Various sources can be consulted to define environmental criteria: Type-I labels, internationally technical recognized standards, recognized labelling, criteria from the Green Public Procurement (GPP) toolkit of the European Commission, etc.
For eco-labels the guide makes use of the possibility offered in art. 23 (6) of European Directive 2004/18/EC:
“Where contracting authorities lay down environmental characteristics in terms of performance or functional requirements […] they may use the detailed specifications, or, if necessary, parts thereof, as defined by European or (multi-) national eco-labels, or by and any other eco-label, provided that:
- those specifications are appropriate to define the characteristics of the supplies or services that are the object of the contract,
- the requirements for the label are drawn up on the basis of scientific information,
- the eco-labels are adopted using a procedure in which all stakeholders, such as government bodies, consumers, manufacturers, distributors and environmental organisations can participate, and
- they are accessible to all interested parties.
Contracting authorities may indicate that the products and services bearing the eco-label are presumed to comply with the technical specifications laid down in the contract documents; they must accept any other appropriate means of proof, such as a technical dossier of the manufacturer or a test report from a recognised body.”
The groups of products and services mentioned in the guide were compiled on the basis of criteria found in Type I labels. A type I label (ref. ISO 14024) is attributed to a product or to a service provider by a public authority or by a non-profit association. They are based on independent testing, pertain to various environmental aspects and effects, and take account of the complete lifecycle. In addition to Type I, there are also Type II (ref. ISO 14021) and Type III (ref ISO 14025) labels.
The current version of this guide takes into account the following Type I labels from various European countries: the EU Ecolabel, Nordic Ecolabeling (Nordic Swan), Milieukeur, NF Environnement, Nature Plus, the Austrian Ecolabel, the Blue Angel, TCO, Energy Star, FSC, PEFC, Ökotex-100 and various labels for organic production. In addition, the European Energy label, the European toolkit criteria and criteria developed by Agentschap NL (Netherlands) are used. The further development of this guide does not exclude that other quality labels will be taken into consideration in future (read more).
More than 250 products and services could be identified on the basis of the aforementioned labels. For some only one label was available, for others more than four.
For social and ethical criteria in particular, the guide refers to international standards on animal welfare, ILO standards, the SA800 certificate, the Belgian Social label and Fair Trade. More general tips on how to use social criteria are provided in the section on social aspects.