Circular procurement

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Circular procurement is an approach that  recognises the role that private and public authorities can play in supporting the transition towards a circular economy. Circular procurement can be defined as the process by which private or public authorities purchase works, goods or services that seek to contribute to closed energy and material loops within supply chains, whilst minimising, and in the best case avoiding, negative environmental impacts and waste creation across their whole life-cycle. As a concept it builds on Sustainable Procurement, adding elements such as closed-loop material use[1].

Policy context[edit]

The EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy has established an ambitious programme of action which will help to ‘close the loop’ of product lifecycles. This plan recognises public procurement as a key driver in the transition towards the circular economy, and it sets out several actions which the European Commission will take to facilitate the integration of circular economy principles in GPP. These include highlighting circular aspects in new or updated sets of EU GPP Criteria.

Circular public procurement also has a role to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, defined by the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Especially, SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production – includes a specific target on promoting public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities.[1] Furthermore, several countries, regions, and cities have been developing their own circular strategies in which public procurement is often emphasized as key mechanism for scaling up the transition to a circular economy.[1]

Three Levels of Circular Procurement[edit]

There are three types or ‘levels’ of models for implementing circular procurement[2]:

  • ‘System level’: concerns the contractual methods that the purchasing organisation can use to ensure circularity. For example, supplier take-back agreements or product service systems
  • ‘Supplier level’: how suppliers can build circularity into their own systems and processes, in order to ensure the products and services they offer meet circular procurement criteria.
  • ‘Product level’: focused solely on the products that suppliers to public authorities may themselves procure further down the supply chain.


As an addition to sustainable procurement, circularity can help buyers take a more comprehensive approach - from the first stages of a procurement to the end of product life – while also achieving financial benefits. A circular economy will retain materials at their highest value, push for innovation and support local employment markets. By 2025, at a global scale, it has an estimated potential to add $1 trillion to the global economy and create 100,000 new jobs within the next five years.[3]

Best-practice examples[edit]

Specific results depend on the product or service which is being procured, and several early adopters of circular procurement have already proved environmental benefits. For example the Procura+ Participant Public Health Wales  adopted a circular mindset when moving office in 2016, and instead sought suppliers who could reuse and remanufacture as much already owned furniture as possible.The winning tender provided an attractive, functional office design, in which 94% of furniture was reused or remanufactured.In total, around 41 tonnes of waste were diverted from landfill, and the project saved around 134 tonnes of CO2e based on: the re-use of 729 office/meeting room desks (saving 50.04 tonnes of CO2e), the re-use of 979 office/meeting room chairs (saving 57.70 tonnes of CO2e), the re-use of 522 office pedestals (saving 20.67 tonnes of CO2e), 670sqm of re-used carpet tiles (saving 5.7 tonnes of CO2e).

Another example comes from the Dutch Ministry of Defence, whose activities demand high use of textile products in its extensive military equipment. The initiated project lead to surplus/used clothing being no longer burned, but is recycled and restored to reusable fibres. This lead to a high percentage of recycled textile that is being processed in the new textile: 36% and 14%.

More examples can be found in the Sustainable Procurement Platform’s Resource Centre.


  1. ^ a b c Public procurement for a circular economy: Good practice and guidance. EU Commission. 2017. Content is copied from this source, which is © European Union, 1995-2018. Reuse is authorised, provided the source is acknowledged.
  2. ^ Mervyn Jones, Iben Kinch Sohn,, Anne-Mette Lysemose Bendsen (2017). Circular Procurement Best Practice Report (PDF). ICLEI Europe.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation, McKinsey. "Towards the Circular Economy: Accelerating the scale-up across global supply chains" (PDF). World Economic Forum.

Further reading[edit]

  • Alhola, Katriina; Ryding, Sven- Olof; Salmenperä, Hanna; Busch, Niels Juul (February 2019). "Exploiting the Potential of Public Procurement: Opportunities for Circular Economy". Journal of Industrial Ecology. 23 (1): 96–109. doi:10.1111/jiec.12770.