Is sustainable IT procurement always more expensive?

Not only the environment, but also your budget can benefit!

by Rüdiger Vietze & Christian Klein

Senior Consultants

July 27, 2022

In this blog, we address what is meant by sustainable procurement, what labels exist for IT procurement as a possible basis for criteria, and clarify whether sustainability always has to be a cost driver.


Sustainability is often associated with increased costs, and in some cases this may be true. However, there are factors that counteract this:

Include innovation in procurement

Today, it is often the case that a bill of materials for products or services is put out to tender with clear product requirements and specified performance features. This makes it easier for the procuring entity to compare suppliers. The suppliers adhere to this rigid corset and are not always able to contribute their own innovations in their entirety. The result is different when a functional tender is published. It does not ask for a specific product on the market, but defines a functional condition.

In one specific example, it was not a certain number of street lamps that was put out to tender, but a lighting concept for the street in question. The bidder was left to decide for himself how he wanted to design the lighting. For the procuring entity, this meant a little more effort in evaluating the various offers, but it served to maximize innovation and also had a positive impact on the price. The solution was to procure an intelligent lighting concept that switches the lanterns on for only 30 seconds as soon as a car is 30 meters away from the lantern and then switches them off again - thus saving energy and costs.

Bundling of requirements throughout the company

The quantity makes the price; where possible, requirements should be combined. Especially in larger companies, there are decentralized procurement units. If there is precise internal coordination, a price reduction for all requirements can be achieved through a larger quantity from the suppliers. Coordinated delivery and collective instead of individual packaging further improve sustainability and costs.

Evaluate all costs over the entire life cycle

The initial purchase price is not always the most favorable price over the entire service life. It is important to consider the follow-up costs with the initial prices as a whole (TCO=Total Cost of Ownership) in order to make the right choice. In this way, the environment (long service life) and the economy (costs) are brought together.

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Sustainable IT procurement: better today than tomorrow!

The topic of sustainability has gained in importance worldwide in recent years. In the private sector, as well as at the federal, cantonal, municipal and communal levels, there is a growing expectation that sustainable aspects be taken into account in procurement. With the revision of public procurement law (revBöB/IVöB), the public sector has even been obliged to award the contract to the most advantageous offer rather than the most favorable offer. This shifts the focus away from the pure price perspective to the quality characteristics of a solution (IVÖB2019 Art. 29). The consideration of sustainability as an award criterion is now explicitly required.

Sustainability is broadly divided into three categories:

Three categories sustainability

Society: Good working conditions (CLA, international standards, occupational safety, etc.)

In practice, this can mean that not only the working conditions of the direct supplier are queried. The criteria should apply to the entire supply chain and evidence of this should be requested.

Economy: Consideration of costs over the entire life cycle and economic significance

In practice, this can mean that not only the initial acquisition costs of a service are evaluated, but also the costs of the entire service life, the so-called TCO (Total Cost of Owership).

Environment: energy and resource efficiency, recycling possibilities/packaging, optimal period of use

In practice, this can mean that explicit maximum values for electricity or refrigeration consumption are specified and that underconsumption receives additional points in the evaluation.

Sustainability certifications

In order to avoid having to define and specify the individual social, economic and environmental criteria yourself, various labels have been established in recent years. However, it takes some time and experience to be able to correctly classify the quality of information and the degree of coverage of your own requirements. atrete can help you find the label that fits your strategy.

As examples, two labels known in the market are briefly explained below.

TCO Certified

This certificate was founded in 1992 and at the time of writing is in generation 9. It is the most widely used label in the world and is applied by almost all manufacturers in the IT industry for notebooks, monitors, projectors, servers, storage, network and smartphones. TCO Certified meets the requirements of ISO 14024 Ecolabel Type 1. https://www. displays the TCO certificates for various products, including IT, including the version and certificate number. It is important to specify clearly in the tender which version of the TCO certificate the product to be offered should have. It is also possible to search for products on the website. However, the data basis is less well-founded than on

Blue Angel

This certificate was founded in 1978. It is a German label and widespread in Europe, covering more than 20,000 products and services from over 1,600 companies. The IT related product groups include computers, monitors, printers, servers and storage. In addition, software is also certified. The seal for software states that the software is optimally coordinated with the underlying hardware, with a lower utilization of the components. As a result, less power is consumed and this extends the life cycle of the hardware. The Blue Angel label also meets the requirements of ISO 14024 eco-label type 1. Products can be searched for on the website via a category directory. However, the database basis is not comparable with TCO Certified or in terms of the number of products covered.

Practical case with the sustainability criteria society, economy and environment

atrete accompanied a client in whose tender smartphones were procured.

One sustainability requirement was that the repair had to be done in Switzerland and that the majority of the parts could be reused.

Criterion Society: This means that jobs are provided in Switzerland and that it is ensured that the working conditions applicable here are observed in the repair process.

Criterion Economy: The supply chain in Switzerland for the repair process as well as the repair itself secures people an income and employment. The integration of the second labor market is conceivable.

Environmental criterion: Local processing means that the CO2 balance for transporting a faulty device is better than if it is taken abroad. It was also defined that the battery must be replaceable in order to conserve resources.

Recognizing the customer need for a local repair service, many manufacturers have strengthened national support organizations or formed domestic partnerships in recent months.

Another trend is that the customer is becoming more and more involved in the repair process. With intelligent apps and simpler construction methods or easier access to the individual components, repairs can be carried out by the customer himself.

Our assessment

Sustainability in IT procurement is becoming increasingly important. Where possible, IT should apply the company's existing sustainability guidelines to procurement. Here it is important to find out which goals can be supported by IT and where it may be necessary to deliberately distance oneself. If this is the case, proactive communication internally and possibly externally is important in order to strengthen the reputation of the company's sustainability strategy. atrete provides support here in the evaluation of the individual case with suitable methods. Sustainable procurement can cause additional costs, but this can be counteracted through innovation (functional tendering), quantity bundling and a cost consideration over the entire service life.

Sustainability does not always have to mean additional costs. On the contrary, sustainability can even have a positive impact on price through innovation, volume bundling and TCO considerations.

We use our many years of experience in defining sustainable procurement criteria profitably for your individual procurement. With our support, you can master the new requirements and set the right cornerstones for sustainable procurement in IT.