European procurement through green glasses

By: Rick de Rooij

Every four or five years it comes around again: procurement. The Dutch government constantly has to deal with contracts expiring that then have to be put out to tender again. So too do the Dutch provinces. Their telephony contracts expired in 2018, so in 2017 they joined forces (for the 3rd time) to jointly market their telephony with Provincial Telephony 2017 (PT2017). This is more efficient than each on their own and because of the size, they are an attractive party for the market. This allows them to make serious cost savings, both on the procedure (working together more efficiently) and on the contracts (buying larger). This involved fixed and mobile telephony connections, mobile devices and the construction and maintenance of indoor (in-house) coverage facilities for telephony, divided into five lots.

Cooperation with Highberg (fka VKA) was sought and found early in the process for the additional procurement and telephony expertise for the core team of provinces.

Europees aanbesteden met een groene bril

Because eleven provinces plus several environment services were involved, it was a major challenge to bring together as many of the different insights, requirements and wishes as possible in a request to suppliers that was as generic as possible. Highberg consultant Rick: "That eventually worked out very well. Pithy discussions and a lot of humor characterized the cooperation within the core team that set up and executed the tender."

"In general, my contribution to the core team consisted of critical advice and substantive expertise and sometimes searching for the right compromise. From making and developing proposals and solutions to problems the team was struggling with. Finally, I drafted the sets of contracts for the five lots."

The ultimate success of PT2017 is represented by the selection of five excellent suppliers, with whom good and competitive contracts were concluded for all the desired services in all the lots. The provinces thus more than met both their cost target through joint procurement and their cost reduction target through the new contracts.

A special feature of this tender was the position of social responsibility: the provinces stated from the beginning that "green procurement" was an important condition for the tender. In addition to conditions to give people with a disadvantage on the labor market an extra helping hand, which have been known for some time within tenders, the provinces went further this time. Particularly in the mobile devices lot, something special was achieved by laying down requirements about reusing somewhat older devices and recycling discarded devices. This principle, called circular procurement, ensures that for every appliance purchased by the province, one appliance is given a second life and one other appliance is taken off the scrap heap and neatly processed. Valuables (metals) are recovered and the remaining material is sustainably processed. In this way, the provinces are actively contributing to making our environment more sustainable.

The problem with this was that the provinces were not all on the same page, and did not have the same requirements, wishes and ambitions. We had to bring this into line, without jeopardizing the actual goal of purchasing good telephony. Questions we struggled with were about: It's nice that circular, but is it comparable, measurable and verifiable? Is it even doable? Will these requirements leave enough competition or are we cutting ourselves in half? What are realistic standards to require reusability? Many questions to which we eventually found good answers. And which ultimately led to a very successful tender and beautiful green contracting, which also caught the eye of the public sector!


Indeed, the State has nominated our sustainable telephony procurement for the national MVI KoopWijsPrijs 2018. This nomination is awarded to the five projects that give form and substance to corporate social responsibility in a striking and ambitious way. Henk Klaassen of Flevoland Province, as the lead party for this joint tender, recently received the nomination from Ronald Roosdorp, director of International Market Regulation and Trade Policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Partly at the request of the Lower House of Parliament, the central government has established the KoopWijsPrijs (BuyWise Prize) to provide positive support to fellow governments in the area of Socially Responsible Procurement (SPS). At the request of the Ministry of Infrastructure & Water Management, a jury consisting of representatives of VNO-NCW, MKB Nederland, Natuur & Milieu, NEVI, Social Enterprise NL and MVO Nederland narrowed down the entries for the 2018 KoopWijsPrijs to five nominees. Attention was paid to ambition, choice of themes, anchoring in the organization, innovative character, effect on policy goals, interaction with the market, feasibility for other organizations, available information and documentation

Jury verdict

The jury judged the PT2017 project as follows: "The tender 'Impact-free cell phones' marketed under the name PT2017 by a total of ten provinces and four affiliated organizations is, according to the proposers, 'the world's first waste-free and resource-neutral'. Whether this is entirely correct the jury has not been able to check, but it is clear that there has been no lack of ambition. It is also certain that a circular tender in telephony hardware is in itself highly innovative. Because of the number of organizations involved, the impact is potentially large. In addition, a lot of time was spent on preparation, including organizing a market consultation. This allowed the market to contribute to the formulation of wishes and requirements.

The winner of the award will be announced during the central government's Socially Responsible Purchasing conference on October 3. Last year, the first KoopWijsPrijs was awarded to the municipality of Helmond.

Would you like to know more about this case or green procurement? Then contact Berthold Konijn.