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The multilateral development banks

In many countries, governments are the largest consumers of goods and services. The average share of public procurement in gross domestic product (GDP) in OECD countries is about 11%, reaching 16% in the countries of the European Union. Governments have enormous power to influence markets towards sustainability through the quantity of their purchases while providing good sustainable consumption examples for their citizens. Most OECD countries have adopted green procurement practices which emphasise the environmental characteristics of products and services, but these vary in extent and coverage. The European Commission has identified seven countries in Europe as “deep green” in terms of public procurement – Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom (EC, 2007). In theory, green procurement should take into account the effects on the environment that the product or service has over its lifecycle from “cradle to grave,” as recommended in the OECD Council Recommendation on Improving the Environmental Performance of Public Procurement (OECD, 2007b). The main product categories to which green procurement is now applied are paper products (recycled, chlorine-free), heating appliances, information technology equipment, cleaning products, packaging, furniture, motor vehicles, and energy and waste services. For example, green procurement has resulted in take-up of fuel-efficient vehicles, and energy efficient appliances and lighting in the Australian public sector; refilled toner cartridges and recycled paper in Austria; and solvent-free paints and renewable energy options in Switzerland. The United Kingdom is now attempting to meet recommendations that central government buildings and transport be carbon neutral by 2012.