Implementing sustainability in public procurement: The limited role of procurement managers and party-political executives

Pages66-92
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/JOPP-15-01-2015-B003
Publication Date01 Mar 2015
AuthorCees J. Gelderman,Janjaap Semeijn,Frank Bouma
SubjectPublic policy & environmental management,Politics,Public adminstration & management,Government,Economics,Public Finance/economics,Texation/public revenue
JOURNAL OF PUBLIC PROCUREMENT, VOLUME 15, ISSUE 1, 66-92 SPRING 2015
IMPLEMENTING SUSTAINABILITY IN PUBLIC PROCUREMENT:
THE LIMITED ROLE OF PROCUREMENT MANAGERS AND PARTY-
POLITICAL EXECUTIVES
Cees J. Gelderman, Janjaap Semeijn and Frank Bouma*
ABSTRACT. Little is known about the way local government utilizes the
procurement function to promote s ustainability. Sustainability is a political
theme of considerable importance at the local government level. We
investigated the relationships between municipal executive councillors and
procurement managers in three Dutch municipalities. We found that the
party-political councillors focus on initiatives affecting citizens to create
public visibility and electoral support. Procurement managers however, are
primarily concerned wit h stak eholders within the organization se rving
different interests. Sustainability initiat ives appear largely input-based rather
than result-based. Procurement managers rarely consult with the councillors.
Rather, department heads have t he final say in allocating funds in the
course of sustainability initiatives.
INTRODUCTION
The need for sustainable development has promoted many
companies to include environmental aspects into their corporate
agenda (Vachon & Klassen, 2007). The last twenty years have seen a
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* Cees J. Gelderman, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Marketing &
Purchasing Management at the Open University of the Netherlands. His
research interests include buyer-sup plier relationships, (safeguarding
against) opportunistic behaviour, power and dependence, public
procurement, and purchasing portfolio management. Janjaap Semeijn,
Ph.D., is Prof essor of Supply Chain Management at the Open University of
the Netherlands. His research is focussed on supply chain management,
customer relation ships, su stainability and logisti c. Frank Bouma, MSc.,
works at Vepa Office Furniture on sustainable business development and
innovation. His research interests are in public procurement and
sustainability.
Copyright © 2015 by PrAcademics Press
IMPLEMENTING SUSTAINABILITY IN PUBLIC PROCUREMENT: THE LIMITED ROLE 67
growing number of studies and publications on sustainability issues
(Giunipero, Hooker & Denslow, 2012; Tate, Ellram & Dooley, 2012).
During the 1990s, the main focus was on how companies could
incorporate sustainability to provide economic profitability and
competitive advantage (e.g. Porter & Van der Linde, 1995;
Schmidheiny, 1992; Sharma, Gopalakrishnan, Mehrotra & Krishnan,
2010). More recently, sustainability issues have moved into
proactiveapproaches to the implementation of sustainability through
supply chain management (e.g. Ates, Bloemhof, Van Raaij & Wynstra ,
2012; Carter & Rogers, 2008; Svensson, 2007). Many studies have
focussed on the identification of forces driving firms to sustainability
(drivers) and factors that hinder a firm’s effort to adopt sustainable
practices (barriers). Typically, these studies are concerned with
sustainability in profit-driven organisations (e.g. Bansal & Roth, 2000;
Berns et al., 2009; Giunipero, Hooker & Denslow, 2012; Hoejmose &
Adrien-Kirby, 2012; Nidumolu, Prahalad & Rangaswami, 2009).
Little is known about the way local government utilizes the
procurement function to promote sustainability. The procurement
portfolio of local governments has a broad and diverse character,
stretching from dustcarts to office supplies, and from hiring architects
to cleaning services. The potential contribution of public procurement
to sustainability is large, considering the size of public sector
expenditure (Preuss, 2009). In addition, through spill-overs on
markets and consumers, public procurement can work as a catalyst
for sustainable development (Bosch et al., 2012). Despite the
importance of the public sector and public procurement, only a
limited number of studies investigates the role of local governments
in sustainable development (e.g. Preuss, 2009; Thomas & Jackson,
2007; Swanson et al., 2005; Walker & Brammer, 2009; Warner &
Ryall, 2001).
Elected representatives in public administration are likely to be
sensitive to external pressure from interest groups. Policy makers,
bureaucrats and interest groups are involved in various aspects of
the public procurement system (Thai, 2001). A characteristic feature
of public procurement is the interface with political policy makers, a
topic in need of more attention in academic studies (Murray, 2009).
More insights and more understanding can be gained by investigating
the involvement of political stakeholders in the strategy and
management of public procurement (Murray, 2009). Sustainability is

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