One of the European Union's top priorities by 2030 is to promote responsible expenses that have a social and environmental impact and contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals. ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) criteria have become a constant concern of the business environment.

The procurement sector within companies remains in the voluntary area, but may be one of the areas where companies can contribute to the social inclusion of vulnerable people, through social governance and by contracting certain services and products to protected units or social inclusion enterprises.

If consumers want to know the origin of the purchased products and the materials they were made from, companies want to be seen as leaders in sustainable governance. Topics of significant up-to-date importance in procurement departments include savings, digitization and sustainability.

In this context, the Ateliere Fără Frontiere Association organized the “Sustainable acquisitions in the Romanian business environment - challenges, solutions and good practices” debate, which is part of a larger project entitled “Acquisitions with social and environmental impact”, carried out by the Center for Nonprofit Legislation, in partnership with the Civitas Foundation for Civil Society and Ateliere Fara Frontiere, through the Active Citizens program Fund – Romania, financed by EEA and Norwegian Grants.

The project aims to increase the implementation of social and environmental procurement at the level of public institutions and companies, in order to improve the social inclusion of people from vulnerable groups and the population's quality of life, by reducing negative effects on the environment.

“It is well known that, currently, the society exerts an enormous pressure on companies to minimize the impact that their products, processes and supply chains have on the environment. Procurement, as a strategic business partner, can play a key role in reducing organizations' environmental impact by integrating sustainability measures into supplier assessments and selection processes. And while technology is available today, the measurement of environmental parameters and standardized integration into procurement decisions are still major challenges for companies", said Laszlo Borbely, State Councilor for Sustainable Development.

The relative poverty rate continues to be high in Romania, in 2020 being 23.4%, in absolute values, (INS) the weight of the long-term unemployment in the total unemployment rate increased to 44.1%, a large part of the individuals in these statistics being vulnerable people with poor social, educational and health conditions.

Acquisitions in the business sector can contribute to social inclusion by contracting products and services provided by social insertion enterprises and units that offer work integration of people that are far from the labor market.

"The Ateliere Fără Frontiere Association manages to reintegrate vulnerable people into the labor market and has become a well-known provider of products and services, mainly for the private sector. Approximately 50% of our revenues come from sales, most of the clients being Romanian companies. We collect electrical and electronic waste, refurbish computers and then donate them to schools, reuse outdoor advertising materials that we turn into products, and grow certified organic vegetables. We have a much lower productivity than a regular company, but we manage to give a chance to those who have been labeled as non-employable ", says Damien Thiery, CEO of Ateliere Fără Frontiere.

The companies that were invited at the event presented their policies and how they manage to operationalize the ESG criteria in the procurement field, acknowledging that they are still at the beginning and such debates are very useful.