Sustainable Procurement Policy

On 1 January 2024, a new policy “Sustainable Procurement at the European Patent Office” entered into force.

The Sustainable Procurement Policy further confirms the EPO’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the promotion of a circular economy. It aims to address the impact on society, the environment, and the economy of the goods, services and works purchased. The policy is also representative of the EPO’s commitment to good governance.

The EPO fosters, supports and promotes sustainability in all its activities and processes. The new policy therefore defines sustainability requirements for vendors wishing to do business with the EPO. These requirements ensure that EPO’s vendors consider labour practices, minimise their environmental impact, contribute to community involvement, comply with the principle of equal treatment and gender equality and employ ethical operating practices.

Sustainability values

The European Patent Organisation, acting through its executive organ the European Patent Office (EPO), is committed to fostering, supporting and promoting sustainability in all of its activities, including procurement. By embracing sustainable public procurement, the EPO aims to address the impact of the goods, services and works that it purchases on society, the environment and the economy.

Sustainable public procurement can also be a major driver for innovation, providing industry with real incentives to develop sustainable products and services. The EPO recognises that public buyers should not merely look to purchase at the lowest price and obtain cost reductions for goods and services. Instead, public procurement should also seek to create social benefits, while preventing or mitigating any adverse social and/or environmental impact generated by the completion of a contract.

Principles of sustainable public procurement at the EPO

The EPO seeks to achieve high standards of integrity, inclusivity, transparency and stewardship in its supply chain. It conducts business with responsible suppliers, i.e. companies that respect the rule of law and human rights, understand the nature and impact of the products, materials and production and transport methods they provide and use, and recognise their duty to protect the environment.

The EPO aims to foster these goals by engaging in a constructive dialogue with its suppliers. It seeks to identify areas of higher risk and influence within its supply chain and engage with suppliers in those areas to ensure that they:

  • consider their labour practices, especially work, health and safety conditions, and comply with applicable social and labour law, as well as occupational health and safety laws as established by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, European Union law, national law and collective agreements
  • minimise their impact on the environment, specifically in terms of resource use, pollution, protecting biodiversity and reducing emissions
  • contribute to community involvement and development by fostering employment and access to services, while respecting the local culture
  • promoting gender equality, including the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, and fighting discrimination based on gender, age, disability, racial or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs and sexual orientation
  • employ ethical operating practices, notably in the areas of anti-corruption and fair competition
  • take measures to prevent and/or mitigate any adverse social and environmental effects of their operations
  • report regularly to the EPO

In all of its procurement activities, the EPO will take into consideration its procurement principles and apply the minimum requirements listed below. Where possible, the EPO will also take the discretionary criteria set out in section 3.2 into consideration.

3.1 Minimum requirements

In terms of respecting workers' rights, the EPO requires its partners to ensure adherence to the rights and obligations set out in all fundamental ILO conventions across their supply chain.

The EPO also requires suppliers to comply with applicable national law on the protection of flora, fauna and the environment, as well as the conservation of natural resources and the prevention and reduction of pollution and emissions.

3.2 Discretionary criteria

In its evaluation, the EPO will consider suppliers' policies on the social and environmental impact of their business activities and their adherence to those policies. It will assess their ethical business practices, social and employment policies, as well as the goods and services offered by suppliers and how they minimise their adverse social and environmental impact. Specifically, the EPO will look at suppliers':

  • use of natural resources (quantity and quality), including water, minerals, metals, wood, soil, rare earths, coal, petroleum, crude oil and natural gas
  • direct and indirect carbon emissions, including those resulting from energy consumption and other gaseous pollutants
  • production or emission of liquid and solid pollutants, including industrial waste and wastewater, biological or chemical contaminants and microplastics
  • rules, guidelines and practices relating to equal pay, equal employment conditions and a respectful workplace
  • rules, guidelines and practices to ensure accessibility, inclusion and health in the workplace
  • rules, guidelines and practices to prevent fraud, corruption, money laundering, terrorism financing and any other form of corporate crime

These criteria will be assessed with regard to a supplier’s sourcing, production, transportation and delivery of products throughout its supply chain.

Suppliers are expected to be in a position to inform the EPO about their compliance with these criteria during the tender procedure and at any stage in the contract cycle.

The EPO will seek to achieve its objective of minimising any adverse social and environmental impact by introducing relevant contractual obligations and discussing this topic with suppliers throughout the contract cycle.

Best Practice

The EPO will apply appropriate evaluation criteria to ensure that its sustainability principles are upheld in its daily procurement activities. It will also take into account existing best practices on sustainable procurement outlined in the publications below:

  • Directive 2014/23/EU of the European Parliament and the Council of 26 February 2014 on the award of concession contracts
  • Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and the Council of 26 February 2014
  • EU Green Public Procurement criteria for relevant procurement areas published by the European Commission
  • EU Notice "Buying Social – A guide to taking account of social considerations in public procurement" – Second edition (2021/C 237/01)
  • EU Notice "Buying green – A handbook on green public procurement" – 3rd Edition
Entry into force

This policy enters into force on 1 January 2024.