Sustainable procurement: importance, challenges and opportunities

Why sustainable business practices can make a significant contribution to a fairer world.

In today's globalised world, sustainable procurement is playing an increasingly important role. With the increasing awareness of environmental problems and social injustice, sustainability in procurement is also becoming more and more the focus of companies and society. Not only in terms of environmental friendliness, but also in terms of social and economic aspects, the topic has developed into a significant factor for sustainability.

Definition and principles of sustainable procurement

Sustainable procurement, also known as green procurement, goes beyond the mere purchase of goods and services. It is about integrating social aspects and environmental goals into the entire procurement process, from product development to manufacturing and delivery. The principles of sustainable procurement take into account the full value chain and aim to reduce the environmental footprint, promote social equity and create economic benefits.

Link to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Sustainable procurement is a key component of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which United Nations Member States have committed, in particular Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. By integrating sustainability principles into the procurement process, companies actively contribute to the achievement of these goals.

Implementation challenges

Implementing sustainable procurement strategies is often fraught with challenges. One of these is the complexity of supply chains, which can make it difficult to monitor and enforce sustainability standards. In addition, assessing and selecting sustainable suppliers can be challenging, especially when they are spread across global supply chains. Furthermore, balancing cost efficiency and profitability with the desire for sustainability can be a hurdle.

Opportunities and benefits of sustainable procurement

Despite the challenges, sustainable procurement offers significant benefits. It contributes to risk reduction and resilience in the supply chain by reducing dependencies on individual suppliers and increasing diversity. It can also improve corporate image and strengthen customer loyalty as more and more consumers value sustainable products. Finally, sustainable procurement can lead to innovation by encouraging companies to seek new, more environmentally friendly materials and production methods.

Measures to implement sustainable procurement

In order to successfully implement sustainable procurement processes, companies and public procurers need to take a number of measures. These include the integration of sustainability criteria into procurement processes, effective supplier management and assessment, the use of sustainability certifications and standards, and collaboration with suppliers and stakeholders. By working closely with suppliers in this way, companies can ensure that their products and services meet the highest sustainability standards.

Success stories and best practices

There are numerous examples of companies that have successfully implemented sustainable procurement. Sustainable companies in the textile sector are pioneers in this field and have implemented strict sustainability standards in their supply chains, bringing environmental as well as social and economic benefits.

Existing guidelines for sustainable sourcing

There are several internationally recognised guidelines and standards that can help companies implement sustainable sourcing practices. These include ISO 20400:2017, which serves as a guide for sustainable procurement and provides recommendations for strategy, organisation and processes. In addition, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has developed specific standards for reporting on sustainable procurement practices. The Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the UN Principles for Responsible Investment also provide valuable guidelines for sustainable procurement - as do the European Union's EU Green Public Procurement Guidelines or the sustainability standards of the German Sustainability Code (DNK).

In addition, there are sector-specific certification systems such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that help companies implement and communicate sustainable procurement practices to the outside world. However, it is important that companies consider these guidelines and certificates as part of a comprehensive sustainability management and continuously review and improve their efforts to ensure the sustainability of their procurement.

Outlook and future developments

Sustainable procurement will continue to play a central role in the future. With the increasing awareness of the need for sustainable business practices and the pressure from governments and consumers on companies to act more sustainably, the focus on sustainable procurement will continue to grow.


Sustainable procurement offers an effective way of integrating sustainability into everyday operations. While challenging, it also offers significant opportunities. By implementing sustainable procurement strategies, companies can not only make a positive contribution to the environment and society, but also strengthen their own resilience and improve their competitiveness. Sustainable procurement is therefore not a trend, but an important step on the way to a sustainable economy and society.

Sustainable procurement and

The matchmaking platform is a project of German development cooperation that focuses on attracting companies from the private sector to participate in development cooperation projects. Numerous business opportunities from the field of sustainable procurement and supply chains can also be found here. In addition, the Development Cooperation of the Federal Republic of Germany uses to search for possible suppliers for service contracts via market explorations.

Learn more about sustainable procurement in developing and emerging countries here.

Toast content has launched a special call supporting companies in Ukraine and Moldova, as well as civil society organisations in Germany. Find out more on the special pages.