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International trade agreements provide opportunities for sustainable procurement in Canada

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Ottawa, 27 March – International trade agreements are not a barrier to innovative sustainable procurement, but procurers need to use the flexibility offered by these agreements instead of perceiving them as a barrier, according to a new study released today by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

Canada’s International Trade Obligations: Barrier or opportunity for sustainable public procurement? focuses on how and to what extent Canada’s international trade commitments enable the transition towards strategic public procurement. The report looks specifically at the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Government Procurement (WTO GPA) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

“Sustainable procurement is an important strategic tool that governments can use to drive towards a low-carbon economy,” says report author Liesbeth Casier, a Policy Analyst with IISD's Economic Law and Policy Program. “But procurers often cite the complexities of international trade agreements and other legal frameworks as a barrier to implementing sustainable procurement.”

The report – based on desk research and interviews with Canadian procurers, policy-makers and international experts – includes examples of how sustainable public procurement already happens in Canada and in other jurisdictions in a manner compliant with international economic law.

“Providing more legal certainty about what a procuring authority can do under international trade obligations is one way to address the barriers and enable better use of sustainable procurement,” Casier said.

The report includes recommendations to governments stakeholders, including the development of a Procurement Package. This would include:

  • A Social Procurement Policy to accompany the already well-established Green Procurement Policy
  • A one-stop shop for questions
  • A learning and sharing platform
  • Further professionalization of procurers

Other recommendations include:

  • Acceleration of the development of a national database on life-cycle assessments
  • Development of tools that value sustainability tailored to procurers
  • Implementing sustainable e-procurement
  • Innovation brokers to facilitate sustainable public procurement implementation

About the International Institute for Sustainable Development

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an independent think tank that delivers the knowledge to act. Our mission is to promote human development and environmental sustainability. Our big-picture view allows us to address the root causes of some of the greatest challenges facing our planet today – ecological destruction, social exclusion, unfair laws and economic and social rules, a changing climate. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa and Toronto, our work impacts lives in nearly 100 countries.

For more information, please contact: or +1 (613) 238 2296 ext. 114