The experience of the Network for Sustainable Business Development North Denmark and the city of Aalborg on circular public procurement practices

15 December 2020 - Published by Eric Boessenkool
Julie Bastholm is project manager at the Network for Sustainable Business Development North Denmark (NSBD) and at the city of Aalborg. NSBD is a network of the 11 municipalities located in the North Jutland region working on sustainable business development. The aim for the network is to strengthen companies’ advantages towards sustainability. It is a private-public cooperation between local businesses, Aalborg university and 140 private companies. In the network the companies can share their knowledge on sustainability, energy and now procurement as well.

What are the benefits of implementing Circular Public Procurement (CPP) for the city of Aalborg/NSBD?

The city of Aalborg participated in the CircularPP project; a 3-year project supported by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme. Thanks to this involvement, we gained a lot of experience in circular tenders. In the framework of the project, we developed two pilots: a circular playground where we applied holistic thinking about outdoor environment and landscape modelling, and a second one on prolonging the lifetime of ICT equipment in the municipality.

From NSBD perspective, there are a lot of good things in implementing CPP. ProCirc creates the opportunity for capacity building for the network members as well as it develops ideas for companies about circular business models.

What is the role of NSBD in ProCirc?

As partners of ProCirc, we have one pilot in the project on demolition/construction which is a collaboration with two municipalities. Our role is to use the experience of previous projects, and apply it here. ProCirc gives us the opportunity to expand our areas of work: we focus on energy, climate and environmental issues and now we also address procurement. Procurement is very important for climate and the environment as well.

What is the biggest challenge you faced to procure in a more circular way and how did you address it?

The main challenge I would say is the cross-cutting cooperation between departments. We have to put the right team together, with the right decision makers to make this happen. It takes a bit more time, we have to change the people’s mindset and it is a learning process. We need to show that using CPP is a good idea.

Do you think that the market is ready to deliver circular solutions? In which categories of products do you think the market is more prepared?

The time is with us now, there is increasingly interest on CPP, together with the sustainable development goals, there is a lot of attention in this area now. Moreover, I think the market is getting more and more ready and we should tell suppliers where do we want to go. Regarding the categories of products in which the market is more prepared, we heard a lot about furniture. In the CircularPP, the city of Malmö made a tender about non new-furniture. The ICT and building sectors are also advanced. In the case of the building sector, there is an eco-label for building products and reuse of materials. In Denmark we talk a lot about using old bricks again.

How do you think ProCirc will help to forge actions on CPP in Europe? And how would you encourage other municipalities around Europe?

I think that cross-knowledge sharing is very important in this project. We don’t have the opportunity to learn what is happening in other countries and exchange experiences. For example, I was in contact with Zero Waste Scotland to share knowledge about the circular playground tender. Thus, ProCirc is helping to raise the level of knowledge across borders. The most important is to get started even if not knowing what will be the end. It is necessary to have a dialogue, find solutions and get the experience. It is then when you can change the mindset.

The city of Aalborg was also the coordinator of the CircularPP project, what were the main outcomes of that project?

The main outcomes are the 2 pilots but one of the lessons learnt is: circular procurement is not straightforward, but we learned that the best way for¬ward is to just get started! Only by conducting procurement in practice is it possible to iden¬tify challenges, find innova¬tive solutions, build necessary experience, and use the results to change mindsets. Another lesson learnt is: focus a lot on the pre-tender phase since it is then when you can gather the stakeholders and decide which supplier and service you are looking for. Other outcomes of the project are the positive market engagement and the development of several tools. For instance, we are now working on a guide for a circular playground.


Photo by Jan Piatkowski on Unsplash