Sustainable Procurement Tools


Sustainable requirements need to be incorporated into the specification and must be relevant to the particular procurement, and not to the general capacities or qualities of the operator.

Technical specifications

Technical specifications relating to energy are those that require all suppliers to supply, or use in service delivery, products or equipment that meet specific energy ratings or meet relevant standards. Minimum energy efficiency standards for energy-using products are incorporated into various standards.

For example, core Scottish Government organisations must ensure that they meet the Government Buying Standards (GBS) - a set of product specifications for public buyers when buying goods and services for those product groups covered and which include minimum energy efficiency standards for energy-using products (EuP).

GBS use is encouraged across the wider public sector. It is important to establish that the market for a particular product can meet these requirements before incorporating them; if using the GBS criteria, they have been tested against market capabilities.

Other standards and labels exist which include a focus on energy efficiency (see below). While not mandatory they may be appropriate for certain procurements as underlying criteria may be relevant.

The use of Labels

A buyer may ask for a product to have been given an independently verifiable label or operate to a stated standard which certifies that it meets specific energy efficiency characteristics.

The use of labels needs to be considered with care. They must be:

  • linked to the subject of the contract (and all criteria must be relevant).
  • based on solid scientific evidence.
  • transparent, fair and non-discriminatory.
  • open to anyone who meets the standards.
  • certified by a third party e.g. Type 1 eco-labels (based on publicly available specifications, are operated by third parties, involve independent audits and consider life-cycle environmental impacts).

Where not all of a label’s criteria are relevant to a procurement, it is better to set out relevant criteria and requirements in the tender and contract conditions, instead of asking for the label. You may accept the holding of a relevant eco-label as evidence of compliance with that specification (including climate change) – but must be prepared to accept equivalent means of proof that the product or service meets the specification.

It is important to focus on such standards carefully. For example, if procuring a heating system, it may be more appropriate to specify that the energy efficiency of a system be related to the specific circumstances of the procurement.

Bidders could be asked to provide an estimate of energy efficiency based on the building it would be installed into. A heat pump can be extremely energy efficient compared to other heating systems under the right circumstances (if the building is well insulated etc.) but could produce a poorer outcome in some situations than a less-efficient alternative

The following are some standards and labels which include a focus on carbon and energy. As indicated above it is important to be clear that the underlying criteria of these or others are relevant for the planned procurement.

Standards and labels
EU Green Public Procurement Criteria

The EU GPP criteria facilitate the inclusion of green requirements in public tenders for commonly procured products and services. For the products and services listed opposite they include a focus on energy consumption, as well as other issues.

Contracting Authorities may, where relevant, require suppliers to be able to meet specific or all of the criteria within these.

Prior to the UK’s exit from the EU there was increasing alignment between the EU GPP criteria and those within the UK Government Buying Standards (see below). While not mandatory, they provide a useful source of information. They apply at ‘Core’ or ‘Comprehensive’ levels.

GPP criteria relating to:

  • Computers and monitors.
  • Data centres, server rooms and cloud services e.g. ‘Swiss Data Centre Efficiency certification/PUE’, ‘Prefer products/services that ensure waste heat reuse, e.g. in building or district heating networks’.
  • Electrical and Electronic Equipment used in the Health Care Sector.
  • Electricity.
  • Food catering services and vending machines.
  • Imaging equipment, consumables and print services.
  • Office Building Design, Construction and Management.
  • Public Space Maintenance.
  • Road Design, Construction and Maintenance.
  • Road lighting and traffic signals.
  • Water based heaters
UK Government Buying Standards (GBS) Mandatory for Central Government organisations, the GBS provide a useful source of information and specifications for Local Government. They also provide sustainability specifications for commonly procured products and services. Those that include, in part, a focus on energy consumption are shown opposite. They apply at ‘Mandatory’ or ‘Best Practice’ levels.

GBS criteria relating to:

  • Electrical goods e.g. AC units, condensing units, boilers, white goods, lighting.
  • Office ICT equipment.
  • Construction projects and buildings.
  • Water using products e.g. dishwashers (A+ rating), cleaners, showers, taps.
  • Food and catering services
European Ecolabel This label indicates that the product has been independently assessed and found to meet strict environmental criteria (considering more than just energy consumption). It covers 23 products and services including appliances, home and garden products and tourist accommodation. Some are referenced within the EU GPP and GBS.
Energy Star

This has been the energy standard for various office products.

Following the discontinuation of the agreement between the EU and US in 2018 regarding the use of Energy Star labelling on products the presence of Energy Star logo on products is no longer required (at present they are still referenced in GPP and GBS).

However, a contracting authority may still wish to seek products that meet the underlying criteria within Energy Star in which case a declaration from the supplier that they meet them will be required.

Energy Star ratings applied within the EU to (a wider range are certified by the US EPA):

  • Computers and Monitors.
  • Imaging Equipment.
  • Enterprise Servers.
  • Uninterruptable power supplies

Energy Saving Trust – new Energy Label

The new label, from March 2021, features a new, simpler range: A to G. The label shows total energy consumption and provides other information relevant to that product, such as water consumption and noise levels for washing machines, and screen size for televisions.
  • White goods.
  • TVs.
  • Electronic displays.

Energy Saving Trust

Energy Saving Trust: endorsed product - Energy Saving Trust endorses energy efficient products that have met industry agreed standards for energy performance.
  • Computers and displays.
  • Imaging Equipment.
  • Mobile Phones.
  • Photovoltaic Modules and Inverters.
  • Servers.
  • TVs.
Example: leading ICT brands such as HP are rated as EPEAT Gold across many products.


Managed by Green Electronics Council EPEAT provides a rating scheme for electronic products satisfying a range of criteria – including materials, design for end of life, product longevity, packaging, life cycle assessment and carbon footprint, social responsibility as well as energy conservation (some criteria vary for manufacturer's specific products according to different countries).

Manufacturers may choose to have their products assessed to either a bronze, silver or gold rating.
  • Computers and displays.
  • Imaging Equipment.
  • Mobile Phones.
  • Photovoltaic Modules and Inverters.
  • Servers.
  • TVs.
Example: leading ICT brands such as HP are rated as EPEAT Gold across many products.

TCO Certified

TCO provides sustainability certification for IT products in offices and data centres. It includes criteria relating to environmentally responsible manufacturing, product performance (including energy), lifetime extension, social responsibility and others.
  • Computers and displays.
  • Smartphones,
  • Projectors.
  • Networks equipment.
  • Data storage.
  • Servers. 







Within the Annex are examples of energy and climate wording that may be used within specifications.

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