Public procurement, or the purchase of goods and services using public funds, covers a range of sectors where environmental issues are important, from the construction of highways and buildings to the supply of power, water and sanitation services and the use of vehicles. Buying "green" at the government level can help significantly to improve overall environmental conditions. Equally importantly, environmentally sound public procurement can yield indirect benefits. By "kickstarting" markets for more innovative and environmentally-friendly goods and services, public procurement may encourage businesses to following the governments' lead.
Some OECD countries have already begun to promote greener public purchasing, for example through information targeted at procurement officers and the use of environmental pricing and other related financial tools in the evaluation of investments, and the OECD's activities in this area date from 1996. Through workshops and publications, initial work focussed on policy reviews of GPP programmes and initiatives in OECD member countries, as well as the examination of institutional factors which facilitate or hinder their success. Recent work has focused on the links between the environmental characteristics of public procurement and other aspects of public policy such as general environmental policy, public expenditure management, trade law and competition policy. The publication "The Environmental Performance of Public Procurement: Issues of Policy Coherence" reviews work at the OECD on these issues.
The OECD Council Recommendation on Improving the Environmental Performance of Public Procurement urges governments to build on these efforts by providing appropriate policy frameworks and support. Among other things, it recommends establishing appropriate procedures for the identification of greener products; government-wide information, training and technical assistance to facilitate implementation; and the development of indicators to monitor and evaluate programmes and policies. A Report to Council on the implementation of the Recommendation was published in 2007.