Green Public Procurement in Bhutan: Success Story from Asia

Green Public Procurement in Bhutan: Success Story from Asia

Rajesh Kumar Shakya (The World Bank, USA) and Pem Lama (GPP Bhutan, Bhutan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7083-7.ch008
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Bhutan is a developing country in Asia with a strong commitment to environment and sustainability. While most of the developing world is still trying to explore the opportunities to formulate the Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) policies and legislation, Bhutan has successfully implemented the Green Public Procurement in Bhutan (GPP Bhutan) project. The three-year project started in 2014 and ended in June 2017. It has conducted research, trained public procurers, sensitized suppliers, and piloted green public procurement projects to introduce and implement green procurement in the country. This chapter aims to discuss how the government of Bhutan has embraced the value of green public procurement (GPP) and is setting an example for other countries of how to leverage the power of the public purse to advance sustainable development. The chapter presents the success story of Bhutan from the perspective of its implementation approaches. The Bhutan strategy encompasses all spheres of national policies in line with the sustainable or green public procurement (GPP)—whereby government authorities seek to procure goods, services, and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle, as well as with an increased positive social impact—that have the potential to drive sustainable growth in Bhutan. The chapter also at places points to Bhutan's various national policies and strategies and illustrates some examples and experiences that other emerging countries can learn from.
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High up in the Eastern Himalayas is one of the greenest countries in the world. While many nations are struggling to reduce their carbon emissions, the Kingdom of Bhutan is already carbon negative: it takes more greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere than it emits. (Tutton & Scott, 2018)

CNN published an article by Mark Tutton and Katy Scott about Bhutan green achievement on October 11, 2018. It would be relevant to present an excerpt from the article here (shown in Box 1).

Box 1.­
Sandwiched between China and India, Bhutan spans approximately 14,800 square miles -- roughly the size of Maryland. Its vast woodlands cover approximately 70% of the country and act as a natural carbon sink, absorbing carbon dioxide.
As a result, according to its own figures, this nation of around 750,000 people removes nearly three times as much CO2 as it produces.
Bhutan's ability to be a net carbon sink is partly down to its natural forests and the fact that it is relatively undeveloped -- most people work in agriculture or forestry -- which means it emits less than 2.5 million tons of CO2 each year. Luxembourg, for example, with a smaller population, emits four times as much.
There are other carbon negative countries in the world, and they are also heavily forested and undeveloped. But in Bhutan, there are other factors at play.
For the past 46 years the Bhutanese government has opted to measure progress not through its Gross Domestic Product, but through “Gross National Happiness,” which places great emphasis on the protection of the country's rich natural environment.
“Bhutan is the only country in the world that by its own constitution protects its forests,” explains Juergen Nagler, of the UN Development Program in Bhutan.
Environmental protection is enshrined in the constitution, which states that a minimum of 60% of Bhutan's total land should be maintained under forest cover for all time. The country even banned logging exports in 1999.
What's more, almost all the country's electricity comes from hydropower.
In fact, it produces so much hydroelectricity that it sells it to neighboring countries, which Bhutan claims offsets another 4.4 million tons of annual CO2 emissions. And Bhutan says that by 2025, increased hydroelectricity exports will let the country offset up to 22.4 million tons of CO2 per year in the region.

Source: CNN (

Bhutan has demonstrated how strategy plays a role in making the vision a success, that is also in the complex domain of Green Public Procurement. Bhutan was ideal for the implementation of the GPP project as green initiatives are not new at all in the country. Bhutan has taken a unique approach its development called Gross National Happiness (GNH), which seeks to achieve equitable and sustainable economic development while protecting its environment, preserving its culture and ensuring good governance. For decades now improving the Gross National Happiness (GNH), not the GDP, has been at the heart of all of Bhutan's political and economic agendas (Forest, 2017).

The 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranked Bhutan at 131 among other 180 countries, which accessed on 24 performance indicators across ten issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality (EPI, 2018). Green Environmental conservation is one of the four pillars of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness principles, and the government places high importance on sustainable and green initiatives. The potential impact on the economy is also significant: public procurement represents approximately 21 percent of GDP and 60–70 percent of the government’s annual budget (IISD, 2017). The government of Bhutan has embraced the value of green public procurement (GPP) and is setting an example for other countries on how to leverage the power of the public purse to advance sustainable development.

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