Germany's federal, state and local authorities expend approximately €350 billion a year on products and external services. In light of this, they bear particular responsibility to discharge their state duty to protect human rights and ensure that the use of public funds does not cause or facilitate any adverse impacts on human rights. By placing greater emphasis on sustainability in their procurement transactions, public authorities not only fulfil their function as role models but can also wield significant leverage in increasing the demand for sustainable products. The 2030 Agenda also makes explicit reference to sustainable public procurement as an instrument for achieving sustainable development.
Assistance for public contracting authorities and enterprises
The Federal Government has established a number of institutions and bodies to help both public contracting authorities and contractors to increase the share and quality of sustainable products and services in the public procurement system. The Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Procurement at the Procurement Office of the Federal Ministry of the Interior was created as part of a set of sustainability measures adopted in 2010. This body provides consultation services, training courses and information and conducts events to help public contracting authorities in their efforts to apply sustainability criteria in general and human rights criteria in particular in their procurement procedures, and to advance their implementation. The work of the Centre of Excellence targets all public contracting bodies at all levels: federal, state and local authorities. The Centre works closely with other institutions such as the "Kompass Nachhaltigkeit" (sustainability compass). Created by order of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, this information portal provides procurement offices in enterprises and government bodies practical assistance, offers extensive information on sustainable procurement and, in particular, helps users identify relevant sustainability standard systems (quality labels) that serve as proof of compliance with social and environmental requirements in the value chain of certain product groups.
2016 reform of procurement law
The reform of German procurement law in 2016 included the transposition of three new EU procurement directives into German law. The new Part IV of the Restraints of Competition Act places particular emphasis on compliance with the law, especially taxation, labour and social legislation (sections 97(3) and 128(1) of the Act). The new legal framework enables procurement bodies to make greater use of public contracting to advance strategic goals such as social standards, environmental protection and innovation.
The Federal Government committed itself in the National Action Plan to examining whether and to what extent binding minimum requirements for human rights due diligence in enterprises can be enshrined in procurement law in a future revision. It will draw up a phased plan indicating how this aim can be achieved. In addition, the expertise of the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Procurement in matters pertaining to social standards, including the application of the ILO core standards to procurement procedures, and in the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles will be put to use in training courses to expand the knowledge of procurement staff.