Buyer groups for sustainability
In the Netherlands, contracting authorities in the public and private sector that wish to incorporate climate impact, circularity and social goals into their procurements can join a buyer group. In a buyer group, they work together to develop a shared market vision and strategy for a specific product category. This gives a clear signal to the market and allows members to share costs and risks.
What is a buyer group and what does it do?
Within a buyer group, contracting authorities in the public and private sector work together to develop a shared market vision and strategy to make a specific product category more sustainable. They aim to implement this vision and strategy in their procurement practice within two years. The goal is to encourage the market to develop sustainable solutions that respond to a clear and common need.
For example, participants conduct market dialogues, learn from each other’s experiences and work together to develop specifications and award criteria. Joint procurement is not a goal but could be a means to an end. The focus is on reducing harmful emissions such as CO2, reducing the consumption of raw materials and supporting social development goals. Other commissioning parties can join and apply the strategy themselves when they are ready. This will enhance the collective impact.
Inspired by other countries
The Netherlands is not the first country which started with buyer groups. -Sweden, Norway and, at the European level, commissioning parties in the public sector have already been working together successfully. For example, in the ‘big buyers initiative’ for heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles, the municipalities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and 8 other major European cities are working towards a common market vision and strategy for zero-emission refuse collection and street cleaning vehicles.
Funding and organisation
The Dutch buyer groups in the Netherlands are a joint initiative of the national government, the Association of Provincial Authorities, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities and the Association of Regional Water Authorities. They are financed by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.
There are 2 levels at which contracting authorities can participate in a buyer group in the Netherlands:
- First level: participants in the core group and/or initiators of a buyer group actively participate in the development and implementation of a market vision and strategy.
- Second level: other interested commissioning parties are kept informed about activities and developments within the network. This will allow them to apply the market vision and strategy easily in their next procurements.
In most organisations, the procurement responsibility rarely lies with just one person. For this reason, a buyer group requires the involvement of project leaders and sustainability coordinators as well as buyers. Participants can count on the support of the Dutch Public Procurement Expertise Centre (PIANOo), Rijkswaterstaat and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.
Buyer group focus areas
There are buyer groups in the Netherlands in the areas of real estate, building materials and equipment, infrastructure, mobility and operational management. New groups are being formed all the time. The focus areas of the buyer groups are selected on the basis of impact, support and scalability.