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New Directive on Public Procurement: the Potential for Social Firms

Guest Blogger Patrizia Bussi, Manager of the European Network of Social Integration Enterprise (ENSIE) outlines how recent EU legislation can help social firms win more contracts.
Photo of Patrizia Bussi, Manager, ENSIE

Patrizia Bussi, Manager, ENSIE


Public procurement plays an important role in the overall economic performance of the European Union.  European public authorities spend around 20 % of GDP on purchasing supplies, works and services.

The new public procurement directive: Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on public procurement  and the new concession directive: Directive 2014/23/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 were both adopted the 26 February 2014 and published in the OJEU, Official Journal of the European Union.

Directive 2014/24/EU repeals the previous Directive on Public Procurement: Directive 204/18/EC. 

The legislation came into force on 17 April 2014. Member States have 24 months to implement the provisions into national law – except for electronic procurement, where they will have an additional 30 months.

New important possibilities are offered to social firms within the new European directive on the award of public procurement. These are:

Include provision on reserved contracts in national law

Contracting authorities can choose to restrict some tendering procedures for the purchase of some goods, works or services to sheltered workshops and economic operators whose main aim is work integration of persons with disabilities and disadvantaged persons.

This widens the scope of restricted contracts to social firms. 

This new proposal will guarantee a more effective and more sustainable integration of disadvantaged persons and persons with disabilities.

Include Social Clauses

In addition, bids are evaluated not only on the basis of price but can include different weighted criteria to encourage the use of social (and environmental) considerations.

For example, a public authority procuring the construction of roads, bridges, and bus services may decide that the contractor must employ a certain percentage of workers belonging to ethnic minorities.

Opportunities for the wider social economy sector

The Directive allows for the potential to reserve contracts for social services provided by social economy operators to be integrated into national law, and inform contracting authorities on the possibility to continue successful cooperation with such operators beyond a period of three years.

It also allows commissioners to ensure that social services are only awarded to external parties on the basis of the best-quality ratio that includes quality criteria, rather than simply the lowest cost. The best-quality ratio allows the contracting authority to include specific quality criteria that are essential in the delivery of social services, e.g. the services procured should be accessible and affordable, and promote the involvement and empowerment of users.

How Does ENSIE Help?

ENSIE, the European Network of Social Integration Enterprises, is  working hard to help national and regional members lobby for a “good transposition” of the directive in their member states.

ENSIE also encourages members to ask for support mechanisms where possible in all member states to work alongside local authorities, social economy enterprises and businesses to make the most of the opportunities for social aims in the implementation of the directive.

 Social Firms England Note: Social Firms UK fed into the UK government consultation on the transposition of the Directive into UK law. The UK’s implementing regulations, the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 were laid in Parliament on 5 February 2015 and took effect from 26 February 2015. Further information can be found here.


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