Ilmar Reepalu, Mayor of Malmö, Sweden

20/02/2011 / Kaj

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Be courageous and show leadership in public procurement!

An arena of many actors is a natural prerequisite for sustainable urban development. For the world’s cities, this arena is full of challenges, challenges with a high dynamic range requiring strong leadership, regardless of whether they work in politics or business.

In a situation where the urban total economic, social and ecological stress is becoming increasingly greater, it is clear that something must be done. The solution is cooperation and collaboration based on local conditions (conditions that are obviously different if you live in Stockholm, Malmo, London, Kinshasa, Cairo, Rio or Toronto).

A common goal for all cities is sustainable growth, where people compete and learn from each other. One important tool is public procurement, or buying and investing using public funds, that is to say taxpayers’ money. This type of activity is regulated in Sweden and in Europe. Here it is important to get it right as trade and competition are important in the EU. In Sweden we are good at setting environmental, climatic, social and ethical requirements in public procurement, but we can do much better.

What is it that made Sweden more advanced than others in efforts to promote sustainable development?

One important prerequisite is local self-government with Swedish municipalities having their own tax base (municipal tax accounts for approximately 70% of municipal capital). In addition, municipalities’ responsibility for physical planning, housing, water and waste, energy and other infrastructure.

Swedish cities are in the forefront of developing sustainable solutions. This development is in collaboration between the public and private sectors. Here, public procurement has a vital role to play. In Sweden, the total value of public procurement to 25% of GDP, in the Nordic countries 16% and nearly 14% in the EU.

The municipalities are responsible for infrastructure and, together with the private sector, is developing the technology, logistics and business supplies.

Many argue that competition law is an obstacle in this development. Managed properly, competition law is not an obstacle to sustainable growth. Martti Virtanen expressed the following when handing over the report from the Nordic Competition Commission (Competition Policy and Green Growth, Interactions and Challenges): “For our growth strategy to succeed it is essential to create incentives that govern business and other economic agents to reduce adverse environmental effects and develop new environmentally friendly products and production processes “.

To get the right momentum, politics and business must show courage and leadership. Examples of this can be seen not only in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, but in several Swedish cities. My demand is as follows:

• Stimulate and challenge the business community by introducing tough green and social requirements in public procurement.

• Develop collaboration between the public and private sectors, with the goal of developing sustainable products and services, both for the Swedish and internatonal markets.

Kaj Embrén


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