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Sustainable procurement of cleaning agents - the multitude of guidelines

A large number of different recommendations and guidelines exist for the implementation of sustainable procurement measures. These were written by various institutions and are usually only addressed to certain areas in public procurement. For example, there are eight guidelines alone that deal with the sustainable procurement of cleaning agents and cleaning services. These usually contain assistance for the integration of minimum criteria, the creation of service descriptions and the procedure for evaluating offers.

Availability of guides and manuals for the sustainable procurement of cleaning agents

Guidelines and manuals dealing with the sustainable procurement of cleaning agents are published by more and more institutions, such as the European Union, the United Nations, the OECD, the ministries of the federal states and the Federal Environment Agency. Since 1999 alone, more than 70 concepts have been published that deal with the topic of sustainable procurement, as well as at least 30 guidelines that specifically address the topic of ecological sustainability. Eight of these documents contain specific recommendations for action or support for the sustainable procurement of cleaning agents and services. Three of them are completely or at least partially dedicated to this topic:

In addition, there are five other documents in the form of concepts, manuals and study results, which also contain sections on the sustainable procurement of cleaning agents and services:

The sustainable procurement of cleaning agents is becoming more and more important

The sustainable procurement of cleaning agents seems to have become more and more important at the political level in recent years, because all documents dealing with this topic were published between 2011 and 2019. They were published at the federal, state or local level, so that all political levels are represented.

In addition, there are cross-city regulations, such as the city of Leipzig's concept for fair and sustainable procurement, as well as internal organizational guidelines. A good example of the latter is the German Society for International Cooperation, or GIZ for short.

Differences Between Sustainable Sourcing Guides

The guidelines for sustainable procurement, which explicitly contain sections on purchasing cleaning products and services, have some, sometimes large, differences. These are mostly based on the fact that the various institutions pursue different goals.

In the guidelines of the City of Leipzig, for example, it is pointed out that the recommendations of the Federal Environment Agency should be taken into account when awarding contracts. In addition, in the case of product groups for which the RAL “Blue Angel” eco-label exists, the products that meet its criteria should also preferably be purchased.

The GIZ publication provides an overview of the framework conditions for sustainable procurement and the procurement process, including sustainability aspects. Examples of performance descriptions including potential for improvement are also presented. The requirements placed on cleaning companies are based on the criteria of the EU Ecolabel.

The European Union, on the other hand, gives a far-reaching overview of the implementation of sustainable procurement, the procurement process itself and the award and contract negotiations.

In the publication of the European Commission, the focus is particularly on the consideration of life cycle costs. For this purpose, the selection criteria, technical specifications and clauses for the fulfillment of the contract were recorded.

The guidelines of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg include product specifications and award criteria for various products and services in the cleaning industry. It should help public clients to take into account the ecological requirements of § 3b HmbVgG in the context of the order process.

The guide to sustainable cleaning services from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of the Environment primarily deals with maintenance and glass cleaning services for buildings. For the preparation of the tender documents, minimum criteria and evidence for the description of services as well as clauses for the execution of the contract were created. If all the required criteria are met, the award should be based on the price.

The guidelines of the Hessian Ministry of Finance aim to provide support in the preparation of the contract documents, whereby the bidder's suitability test, the description of services and the contractual conditions are particularly important for the execution of the order. Help is also given for common quality marks and methods of evaluating offers.

The guidelines of the Federal Environment Agency contain essential information for the inclusion of environmental aspects in the procurement and contract documents. There is also a supplier questionnaire on the environmental compatibility of detergents, cleaning agents and care products. Reference can be made to these in the specification of services in order to clearly and exhaustively describe the environmental requirements under public procurement law.

Supplement to the guidelines

However, in order to guarantee truly comprehensive sustainable procurement based on the latest findings, most guides on sustainable procurement in cleaning need to be updated. This also applies to the current guidelines of the Federal Environment Agency, which are still state-of-the-art from 2012. It is therefore important here to specify the subject of the procurement more precisely. In most guidelines, for example, some environmental criteria are missing, such as the obligation to have a permanently connected dosing device, a packaging design in line with the circular economy and the obligation to use an unprinted and uncolored design, as well as the avoidance of microplastics, a recipe made from regenerative raw materials, the use of oil derivatives to protect the rainforest or to ensure sustainable production.

In order to meet these criteria and to make it easier for public buyers to tender environmentally friendly products, we have developed the extended environmental questionnaire. This can be used to procure cleaning agents and services in building cleaning. By using the extended environmental questionnaire, public procurers can be sure that only products with harmless ingredients are put out to tender and purchased in a legally compliant manner.