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Green Business

‘Oxygen’ project: planting 6 million trees, one tree for each inhabitant of Lazio Region

Case study of the Lazio Region, Italy


Lazio Region is the second most populated region of Italy, situated in the western-central area of the country, with a population of about 5.8 million. The Region has defined and implemented an integrated and strategic system of projects called ‘Lazio Green’ aimed at protecting the environment, reducing pollution and promoting the circular economy. In this context, Lazio launched the ‘Oxygen’ project, whose objective is to promote the region’s environmental heritage and its quality and, at the same time, to enhance its public use within the framework of economically sustainable management.

From 2020 to 2022, Lazio invested 12 million € to plant and maintain 6 million new trees and shrubs in the whole region, one tree for each inhabitant. This investment had the objective of creating 30 thousand more hectares of widespread forest in the Region, as well as offsetting 240.000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Procurement objectives

To implement its environmental sustainability strategy, the Region published two calls for expression of interest in 2020 and 2021 to select the best projects to assign the trees and shrubs, preferably native, to be planted on public land or for public use in the region’s urban and peri-urban areas.

In response to the first call, 110 projects were submitted by 89 municipalities, 6 third sector entities, 2 educational institutions, 2 historic houses, 2 hospitals, 4 park authorities, 3 agricultural universities, 1 research institution and 1 mountain community. Proposals were received for 228 planting sites and for 37.710 trees. In response to the second call, 201 projects were submitted by 135 municipalities, 19 farms, 13 third sector organisations, 13 municipalities of Rome, 9 educational institutions, 4 agricultural universities, 2 park authorities, and 6 other entities. The foreseen number of trees and shrubs to be planted is 40.728.

In parallel, the Region launched an open public procurement procedure aimed at awarding Framework Agreements for the supply and planting of new trees and shrubs in the territory of the Region, including transport, delivery and guarantee of engraftment. This procedure contributes to the actions put in place by the Region to promote the fight against climate change, offset CO2 emissions, and protect the biodiversity of the regional ecosystem.

Criteria used

Given the object of the tender, green public procurement considerations were introduced from the beginning of the project. The tender documents included a combination of green criteria in the technical specifications and in the award criteria. The procedure was divided into 6 lots on a geographic basis, to take into account the characteristics of each territory. Contracts were awarded to the tenderers with the most economically advantageous tender, determined on the basis of the best price-quality ratio which was weighted 20/80.

Under Italian law, the Minimum Environmental Criteria define technical specifications, contract performance clauses and award criteria to be used when awarding contracts for specific product and service categories. They are mandatory for what concerns technical specifications and contract clauses according to art. 34 of Legislative Decree 50/2016 (Italian Public Procurement law).

In this tender procedure, the products supplied must comply with the Minimum Environmental Criteria for the public green management service and the supply of green maintenance products (including plants supplies), approved by Italian Ministerial Decree of 10 March 2020, published in Official Journal no. 90 of 4 April 2020.

The specific technical specifications, award criteria and contract performance clauses used in this tender procedure by the contracting authority, to comply with the Minimum Environmental Criteria concerning the public green management service and the supply of green maintenance products, are described in the sections below.

Technical specifications

In compliance with the above mentioned Minimum Environmental Criteria for the public green management service and the supply of green maintenance products, technical specifications, with regards to plants supplies, concerned the following elements:

• characteristics of plants aimed to the selection of local species, suitable to the climate and ecologic characteristics of the planting site, preservation of biodiversity and avoiding diffusion of invasive alien species, and harmonization between natural and urban systems;

• characteristics of packaging, aimed at using recycled material. To comply with the Minimum Environmental Criteria related to soil improvers and fertilizers used for bottom fertilization, technical specifications foresaw that: • fertilizers must contain natural substances;

• soil improvers must be compostable and compliant with specific regulation; • usage of peats must be forbidden;

• mulching must be performed with natural materials.

In addition to fulfilling the above mentioned mandatory Minimum Environmental Criteria, the technical specifications also required that containers and packaging, if made of plastic, must have a minimum recycled content of 30%, must be returned to the supplier at the end of use, and must be recyclable. If made of other materials, they must be biodegradable if intended to remain with the plant in the soil, or compostable and sent to a composting process at the end of their life.

Infographic explaining the case where one tree equals one person living in the region of Lazio, Italy.


Award criteria

To comply with the Minimum Environmental Criteria for the public green management service and the supply of green maintenance products, the following award criteria were set:

• possession of environmental management system certifications (ISO 14001, EMAS);

• water saving techniques;

• usage of low peat content substrates; • organic production; • adoption of a phytosanitary management plan;

• possession of product certification (ex EC Regulation 765/2008).

Furthermore, the following environmental and social criteria were applied:

a. Up to 14 points were attributed to the organisation of work, human resources and other means, as well as for the training measures addressed to the personnel involved in the execution of the contract. In detail the following elements were evaluated:

• Organisational structure proposed for the execution of the services (max 8 points); • Involvement in the team of agronomists, agriculturists, specialized workers with gardening certifications (max 4 points);

• A social consideration was included, as out of 14 points, 2 points were given if social cooperatives of type B (aimed at the work integration of disadvantaged people) were part of the bidding consortia or the temporary grouping of undertakings.

b. Up to 6 points were given for environmental certifications: out of 6 points, 3 points were awarded to Economic Operators in possession of Environmental Management System Certification, such as UNI EN ISO 14001 or EMAS; 2 points for floricultural production certifications; 1 point for UNI EN ISO 9001.

c. ‘Water saving’ criterion: up to 4 points were given for bidders’ proposed water-saving and water resource rationalisation techniques and technologies, such as rainwater collection systems or other high efficiency solutions.

d. ‘Substrates with reduced peat content’ criterion: up to 2 points were awarded in proportion to the lower use of peat compared to other types of substrates, for growing the species offered.

e. ‘Organic production’ criterion: up to 2 points were awarded in proportion to the percentage of plants and/or trees produced in compliance with Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products.

f. ‘Renewable energy sources’ criterion: up to 2 points were given to bidders who use no less than 50 per cent of energy from renewable sources for heating their greenhouses.

g. ‘Phytosanitary management plan’ criterion: up to 2 points were awarded to tenderers who possess a phytosanitary management plan relating to the floricultural products covered by the contract.

h. ‘Valorisation and management of residual material’ criterion: up to 2 points were awarded if the tenderer committed to undertake the use of the residual material generated by planting activities by delivering it to local composting systems as a structuring material, or for reuse.

i. ‘Solutions to reduce the environmental impact’ criterion: up to 4 points were given to the effectiveness and concreteness of the proposals aimed at reducing the environmental impacts deriving from the execution of the contract, with particular reference to transport (e.g. use of electric, hybrid, natural gas or Euro 6 vehicles, use of low emissions equipment).

With regards to criteria from c) to i), within the awarding phase the contracting authority performed a verification based on the Technical Proposals presented by the bidders whereas in the contract execution phase, fulfilment of requirements and obligations of the supplier is verified by the contract authorities and the beneficiaries through a quality verification activity. Moreover, a penalty schema for non-compliances is in place.

Image of a person planting a new tree
Photo by Vitor Monthay


Contract performance clauses

To comply with the Minimum Environmental Criteria, the following clauses were included:

• obligation for the supplier to perform quality control on plants at the delivery;

• obligation for the supplier to provide guarantee of engraftment.


The initiative, divided into 6 territorial lots, involved between 16 and 17 economic operators for each lot. For each lot, four bidders were admitted to a framework agreement with a duration of 36 months. The value of each lot ranged from 396.282,79 € to 2.555.618,89 € for three years, with an overall amount of 8.196.721,31 € for three years.

For each lot, on average 4 or 5 bidders were able to include social cooperatives of type B in the bidding consortium.

By combining a public procurement procedure for the supply and planting of new trees and shrubs, which includes environmental and social considerations, with calls for expression of interest to stimulate other public bodies, schools, civil society and other actors to propose projects to which to assign the trees and shrubs, Lazio Region aimed at transforming public procurement procedures from a mere purchase instrument to an instrument of public policy. This model has the potential to be replicated in many other policy domains. The fact that the contacting authority was the Central Purchasing Body of a Region allowed the possibility to have uniform prices, conditions and monitoring systems for the purchase across the whole territory of the Region.

The international organisation Oru Fogar (Organization of United Regions / Global Forum of Regional Governments and Associations of Regions), an organisation representing all regional and sub-regional entities on the world scene, awarded the Lazio Region the VII regional best practices award (sponsored by UNDP - United Nations Development Programme) for the project “Achieving environmental sustainability through public procurement. The project OSSIGENO”, ex aequo with 4 other regional entities.

The Forum ‘Compraverde BuyGreen’ (key event on policies, projects, goods and services of Green Procurement, both public and private, that annually brings together the main players involved in the dissemination and implementation of sustainable procurement of goods and services) gave the Lazio Region the award for the “Best Green Tender” for the Oxygen project, ex aequo with 2 other Italian regional entities.

Environmental and social impacts

The environmental impact is still being assessed, but the final goal of “Ossigeno” is to generate urban and peri-urban clusters capable of absorbing up to 240 thousand tons of CO2 per year. Once completed, the outcomes of the plantation processes carried out during the implementation of the project will help the Region’s territory to mitigate the negative effects of pollution, climate change and loss of biodiversity. When the final scope of the project is achieved, communities’ economies will also be able to register benefits from a stronger and more diverse surrounding ecosystem.

Concerning social impacts, there is a beneficial effect on social matters in the communities where the project has been already implemented. The implementation of environment-oriented projects is expected to build awareness within the population towards related subjects, which should produce positive long-term results in the relationship between Lazio’s citizens and their surrounding natural patrimony.

Lessons learned Monitoring Process

A set of key performance indicators related to the overall project implementation is in place: in detail, the number of planted trees, the number of approved interventions and the number of selected locations are continuously monitored.

Moreover, two monitoring and evaluation processes have been established for each specific intervention:

1. From a contract execution perspective, the Suppliers shall provide a quarterly report related to the status of the ongoing interventions, the number and value of trees /shrubs provided and also a “health-check” of the planted trees. The Contract Authority performs quality checks at the beginning and during the execution of the projects.

2. Monitoring responsibilities are also assigned to the beneficiaries, both related to the status of each planted item on a bi-annual basis and concerning any quality issue that shall arise during the execution of the projects.

Advice to other contracting authorities:

• Establish a multidisciplinary working group to design the tender strategy and technical specification, involving required expertise (procurement, technical, legal, etc.).

• In projects involving beneficiaries, be sure that monitoring responsibilities are shared between the Contracting Authority and the beneficiaries.

• This procedure, which included green and social award criteria, testifies that the market is ready to respond to sustainable procurement tenders, thus the inclusion of sustainable criteria in public procurement procedures does not hinder competition.

More information

Contact person: Andrea Sabbadini, Director of Central Purchase Body, Lazio Region.

Contact information and website.

For related information, please see European GPP criteria for public space maintenance and the Technical Background Report.

Tender documents are available online.