A MSF supply warehouse with shelves full of boxes.

Procurement criteria

A large share of the environmental and carbon footprint of any organisation often lies not within its operations, but within the goods and services it purchases. The type of goods and services an organisation chooses, the suppliers it sources from and how it makes sourcing decisions, are therefore a key lever to reducing its carbon and environmental footprint.

Organisations can make a big impact on their supply chain by putting in place procurement criteria, such as requesting transparency on carbon emissions, environmental specifications, sourcing locally where appropriate, requiring suppliers to decarbonise, and adding environmental evaluation criteria.

Putting in place environmental procurement criteria not only contributes directly to reducing the carbon impact of purchased goods and services, but it also sends a clear signal to suppliers that decarbonising their operations and developing low-carbon products will be a strategic issue for the years to come, thereby creating an accelerator effect.

Key facts


of the carbon footprint of aid organisations is related to procurement


of surveyed suppliers claim that contractual obligations related to sustainability led to greater awareness and actions (1)

Key solutions

  • #1 Transparency on emissions

    Request transparency on (product) carbon emissions for key items in order to take informed decisions.

  • #2 Technical specifications

    Put in place environmental specifications for goods and services.

    Discover more

  • #3 Local purchases

    Source locally-produced environmentally-friendly goods.

  • #4 Request carbon reductions at supplier level

    Request suppliers to measure their emissions and have a carbon reduction plan in place. Discover more

  • #5 Evaluation criteria

    Extend evaluation/award criteria of offers to also include environmental considerations, in addition to considering quality and price.

A group of people using a laptop to analyze graphs, while considering procurement criteria.
© fauxels/Pexels.

Success stories

ICRC Sustainable Procurement Criteria

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) developed sustainable procurement criteria as well as a range of “green” items. The latter feature sustainable technical specifications both related to the item and the packaging (2) (3)

USAID Sustainability specifications for non-food items

The USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) integrates sustainability specifications for the sourcing of NFIs (non-food items). They cover both the material used as well as the packaging (4)

NHS Supplier-related criteria

The British National Health Service (NHS) has set out clear and transparent expectations towards their supplier base until 2030. By the end of the decade, the NHS will no longer purchase from suppliers that do not meet or exceed its net zero requirements (5)

  • Point of attention

    It is important to note that purchasing locally does not automatically lead to a reduced environmental impact. This is due to two reasons: First, local purchasing does not automatically mean local production: A company you buy from locally might simply import the goods from overseas. Second, the highest impact of both agricultural and manufactured products lies in general at the production stage, transport only accounts for a minor share of the emissions. These considerations should be carefully weighted with other co-benefits of local sourcing.

Tools and good practices

  • ICLEI, Procura+ Manual, 2016

    The manual provides clear, easy-to-understand guidance on how to implement sustainable procurement. The manual targets public authorities, but provides a general framework and well-presented information, including case studies, that are relevant for any type of organisation.

    Read here
  • UNDP, Practitioner’s Guide to Sustainable Procurement, 2015

    This document offers guidance on how to incorporate sustainability criteria into different procurement process steps, i.e. request for proposal, invitation to bid, terms of reference, and how to evaluate proposals.

    Read here
  • Sustainable Procurement Pledge (SPP)

    The Sustainable Procurement Pledge is an international bottom-up and non-profit organisation for procurement professionals, academics and practitioners, driving awareness and knowledge on responsible sourcing practices and empowering people in procurement. A dedicated group on reducing Scope 3 emissions from procurement has been created. Further resources and webinar recordings are available on their website.

    Read here
  • EU Green Public Procurement (GPP) Criteria

    The GPP criteria are developed to facilitate the inclusion of green requirements in public tender documents. They can also serve as inspiration for other sectors. Criteria are available, among others, for the following areas: cleaning products and services, computers/monitors/tablets, electricity, food catering, furniture, printers/print services, textiles, etc.

    Read here
  • WWF, Green Recovery and Reconstruction Toolkit (GRRT), 2017

    The toolkit contains a chapter with guidance for procurement managers and logisticians on how to reduce the environmental impact of building materials during disaster responses.

    Read here
  • Chancery Lane Project (TCLP)

    The Chancery Lane Project is a collaborative initiative of international legal professionals. Their website contains practical contractual clauses ready to incorporate into commercial agreements to deliver climate solutions, like: Net Zero Standard for Suppliers. These supply chain clauses can be annexed to any supply agreement, across all sectors and industries.

    Read here

To go further

  • “Who’s doing what” on sustainable procurement

    This report maps existing initiatives, projects, networks, and groups working on green procurement and the tools and guidance they have produced. It also provides links to further resources that document humanitarian organizations’ successes or challenges in using these tools and guidance in operational contexts.

  • Joint Initiative, Multi-Donor Policy Landscape Analysis for Humanitarian Assistance Supply Chains

    An overview of how humanitarian donors currently address issues of environmental mainstreaming in humanitarian action specifically looking at green logistics and sustainable supply chains.

    Read here
  • World Economic Forum, 2021, Net-Zero Challenge: The supply chain opportunity. Insight report

    The report showcases the opportunity that all companies have for huge climate impact through action to decarbonise global supply chains. It also showcases generic abatement cost curves for different sectors.

    Read here
  • 1.5°C Supplier Engagement Guide

    The interactive website provides practical guidance for 1.5°C aligned targets and action throughout global supply chains. It includes a section on procurement with key steps to implement and examples of actions.

    Read here


(1) Ecodavis, Sustainability Clauses in Commercial Contracts: The Key to Corporate Responsibility, 2018. Read here

(2) ICRC, Information sheet: Sustainable Procurement, 2021. Read here

(3) ICRC, Standard Product Catalogue: Green Items. Check here

(4) USAID, USAID BHA Non Food Item (NFI) Blanket Purchase Agreement, 2021. Read here

(5) NHS England, Supplier Roadmap. Read here


Cover photo © Lance Chang/Unsplash.

Request carbon reductions at supplier level

Request carbon reductions at supplier level