Every year, federal and state governments make millions of euros available through public tenders. The corresponding award criteria have been tightened considerably in recent years and have been adapted to current developments, not least due to the European Green Deal. It is therefore not surprising that the majority of public tenders now include award criteria related to sustainability. The following blog article provides examples from such tenders and demonstrates why you should familiarize yourself with sustainability-related tender criteria.

Why is sustainability essential in funded projects?Diagramm Public tenders-1

Sustainability should be part of every contemporary project. The following picture emerges when comparing environmental impacts and costs as well as development freedoms and savings potential in terms of time and intensity:

At the beginning of a project, especially in research and development (R&D), the environmental impact and costs are low, whereas development freedoms and savings potential are still quite high. Over time, these two facts reverse. The use of evaluation and decision-making methods such as life cycle assessment (LCA) can counteract this trend. For a holistic approach towards sustainability, it is therefore important to integrate the idea into the respective project from the very beginning, starting with the tender documents.

Even if the consideration of sustainability criteria has not yet found its way into the whole funding landscape, it can be assumed that sustainable development will inevitably be addressed in future funding policy as part of guideline revisions.

In which tender calls can sustainability-related criteria be found?

Sustainability-related criteria can be found in international, national and regional calls for proposals from various project sponsors such as federal ministries, associations and banks. Sustainability-related criteria can appear at two points in a tender:

  1. Application: Already in the application, the company must explain which sustainability aspects it considers essential and how it plans to address those in the project. For this purpose, the determination of key performance indicators (KPIs) is recommended. This can be, for example, a qualified assessment of the greenhouse gas emission avoidence potential.
  2. Project: In many projects, a quantitative sustainability assessment of the product in question is required. Life cycle assessments are therefore often part of the project.


Below, you will find selected excerpts from calls for proposals.

International: EU
  • Horizon Europe – European Innovation Council (EIC): Work prorgamme 2024

    EIC Pathfinder Challenge - Nature inspired alternatives for food packaging and films for agriculture: “All projects must demonstrate … evidence of an improved cradle-togate and cradle-to-grave lifecycle assessment, when compared to fossil carbon derived plastics and current additives.“

    EIC Accelerator Challenge - Food from precision fermentation and algae: „All projects must therefore provide a lifecycle assessment taking into account environmental, social and economic considerations.“

  • EU Innovation Fund: "The majority of Innovation Fund support should be tied to the demonstrated avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions." "The project sponsor's final annual report must include the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions avoided throughout the reporting period."

National: BMWK
Regional: Hamburg

How can the criteria be fulfilled?

You can fulfill the above criteria by preparing a product-specific life cycle assessment as part of your project. This quantitatively determines the environmental impact of your product or service. The results could then be used in subsequent projects, for example in terms of process optimization.

In principle, the topic of sustainability should be understood as a cross-cutting issue. Thus, not only ecological but also economic and social aspects should be addressed in the project application as well as in the project. Social aspects might include ant-discrimination and gender equality.

Our offer

As the market leader in the field of subsidy consulting, we have many years of experience in the areas of national and international funding and provide you with advice and support at every stage of the application process. We are also happy to support you in the definition of performance indicators (KPIs) for the project proposal and in the preparation of life cycle assessments within the scope of your project. If you have any questions about sustainability issues in public tenders or would like to know more about the topic, please feel free to email us. You can find out more about our sustainability consulting here.


Text: Katharina Prontnicki, Levin Winzinger

Dr Denise Ott

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Dr Denise Ott

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