The UN is a big spender; in 2016 alone, the UN purchased goods and services worth USD 17.6 billion. The UN is therefore able to directly influence the market place, by increasing demand for more sustainable goods and services.

Sustainable procurement is described as:

"A process whereby organizations meet their requirements for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole of life basis in terms of generating benefits not only to the Organization, but also to society and the economy, whilst minimizing its impact on the environment."

Including ‘resource efficiency’ as a criterion when purchasing new products and services is another way of reducing the UN’s emissions. Fuel-efficient vehicles, energy-efficient office equipment, building systems that allow better control of energy usage, goods and services with a lower life-cycle climate impact, are just some examples of measures that can be taken.

It is important that sustainable procurement is introduced gradually and with great attention to local conditions and requirements, and in accordance with respective UN organizations' governing bodies' decisions. If not correctly and transparently applied, sustainable procurement could unfairly exclude some good suppliers from participating in bids and, as such, be perceived as a disguised barrier to international trade.

Policy advice

SUN encourages and enables the transition towards sustainable procurement policy within all UN agencies by providing advice on legal and procedural modifications to ensure the inclusion of sustainability considerations in procurement manuals.

Find out more about sustainable procurement with our range of training, guidelines, publications, and groups.

Case studies

We collect and share examples of best practice in sustainable procurement across the UN. Read more procurement case studies