Assess needs and consider the use of services

Defining your city’s functional needs for your current sourcing need

Circular public procurement starts with asking the right questions. For the upcoming tender, you could consider stating the functional needs that you want to procure i.e. state what purpose the product or service will serve rather than prescribing a specific product or service. By formulating open questions and communicating the functional needs and intended outcomes, you are likely to create opportunities for suppliers to fulfill those needs in more innovative and creative ways.

In addition, by rethinking the functional needs, your city government or department may realise that it is not necessary to buy new and that it could repurpose the assets it already owns instead. Your municipality may also discover that alternative products or services better fulfil these functional needs.

Questions to consider:

  • What are your department’s or city’s functional needs? How do you define those functional needs?

  • Is procurement necessary? How can you prevent unnecessary purchases? Which city-owned products or assets could be refurbished, repaired, remanufactured, retrofitted, or upgraded to suit your current purchasing/sourcing needs?

  • Can you first ask other departments if they have supplies of the products and materials you need?


  • The City of Bremen’s Senate Department for Environment owned a fleet of 11 cars. But the utilisation rate was low, with most cars used less than three hours a day. Therefore, the department decided to switch to a local car-sharing service with an online booking system. By reassessing the functional needs of the department, employees have gained access to a more flexible and efficient fleet of vehicles, including electric vehicles, and the city now saves on costs related to servicing and parking fees.


  • The book Circular Procurement in 8 steps provides practical steps to integrate circular economy principles into a procurement process. Step three of the book explains how to formulate your functional needs.

  • As part of its Green Public Procurement (GPP) Training Toolkit, the European Commission has developed a module on needs assessment for public procurement. The module encourages public buyers to consider how needs can be met in a more sustainable way.

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