When the federation, cantons and municipalities purchase cheap products abroad, there is often a downside – their production involves appalling wages, significant overtime, dangerous working conditions or even child labour. Consumer behaviour in Switzerland has a direct influence over the working conditions in the Global South. As a major consumer that spends CHF 40 billion on goods and services annually, the public authorities have a particular responsibility to ensure that no workers were exploited in the production of the uniforms, cobblestones or computers they purchase. Swiss municipalities alone spend CHF 16 billion annually; this spending can influence living conditions in the Global South through socially sustainable purchases and demonstrations of solidarity through support for development projects.
Sustainable public procurement
Since 2011, Solidar Suisse has used its municipality rating to regularly investigate whether Swiss municipalities are living up to their responsibility for their impact globally, by taking account of social sustainability factors in their procurement and by supporting development cooperation.
Solidar Suisse wants to use its ‘municipality rating’ to educate municipalities and show them which municipalities are setting a good example.
We have developed information leaflets on development cooperation and sustainable procurement to support municipalities. We put interested municipalities in contact with other municipalities that are already implementing a sustainable approach to procurement. In 2018, for the first time an exchange was organised, at which the specific details of implementing sustainable procurement processes were discussed, using the municipality of Ittigen as an example. If you are interested you can contact us here.
In addition, Solidar Suisse has advocated for sustainability to be anchored in the new federal law on public procurement. The new federal law entered into force on 1 January 2021.
«As a financially strong municipality, we can make a small contribution to global fairness and social justice. This award is a confirmation that we are applying our resources in a useful and appropriate manner while at the same time providing impetus for us to continue to exhaust potential avenues of social engagement.»
The municipality rating is yielding results. There has been significant progress since 2011, above all in procurement processes. The number of municipalities in the ‘leader’ category has risen steadily: from three in 2011, to 16 out of 87 participating municipalities in 2019.
Some municipalities have stated that, after receiving a poor score in the rating, they have reformulated their approach to procurement to incorporate sustainability. The municipality of Meilen is a good example – in 2016 it entered the rating with a very good result. It demanded that its suppliers committed to complying with the ILO’s core labour standards. In 2019, Meilen introduced the procurement guidelines produced by the Swiss energy-efficient city programme Energiestadt to strengthen the focus on social criteria.
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