the so-called “aggregator subjects” - from now on must necessarily adopt the Minimum Environmental Criteria approved with a special interministerial decree. To encourage the process of adoption of CAM by companies that will participate in public tenders - under the penalty of being forbidden from participating - in contracts relating to works, goods or services, the amount of the guarantee and its possible renewal is reduced by 30% for economic operators in possession of registration in the community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS, per its Italian acronym) or 20% for operators in possession of an environmental certification in accordance with the UNI EN ISO 14001 standard. In contracts for goods or services, the amount of the guarantee and its possible renewal would be reduced by 20%, also cumulative with the aforementioned reduction, for the economic operators in possession, in relation to the goods or services constituting at least 50% of the value of the goods and services covered by the contract itself, the eco-label (Ecolabel). In addition, in contracts relating to works, services or supplies, the amount of the guarantee and its possible renewal is reduced by 15% for economic operators who develop an inventory of greenhouse gases or a climate footprint. Finally, it is established that, for the awarding of grants, subsidies and funding on environmental matters, in the formulation of the rankings, the possession of registration in the community eco-management and audit system (EMAS), the possession of UNI EN ISO certification 14001, of an EU Ecolabel (EU Ecolabel), or the ISO 50001 certification on the rational energy management system, is preferred. We also monitor the application of minimum environmental criteria and the achievement of the objectives set by the action plan for environmental sustainability of consumption in the public administration sector, referred to in the same decree, and subsequent amendments. Article 23 of the Environmental Connection - in order to encourage the saving and recycling of materials through support for the purchase of products deriving from post-consumer recycled materials or the recovery of waste and materials deriving from the disassembly of complex products - the Minister of Economic Development, in agreement with the Minister of the Environment and the Protection of the Territory and the Sea, can enter into specific agreements and program contracts with the companies that produce goods deriving from post-consumer recycled materials or from the recovery of waste and materials coming from the disassembly of complex products, with priority for goods coming from waste, with public institutions, with public or private entities and with trade associations, including associations of companies that deal with reuse, preparation for reuse and recycling, with the persons in charge of carrying out the activities connected to the application of the principle of extended manufacturer responsibility. The same article states that, for the purchase and marketing of products made of mixed recycled polymer materials, the incentive paid varies according to the category of product, based on the criteria and percentages established in Schedule L-bis and that the incentives apply only to manufactured articles using post-consumer heterogeneous recycled polymer materials or deriving from the recovery of waste and materials deriving from the disassembly of complex products at least equal to the percentages indicated in the schedule. We are on the threshold of a lasting change towards environmental quality, which will radically change the way we prepare future calls for tenders, including public works and the offer of products and services in the construction sector; it is now a question of being able to understand the direction of change, the eco-innovations necessary on the side of products, services, organization and projects and the opportunities for new markets, more attention to the environment, which we will have to embrace.
While some administrative levels are more virtuous, such as the provinces and regions, there is a greater difficulty for municipalities, which are often burdened by local needs and emergencies, and by the lack of resources, so planning for Green Public Procurement is difficult. How could these problems be remedied?
It is true that in recent years the Regions and Provinces, exempt from the urgency that distinguishes the ordinary administration of the Municipalities, are more virtuous in the application of Green Public Procurement. The best way to respond to this difficulty is to resort to the “aggregator subject” that should have more technical skills and greater market power to insert environmental criteria within public procurement. Above all in this start-up phase, the aggregator, also in the form of a consortium among municipalities, could more easily deal with the environmental aspects connected with purchases of goods, services and works.
Given the crisis in the agricultural sector, sustainable catering in schools and hospitals, could it help to mitigate this crisis?
Surely the Minimum Environmental Criterion in the field of collective catering and the prohibition to carry out tenders with award criteria at the maximum discount in the catering sector, provided for by the new Procurement Code, can represent two important pieces in the recognition of the value of our agro-food sector. The collective catering - which concerns schools or hospitals - must be redeveloped by promoting fresh, seasonal, local, organic food, in menus that are finally able to promote the Mediterranean diet, overcoming the totally mistaken idea that food can be considered merchandise, to which the principle of economy should be applied at all costs. Our agriculture must be protected, first of all by recognizing the “right price”, the one that allows us to repay our efforts and investments, to agricultural products and to farmers. In addition, cafeterias can become a place of promotion and protection of our food and culinary tradition. Obviously all this must be combined with the fight against food waste, the result of the quantitative idea of food. Today, quality can and must be defended, starting from the cafeterias. Obviously it is only one of the elements that allows us to protect our quality agricultural tradition, witness of the biodiversity of our country.
With regard to the Sardegna Compraverde experience, can we consider it today the reference model par excellence of GPP compared to the other policies implemented in the Italian regions? If yes, why?
Surely the experience of the Region of Sardinia, and the Environment Directorate General of the European Union also affirms it, is among the most significant in Europe for the diffusion capacity of Green Public Procurement. In my opinion, there are five distinctive elements of this experience, and from these we need to start again if we wanted to spread green and sustainable purchases on a national scale. First of all, it was a systematic and medium-term initiative, which had the feature of continuity, even though there was a strong political change in the regional government. All the interested parties, be they public officials, administrators or business associations, have had, the impression that GPP was a stable policy of the Region, which did not suffer any slowdown or change of sorts. The second factor is, as repeatedly stated, the focus of regional intervention, which has concentrated efforts in raising awareness, training and capacity building to support GPP. And all the possible training tools have been adopted, with a high degree of flexibility: classroom training, technical workshops, on the job training, creation of standard tenders, helpdesks. The third factor concerns the ability to mobilize not only public entities, who are responsible for procurement procedures, but also the associative subjects of companies, the chamber system, to accompany companies, especially those who are medium/small size, and professionals, to possess the environmental services required by the Minimum Environmental Criteria. In this way the adjustment process was facilitated, making understandable the direction required in this environmental and social conversion of the economy. Fourthly, it was decided to include the objectives of GPP and Minimum Environmental Criteria in many sector policies - in particular tourism, agro-food and construction - avoiding the classic “conflicts of objectives” which is commonplace in public policies. Therefore, efforts have been made to ensure that all sectoral policies adopt GPP as a rewarding criterion, also in the adoption of incentives. Lastly, the continuous monitoring of the degree of achievement of results, in the regional perimeter, on the territory and among the municipalities, in Sardinian companies, etc. The monitoring system has become the best way to get feedback in an experimental policy like that of GPP, to make corrections, to adopt actions that could have remained as mere suggestions.
In administrations, can a change of government cause a cancellation of all green projects started, including GPP? Can the new procurement legislation, especially in Article 34, solve these problems?
In Italy this is a perennial risk, which derives from the scarce consideration of the environment as a common good to be protected. Indeed, the success of the Region of Sardinia, as we said, also depends on this ability to show continuity and stability over time. It is clear that a GPP that has become mandatory will help this process of stabilizing politics, and will make GPP mainstream. But we must be aware that, in Italy, some measures have failed at the moment of their institutionalization through a law. We therefore need to maintain a high level of pressure on public administrations and businesses to spread GPP and implement it effectively.
Having been in contact with many Italian public administrations, what are the limiting factors of the spread of GPP in local realities today?
In the local realities, there are essentially three problems that must be faced and solved: The first is the poor attitude to invest in the training of people, essential especially in change management. There is no change without the conviction, commitment, competence and dedication of people, who must grasp the urgency, to avoid inertial behaviors that tend to replicate what has been done in the past. The second is the lack of ability to dialogue with the market, avoiding that the only moment of dialogue is constituted by the announcement. On this it is necessary to overcome a merely legal-administrative vision of the public administration and to understand that dialogue, in moments of transition, is fundamental. We must prevent the market from considering GPP as an instrument. The third limiting factor is, in fact, organizational inertia. A policy is not enough to overcome it but neither is a law. We need a constant commitment, an awareness, a constant push forward. It is evident that the law is a starting point but we must not confuse it, even if it is for all those who have adopted GPP policies in the presence of perceived legal uncertainty, with a point of arrival. From here we must start investing other resources and other energies to drive this indispensable transformation.