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Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP): Developing and Testing Sustainability Indicators for Public Procurement Tenders in Switzerland in line with the WTO Government Procurement Agreement



Seele P.


De Rossa Gisimundo F.


Stürmer Matthias, Uni Bern



Knebel S.



Public Procurement and Sustainability. Public procurement in Switzerland covers funds of more than 40 billion of CHF annually. Federal, cantonal, and communal agencies, as well as all public corporations under the public procurement law, have a role model function in general procurement. What motivates this project proposal is the role public procurement plays in the transformation towards a sustainable economy: Public procurement is meant to become ‘sustainable’ through the current revision of the Federal Act of Public Procurement (FAPP), following the 2012 renewed international “Government Procurement Agreement” (GPA) by the World Trade Organization (WTO). In Switzerland the FAPP, as well as cantonal legislation, considers different types of criteria for vendors and their offers during a public procurement process: 1. Eligibility criteria, 2. Technical specification, and 3. Acceptance criteria. The project proposes to develop and validate a set of indicators and criteria to make public procurement more sustainable.

The objective: Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP): Given the upcoming GPA for public procurement also in Switzerland the inclusion of criteria for sustainability is a legal requirement contributing to an overall sustainable economy incorporating economic, environmental, societal and governance issues. The project identifies therefore the following research gap: Legally backed sustainability is to be implemented in public procurement in Switzerland by directive of the federal council, but it is not yet specified in detail how implementation is organized. To help closing this gap towards SPP we focus on the following objective: Identification of criteria and indicators leading to tangible sustainable development for public procurement tenders in Switzerland (and elsewhere) in line the WTO’s GPA.

Team Composition: The project is proposed by three applicants bringing together the required expertise building on sustainability indicators (P. Seele, Lugano, main applicant), public procurement and data management (M. Stürmer, Bern) and the legal framework of procurement (F. De Rossa, Lugano). Our confirmed implementation partners come from the Swiss Federal Administrative Court (with connection to the WTO), the Federal Office for the Environment (BAFU), the Conference on Public Procurement from the Canton Bern, and the NGO PUSCH (“Kompass Nachhaltigkeit”).

Research Design: The project evolves along five subsequent phases (see figure 2). 1. Data analysis: Status quo of sustainability criteria in current public procurement tenders in Switzerland. We use the data of 48’800 procurement tenders collected by co-applicant M. Stürmer available at to conduct a quantitative software- and human-based content analysis. 2. Existing indicators: We review national and transnational sets of existing sustainability indicators and identify their potential to be applied for SPP. Here also legal feasibility in accordance with Swiss law and international agreements is taken into account. 3. Criteria drafting: Criteria and indicators building on stage 1 and 2 are selected to make eligibility and acceptance criteria of public procurement more sustainable. Also questions of weighting and priorities are included. 4. Validation: The academic core of the research project also contributing to scholarly knowledge is a set of social-psychological studies to empirically test the acceptability of the newly derived SPP indicators among relevant stakeholder groups. We conduct a survey to measure acceptability first, followed by a conjoint analysis to determine the importance of each indicator followed by experimental 2x2 design. 5. Enhancement: We analyse the legal dimension of the validated indicators and the question if and if so, in how the application of the FAPP should enhanced to contribute more in-depth to a sustainable economy.

Contribution: The final set of indicators after stage 5 is published as a brochure and a stakeholder-specific dissemination workshop is organized to explain the results to policymakers, public authorities and companies participating in SPP. The scholarly contribution is presented at international conferences and published in international peer-review journals.

Relevance: With a set of sustainability-driven indicators, 40 billion CHF annually would be spend in a more sustainable way promoting a sustainable economy and making Switzerland a first mover that may inspire other national legislations to adopt similar sustainability indicators.

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Start date
End date
36 Months