Development blocks underpin the state strategy platform. The five suggested development blocks are: (1) economic facilities, (2) social opportunities, (3) protective security, (4) political freedoms and (5) transparency guarantees. States will give different weight to each foundation block depending on their particular circumstances and priorities. For instance, some states might prioritize cohesion over participation or political freedoms, and horizontal accountability over transparency guarantees, whereby one state actor has the formal authority to demand explanations and impose penalties on another. Other states would rather focus on transparency for vertical accountability. Under such a framework, the disclosure of information is believed to empower citizens to hold public officials responsible for their spending and performance – ‘thereby reducing corruption and mismanagement of public resources and leading, eventually, to more accountable, responsive, and effective governance’. Similarly, economic facilities can be one of the development blocks of a state strategy, but this is not mandatory, and would not necessarily appear alone. There is no minimum requirement here, but if a state is to mobilize its procurement powers for development, one or more of these blocks are likely to be found underpinning its strategy.
Sustainability pillars mediate the delivery of a state strategy or priority through a policy instrument – in this case, public procurement. The five suggested sustainability pillars are: (i) intragenerational equity, (ii) intergenerational equity, (iii) interspecies equity, (iv) procedural equity, and (v) geographical equity (defined in more detail below). These equity principles for sustainable development are interlinked, and are recommended here because they address equity for sustainable development rather than damage mitigation. The suggested sustainability pillars do not include economic development or growth – which can be found in the development blocks – but comprise a series of ethical and equity principles that have a better fit with the public sector. The examples in the next chapters will illustrate how some of these principles have been mobilized in Papua New Guinea, Ecuador and Brazil, but the text below briefly illustrates these principles, starting with one of the most popular.
Environmental stewardship, or taking care of the environment, is one of the widely used objectives for SPP, being termed ‘green procurement’ – which directly addresses the interspecies equity pillar. Several criteria have proved useful in green procurement: the utilization of life-cycle analysis, including analysis of carbon footprint and life-cycle costing; circular economy principles with reduced packaging and waste, giving preference to products that are designed to last for an appropriate amount of time and to allow for easy disassembly, and avoiding single-use goods and those designed to not last, for example manufactures with built-in obsolescence; and the elimination of products containing harmful or hazardous substances, such as electronic products containing mercury and /or lead, or food containing residues of certain pesticides. The framework presented in this paper retains environmental stewardship as a pillar for SPP.
Among key issues arising within the intragenerational and intergenerational pillars of SPP is the need to ensure that suppliers generate jobs that pay at least a living wage (and that otherwise do not exploit adults or children, particularly not in ways that might constitute modern slavery); as well as ensuring that workers and communities around production sites (such as factories, farms, forests and mines) are safe; and that purchasing programmes proactively seek to procure supplies from enterprises owned by minority groups and women. For intergenerational equity – which conveys a concern with the future (or ‘futurity’) – to work, consumption levels need to be reduced or limited today, particularly in the Global North, so that future generations are more likely to have the opportunity to enjoy their lives and the natural world to the same – or even a greater – extent as do current generations. At the same time, Global South societies should avoid mimicking emulating lifestyles. The concept of intergenerational equity also links to geographical equity.
The geographical equity pillar encourages the appreciation of the impacts of procurement not only within but also beyond borders – from neighbourhood level to global level. One group of people should not benefit or suffer disproportionately from the activities of another group. This has to do with ethics, justice, inclusion and solidarity across borders, or ‘transfrontier responsibility’, and entails observing intragenerational, intergenerational, interspecies and procedural equity. For instance, a government that allows for the sourcing of biofuel or timber for infrastructure projects with no verification of product origins and impacts might cause irreversible damage to the environment and undermine people’s livelihoods, in the present and in the future., On a positive note, observing geographical equity in public procurement can take the form of giving preference to suppliers in less affluent states and jurisdictions. Tackling geographical equity also entails solidarity and ethics in encouraging high standards of sustainability across borders.
The geographical equity pillar encourages the appreciation of the benefits of justice for all, and not only for one community, one state, one union or one federation.
In addition, the geographical equity pillar encourages the appreciation of the benefits of justice for all, and not only for one community, one state, one union or one federation. For too long, the exploitation of cheap labour and the over-exploitation of primary resources, along with a push for polluting industries to move to ‘other’ places, were promoted as a way to ‘advance’ and ‘develop’. This ‘business as usual’ way of pursuing development is both unfair and unsustainable. In early 2020 the European Union (EU) launched its Green Deal, which promotes climate-friendly public procurement, but although its intentions are good, it barely scratches the surface of an overwhelming carbon and material footprint. For instance, the EU Green Deal encourages carbon accountability but virtually ignores transfrontier responsibility, as well as the fact that Europe consumes more than its fair share of the world’s ecological resources – indeed, 20 per cent of the earth’s biocapacity is used in the EU alone, even if it is home to only 7 per cent of the global population. As Haughton puts it: ‘The economic growth or quality of life of one area, which is achieved by passing on resource and pollution costs to another, is no longer acceptable.’ This only shifts the problem abroad.
This links in turn with the relevance of the procedural equity pillar, which calls for fairness in the way decisions are made, for some states, or for social cohesion alongside accountability, for other states. For instance, a procedurally equitable procurement process would allow and encourage individuals and organizations – potentially including informal groups, associations, not-for-profit organizations, cooperatives, and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises – to engage in public procurement, as well as to be invited and actively listened to in meetings in which the public sector looks for solutions in the form of new products or services.
The development blocks and sustainability pillars outlined above are by no means definitive or exhaustive, but they may help to focus on particular issues around state strategies that may demand and deserve attention. For example, Papua New Guinea, Ecuador and Brazil have been mobilizing some of these elements in their procurement systems, in line with their own state strategies. These are appraised briefly in the next three chapters, in a way that does not attempt to evaluate each state strategy in full, but which seeks instead to examine and illustrate how the concept and framework proposed in this paper can be useful as a benchmark for research and policy analysis.