A review about Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) recently published from the United Nations Environment Program highlights the current status and importance of SPP worldwide.

A review about Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) recently published from the United Nations Environment Program highlights the current status and importance of SPP worldwide. Most relevant organizations are selecting ecolabels, standards, and certification as key topics as a driving force behind SPP. From this, it can be seen that customers consider ecolabels as a major tool to identify whether or not they meet the criteria when purchasing sustainable products. Likewise, in Korea, ecolabels are used as one of the indicators for determining SPP products. Therefore, in this article, I will explain the impact of SPP and future tasks along with the introduction of Korea ecolabel.

The Korean ecolabel is a certification system enforced by the Ministry of Environment and KEITI (Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute). Since its foundation in 1992, the system has granted certifications to a wide range of eco-friendly products, which are excellent in not only environmental properties, but also in products’ quality during their life cycle. For 30 years we have launched about 160 criteria covering construction materials, office equipment, furniture, personal and household goods, etc. Each standard covers verification in environmental and quality properties, such as reduction of the use of harmful substances, energy saving, resource saving, carbon neutrality, resource circulation, etc. As of June 2023, 19,689 products (in 5,057 companies) have been certified. Table 1 shows the 8 major categories of ecolabel criteria, the number of certified products, and their percentage. As shown in the table, 70 % of the certificated products consist of construction materials, office supplies and furniture.

Table 1. The Status of Korea Ecolabel Certification

In Korea, “green products” are legally defined as products that minimize the input of energy, resources, greenhouse gasses, and pollutants (Framework Act on Carbon Neutrality and Green Growth for Coping with Climate Crisis). Green products are specified in the Act on the Promotion of Purchase of Green Products. Ecolabel products are classified as part of thism. 

The same law stipulates the obligations of public institutions to purchase green products. According to this Law, when public institutions intend to purchase a product, they should l purchase green products. As of 2022, 1,176 national agencies and 30,000 sub-public authorities are required to mandatory purchase green products. 

Based on the Green Product Act, the purchase amounts by GPP has continued to grow, which can be confirmed by statistical data. According to Figure 1, purchase amounts by GPP increased by 4.5 times from 861.4 billion won in 2006 to 3.8 trillion won in 2021. This value is the sum of the purchase amounts by GPP under 3 certification systems. Among them, the ratio of purchase amounts from ecolabel certified products is about 81% and accounts for about 3.1 trillion won as of 2021. Therefore, it can be seen the mandatory GPP system has eased the initial barriers for entering the market for ecolabel products and contributed to the activation of certification. In addition, according to Figure 2, it can be confirmed that the number of ecolabel certifications has increased during the same period and is growing to the present day. Through these data, it can be specified that the number of ecolabel certification and the purchase amounts by GPP has grown together, forming a mutually helpful relationship.

Figure 1. Purchase Amount of Green Products

Figure 2. Number of Certified Product & Enterprise

In addition to the mandatory GPP, Korea’s Ministry of Environment is making efforts to activate green products. In particular, a plan containing policy to promote green products, called “Basic Plan for Promotion of Purchase of Green Products” has been established. In detail, it contains policy directions, promotion plans, targeted as green products, analysis and improvement measures for GPP performance, and international cooperation related to green products. Currently, the 4th Basic Plan for Promotion of Purchase of Green Products (2021-2025) is in the implementation stage, and there are three main tasks related to ecolabel:. 

1) Activating certification of daily necessities by improving certification standards
2) Inducing green product certification in the service sector
3) Strengthening the network between countries by establishing mutual recognition agreements (MRA) and common standards.

In relation to the major tasks mentioned above, the following efforts are being implemented in the Korea ecolabel.

1) Activating certification of daily necessities by improving certification standards

The Korean ecolabel aims to improve new standards, by focusing on products with high consumption rates In particular, according to the current high demand for eco-friendly products (personal hygiene products, household products, and infant children’s products), related standards have been revised through collecting opinions from stakeholders, consumers, and so on. In addition, as new standards, household range hood, tableware, camping supplies, and cafe service are introduced and expected that people can easily come into contact with it in their daily lives.

2) Inducing certification in the service sector for eco-friendly consumption

As the convergence environment in which the business model of the manufacturing industry shifts from product to service accelerates, it is also intended to induce eco-friendly consumption by introducing new service criteria. Former set standards with low-certified products have been revised by collecting opinions from companies and experts to revitalize them (Eg.. Hotel servces). New standards have been also developed to lead consumers’ green consumption (Eg. Café services, Multi-use container rental services).

3) Strengthening the network between countries by establishing mutual recognition agreements (MRA) and common standards

Korea has signed 12 MRA with 11 countries and has made efforts to ease barriers to overseas certification by establishing common standards for environmental labeling certification standards. We are also planning to establish a cooperative system between countries with common standards and an ecolabel system.

Latest news & events

8 May 2024

GEN Magazine Edition 45

Read GEN Magazine 45…

2 January 2024

GENews December 2023

Read GEN News December 2023…

20 September 2023

ISEAL Training Course

These courses are relevant for anyone who want a deep dive into…

20 September 2023

B20 India Summit

The GEN Chair and Secretariat were there representing GEN which included a

31 August 2023

Procurement for People and The Planet – Sustainable Procurement Information Brochure

Last week, GEN’s Chair and Secretariat were involved at the B2O Summit,

12 August 2023

GENews August

Read GEN News August 2023…

12 August 2023

GEN Magazine Edition 44

Read GEN Magazine 44…

12 August 2023

Sustainable Public Procurement Article

Benefits of Ecolabel Sustainable Public Procurement

The sustainable public procurement (SPP) of…

12 August 2023

Case study – EPEAT Ecolabels & SPP

With more than 4000 EPEAT-registered products available in 40 countries around the…

12 August 2023

Shining a light on green public procurement with EU Ecolabel

Public procurement – or the purchases of goods, services and works by…

GEN is the leading network of the world’s most credible and robust ecolabels

Become a member

Sign up for GENews