When awarding contracts using the most economically advantageous tender route, the award criteria used in the evaluation may include environmental, social and other aspects provided there is a genuine link to the subject matter of the contract and they are economically beneficial in the view of the contracting authority.
It is recommended that at the beginning of a tender exercise consideration be given to identifying environmental dimensions that are relevant to the requirement. Then, when evaluating the tender submissions, those best meeting the environmental criteria will be scored accordingly in the assessment process. In addition, consideration may be given to accepting variant tenders which can give the tenderers the opportunity to submit innovative, environmentally-friendly, tenders which will be evaluated against the stated criteria.
Where a particular recognised environmental standard is used, tenderers offering an alternative standard have to convince the contracting authority that their alternative standard is equivalent to the one stated in the tender documentation.
In the case of social criteria, these are somewhat harder to determine. If, for example, there is a desire to support the use of unemployed labour then any tender that will use unemployed labour would be scored favourably, not only those that are going to employ 'local' unemployed. Therefore, the purpose of a social criterion will be to support a category of people and not the category within a specified location.
For example, an environmental interest of a contracting authority may be to support the planting of trees as a means of helping to reduce the impact of CO2 gas emissions. Where a tender is for the provision of disposable paper products (hand towels, toilet rolls etc) a requirement that the products are manufactured from sustainable forests would be appropriate. However, in a tender for the provision of cleaning chemicals and equipment, a criteria relating to the supporting of sustainable forests would not be appropriate as it isn't related to the products to which the tender relates.
The stated criteria, therefore, must be defined clearly enough to enable the tenderers to understand what is expected and to enable a contract to be awarded.
Eco labels and production process standards may be used, however, alternatives submitted by tenderers must be considered with the tenderer having to demonstrate equivalence. Furthermore it is necessary for the requirements that sit behind the eco label and or production process standard to be described in the specification and not just a reference to the label themselves. The label requirements must only concern criteria which are linked to the subject matter of the contract and are appropriate, objectively verifiable, non-discriminatory, open to anyone and over which the supplier has no influence.