In 1987, Our Common Future (also known as the Brundtland Report) set out a definition of sustainable development that gained unanimous and international recognition: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Sustainable development therefore seeks to reconcile economic prosperity, social justice and environmental preservation objectives.
Sustainable development aims to “achieve sustainability for society as a whole and the planet” (ISO 26000). For governments, the successful application of the concept is driven by the need to concretely and continuously consider the three pillars of sustainable development and the long-term impacts of government projects and programs (Rapport du commissaire au développement durable 2010).
Québec and Canada have pledged their commitment to sustainable development and more responsible consumption patterns.
- The federal government adopted the Federal Sustainable Development Act (FSDA) in 2008 and the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada, which was introduced on October 6, 2010. The eighth objective of the strategy pertains to the greening of government operations. Implemented in 2006, the Policy on Green Procurement contributes to the aim by requiring that environmental performance considerations be integrated into decision-making processes for federal procurement.
- Following tha adoption of the Sustainable development act in 2006 by the National Assembly, the Québec government set out the Sustainable Development Strategy 2008–2013, whose third direction is aimed at responsible production and consumption. In addition, the administrative directive for a more eco-responsible government determined preferable products and services for a responsible procurement approach.
The European Union encouraged its member states to implement responsible procurement policies. In July 2008, the European Commission presented the Sustainable Consumption, Production and Industry Action Plan. According to the European Union, ecological public procurement can play a key role in stimulating the creation of new products, green technologies and innovation.
In 2010, the European Commission sought to establish for green public procurement standards for ten priority product and service categories:
2. Food and catering services
5. Office IT equipment
7. Copying and graphic paper
9. Cleaning products and services
10. Gardening products and services
In 2009, the Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR, France) released a standard for public and private sector purchasers entitled FD X50-135 - Lignes directrices pour l'intégration des enjeux du développement durable dans la fonction achats. In late 2011, a benchmark was made public to clarify the ISO 26000 standard as it applies to procurement.
At the international level, the Rio+20 UN conference was held in 2012 and aimed to further promote responsible production and consumption patterns through the concerted actions of governments. Spearheaded by Switzerland, the initiative led to an action plan to strengthen the mobilization initiatives set out in the Marrakesh Process, an international multiparty approach to promote sustainable production and consumption through the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Development. Jointly overseen by the United Nations Environment Program and the sustainable development division with the participation of national governments, private sector businesses and social organizations, the process was set in motion in 2002 after the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Following the summit, governments around the world recognized that sustainable production and consumption patterns constituted an essential component of sustainable development, making it possible to promote social economic development within the limits of the carrying capacities of ecosystems and decouple economic growth and environmental degradation. Through the life cycle perspective, sustainable consumption and development programmes enhance sustainable and efficient resource management throughout goods and services supply chains (report on the Marrakesh Process, 2011).