The Swedish Government leads the way on climate-smart, circular procurement

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As one of the focuses of this year’s budget, the Swedish Government is tasking the National Agency for Public Procurement with devising ways of strengthening and developing public procurement to promote the climate transition and the shift to a circular economy.

There are substantial opportunities for using public procurement as a strategic tool in the transition to a circular, fossil-free economy. Public procurement spending totals almost SEK 800 billion a year. Working to make public procurement circular, non-toxic and fossil-free will make a genuine difference in reducing carbon emissions and the unsustainable use of resources.

The assignment is consistent with the circular economy strategy and is also based on a proposal from the innovation partnership programme Climate neutral industry. The proposal states that the Government should be leading the way, and that government agencies therefore need to procure products and services that are less toxic, and more circular, fossil-free and sustainable.

- In Sweden, public procurement accounts for almost SEK 800 billion a year. It has been proposed, including by the Government’s innovation partnership programme, that the Government and government agencies should be at the forefront of circular, non-toxic and climate-smart procurement. Leading the way on the climate transition also provides an opportunity to further contribute to the business sector’s transition and create future jobs, says Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson.

- Climate change poses enormous challenges for Sweden, along with the rest of the world. But it also presents a huge opportunity for us to create green jobs and new investments. Cooperation between the various actors in society is crucial here. The Government should be at the forefront, encouraging demand for climate-neutral, circular products and services. It’s a way of pursuing our own green industrial revolution and accelerating the pace of the green transition, comments Minister for Climate and the Environment, Annika Strandhäll.

- The Government, municipalities and regions have an important role to play in the green transition. By imposing clear requirements for climate-neutral, circular products and services in their procurement processes, the public sector can lead the way and help create the green jobs of the future, says Minister for Public Administration Ida Karkiainen.

Christina Friborg is Head of Sustainability at SSAB and a member of the working group for Procurement within Climate neutral industry:

Christina Friborg, Head of Sustainability at SSAB.
Christina Friborg, Head of Sustainability at SSAB. Photo: SSAB

- Personally I’m keen to emphasise the importance of materials being procured in the right way and with the right knowledge, because although different materials may look similar, their carbon footprint can vary significantly, Christina Friborg says. Steel is used in most designs and vehicles, and it can have a major climate impact depending on how it is made.

Christina Friborg thinks that since public procurement accounts for SEK 800 billion a year, contracting government agencies should have access to the tools they need to understand the impact of their procurements.

- Steel can be manufactured from iron ore or scrap. One of the challenges we face is ensuring there is enough scrap metal in the world to meet demand. Buying exclusively circular steel, that is steel produced from scrap, can cause a greater climate impact as scrap is more likely to have to be imported, or there’s a risk of steel production from iron ore moving to countries with less CO2-efficient blast furnaces.

- SSAB produces steel from both iron ore and scrap. In 2026 we will be launching a completely new product: fossil-free steel. We want to collaborate in this field and identify opportunities for the way forward: How can public procurement, including regulations and priorities, respond to this new material?

The work of the Procurement working group has produced some stimulating and interesting discussions in the interaction between the public sector and business sector, as Christina Friborg explains:

- It helps all the parties involved learn a great deal about how each organisation works, which is a real positive and paves the way for a constructive partnership for the future.

Anna Möller Wrangel, Head of the Strategy Unit and Acting Head of the Business Unit at the National Agency for Public Procurement:

Anna Möller Wrangel, Head of the Strategy Unit and Acting Head of the Business Unit at the National Agency for Public Procurement.
Anna Möller Wrangel, Head of the Strategy Unit and Acting Head of the Business Unit at the National Agency for Public Procurement. Photo: The National Agency for Public Procurement

Anna Möller Wrangel sees considerable opportunities and welcomes the forthcoming assignment proposed by the Government. She adds that the whole of Europe is currently undergoing a paradigm shift in the area of public procurement.

- The public sector has a responsibility and a huge opportunity to implement innovative solutions in response to the challenges we are facing in society today. Procurement isn’t a theory; it is a strategic tool that can lead to the rapid implementation of new technical, fossil-free solutions and circular flows. At the same time, a strategic and innovative procurement process will generate new business opportunities for suppliers on various markets.

Anna Möller Wrangel thinks it is important to bring about an overall knowledge boost regarding innovative and strategic procurement throughout the public sector.

- Viewing procurement as a necessary evil is an outdated approach. These days it’s more a method for creating solutions to requirements that need to be satisfied. Cooperation and dialogue between the public sector and business sector are crucial,” she concludes.

The Government’s innovation partnership programmes

The objective of the Government’s innovation partnership programmes is to identify innovative solutions to major challenges facing society and to contribute to Sweden’s competitiveness. The themes are based on Sweden’s strengths and on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:

  • Climate neutral industry
  • Skills supply and lifelong learning
  • Digital transformation of industry
  • Health and life sciences