Implementing sustainable procurement in the United Arab Emirates public sector

Publication Date21 Feb 2020
AuthorBader Khamis Al Nuaimi,Mehmood Khan,Mian Ajmal
SubjectPublic policy & environmental management,Politics,Public adminstration & management,Government,Economics,Public finance/economics,Taxation/public revenue
Implementing sustainable
procurement in the United
Arab Emirates public sector
Bader Khamis Al Nuaimi,Mehmood Khan and Mian Ajmal
College of Business, Abu Dhabai University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Purpose Despite making signicantstrides in transforming its environmental outlook over thepast few
years and promoting sustainable procurement (SP) in the public sector, the United Arab Emirates(UAE) is
still facing serious challengesin moving up the global sustainability ranks. Thus, this studyaims to assess
and prioritize critical factors, including cost, organization, innovation capability, stakeholder, culture and
market-related factors, and their respective sub-factors for the implementation of SP, and come up with
Design/methodology/approach This study uses the analyticalhierarchy process model to prioritize
the main factors and sub-factorsthat can critically affect the implementationof SP in the UAE public sector.
Data were collected through a survey of 17 procurement experts working in procurement departments in
public organizationsin Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Findings The results reveal that cost is the highest ranked critical factor, followed by an organization, whereas
innovation capability is the lowest ranked of the main factors. The initial cost of green products and their life-cycle
cost are the most prioritized of cost factors. An individuals commitment to change, top management support and
organizational commitment are the highest-ranked sub-factors. Social awareness is the most important sub-factor
among culture, and the supplierscapability is the highest ranked sub-factor in the market.
Social implications The government should issuea standard practices handbookfor SP to be used by
public organizationsto provide public procurers a clear method for conductinga proper costbenet analysis
to evaluate and decide on sustainable purchases that t the economy and society and meet the national
sustainabilityagenda. Furthermore, additional attentionneeds to be paid to cultural factors suchas social and
environmental awareness by policymakers to succeed in achieving SP. Finally, top management and
government ofcials must reevaluate their own personal values and commitmentto sustainability issues as
they participate in forming policies, rules, regulations and training programs designed for procurement
managerswithin government organizations.
Originality/value Although considerableresearch has been conducted on this topic, this studyis unique
in its presentationof a criticalunderstanding of which factors and sub-factors are likely to signicantlyaffect
SP implementation in the UAE, which shall provide the relevant researchers and practitioners with the
necessaryknowledge to be ready for the changes that may lie ahead.
Keywords Sustainable development, Analytical hierarchy process, Public procurement,
Green procurement, Sustainable procurement
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
1.1 Overview
Public procurement amounts to as muchas 30 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP)
in several developing countries. Thus,the leveraging of this purchasing power through the
procurement of sustainable goods and services can assist in driving markets toward
sustainability, reducing negative organizational impact and producing positive social and
environmental benets(Walker and Phillips, 2009). Therefore, various countries,such as the
Received23 July 2019
Revised22 November 2019
Accepted8 January 2020
Journalof Public Procurement
Vol.20 No. 2, 2020
pp. 97-117
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JOPP-07-2019-0044
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
United Arab Emirates (UAE), are making useof diverse policies to drive sustainable public
procurement, which can range from single-aspect guidelines or policies to more
comprehensive action plans. The UAE has consistently endeavored to enhance the
sustainability of its economy over the past few years (Vcantugakkas and Yapin, 2017).
The UAE established the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment to tackle climate
change issues in a way that is both economicallylogical and protective of natural resources
(Gulf News, 2016). Pursuant to this goal, it has focused on green public procurement in
collaboration with the relevant agencies (Aamir, 2017). This makes sense as the total
government spending in the UAE accounts for roughly 24 per cent of the GDP (Oxford
Business Group, 2018), offering insight into the expectation that government purchases of
sustainable productsand services will drive the market toward sustainable development.
1.2 Purpose and signicance of the study
Despite making signicant strides in transforming its environmental outlook over the past
few years and being considered one of the top countries in sustainability in the region
(Arcadis, 2016), the UAE is still facingserious challenges in maintaining sustainable growth
and moving up the global sustainability ranks (Environmental Performance Index, 2018;
World Economic Forum, 2017). This raises the question: Are the efforts made by the UAE
government enough to successfully implement sustainable procurement (SP) in the public
sector, or are thereother factors that must be addressed?
SP implementation still faces substantial barriersand challenges globally (Walker et al.,
2012), as it is considered more expensive than ordinary procurement, and the comparative
cost of the former inhibits organizational managers and ofcials from engaging in the
focused implementationof SP practices (Walker et al.,2012).Furthermore, it is unrealistic to
expect public ofcers, managers and procurers to adopt SP practices in the absence of the
appropriate information and tools.In addition, the supply of products that fulll social and
environmental criteria is also limited, to some extent, in various countries (Darnall et al.,
Although these criticalfactors have been discussed in the previous literature, there is still
a need to investigate whether such factorsare applicable to the UAE public sector to answer
the question at hand. Hence, the purpose of this article is to achieve the following two
(1) critically examine the key factors and the sub-factors that affect the successful
implementation of SP in the UAE public sector; and
(2) prioritize the most important key factors and the sub-factors that affect the
implementation of SP in the UAE public sector by using the analytical hierarchy
process (AHP) model and provide recommendations in light of the results.
2. Literature review
Sustainable public procurement is dened as a process used by public organizations to
satisfy the need for goods and services that achieves value for money and providesbenets
to the organizations, society and the economy while reducing negative environmental
consequences (The United Nations Environment Programme, 2017). In this literature
review, we aim to explore some of the previousefforts made on SP implementation by rst
introducing the previous contributions on SP from a global prospective; then exploring the
available literature on SP in the UAE; and, nally, presenting some of the factors that
inuence SP implementationto support the analysis and discussion of the study.

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