Follow-up of CSR-criteria in public procurement

The Environmental and the Procurement Committees of LIF (the Research Based Pharmaceutical Industry in Sweden) had invited Pauline Göthberg from Stockholm County Council (SLL) to a meeting today regarding follow-up of requirements on social responsibility. The follow-up is a crucial part of the public procurement process, and Pauline has been appointed a national coordinator (although placed at SLL) for social responsibility in public procurement.

Pauline Göthberg

Pauline Göthberg

I opened the meeting by giving a brief background to the issue, starting back in 2003 and 2004, when the first environmental criteria were introduced into the tender business process. The pioneers for this initiative was SLL and their environmental director back in those days Åke Wennmalm, in collaboration with Apoteket AB represented by Bo Gunnarsson. The criteria were further developed through a sector-wise collaboration lead by Miljöstyrningsrådet, MSR (”The Swedish Environmental Management Council”). On MSR’s website you’ll find a document with all environmental, as well as social, criteria that MSR recommends County Councils to use in their public procurement of pharmaceuticals. The social criteria is well aligned with the criteria presented in the Code of Conduct for Suppliers which was initially developed by SLL in collaboration with the county councils in Skåne and Västra Götaland, but today has been approved by all county councils in Sweden.

I have dicussed public procurement in several blog posts before, see for instance the blog posts from Jan 31 and from Dec 1 last year. My message, which is well aligned with the official LIF position, has always been that we as an industry welcome these types of criteria (both environmental and social) as long as they are correct according to LOU (”Lagen om offentlig upphandling”, the public procurement regulation), and as long as they are fair and reasonable, and are being followed up. I have criticized the county councils several times for not following up their own requirements and our industry’s responses. My opinion is that if there is no follow-up, the criteria is not only worthless, they could actually be counterproductive. Companies that take the criteria seriously would loose both time and resources as compared to companies that ”just responds YES” without reviewing their entire operations (of course knowing that there will not be any follow-up…). Hence, I am very happy to see that the county councils now strengthen the competence and resources regarding follow-up.

Pauline gave us a brief description of the task she has been given to secure that suppliers to the county councils take social responsibility throughout the supply chain. She was very clear that county councils shall not make demands as part of the procurement process that they cannot follow-up. She was also very clear in her opinion that these types of requirements will not go away, they will most likley grow stronger over time. There is a clear tendency that government wants to utilize public procurment to reach political objectives, such as environmental and social ones. And this does not only happen in Sweden. Pauline has already a colleague in Norway with a very similar task, and she expects more to come in even more countries at least in EU.

Pauline’s first two priorities are

1) to start a project with Miljöstyrningsrådet (MSR) regarding the development of a database for information on different companies’ social responsibility performance to be used by county councils (and others) in the procurement process, and

2) to review the Code of Conduct for Suppliers to secure that it is up to date with the more recent developments in the field. One such example would be Professor John Ruggie’s (the United Nations Special Representative on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises) ”Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework”. It is also critical to secure that the requirements that follows on the code would hold if legally challenged.

We had a very open and positive discussion, which both touched on ”challenges” and ”opportunities”. The really good news is that we agreed on a lot of issues and I guess we all felt that we actually have a common goal. These type of criteria could help make the world a little bit better on the same time as it presents possible incentives for the good guys in this industry! One of the ”recommendations” we gave Pauline was to secure a very close collaboration with her colleagues in county councils working with the environmental criteria. The representatives from industry on today’s meeting were all very clear that we manage the issues on environmental and social responsibiities together and would prefer that the processes that are devloped within the county councils for these issues are as aligned as possible. There are several aspects of social responsibility that are directly linked to environental performance and vice versa.

Discussions will continue! Thanks to Pauline for a very open and fruitful discussion today!

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