Sustainable procurement in the public sector: an international comparative study

Stephen Brammer*, Helen Walker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

436 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Public bodies are being encouraged to procure sustainably, to reduce their social and environmental footprint and in order to stimulate sustainability in the private sector. However, little is known about how public sector organisations internationally are responding to this encouragement or of the conditions that are most conducive to sustainable procurement (SP). The purpose of this paper is to address these gaps in our knowledge so as to inform policy development at the government and organisational levels.

Design/methodology/approach: The authors report the findings of a survey of SP practices within a sample of over 280 public procurement practitioners from 20 countries and with collective responsibility for expenditure totalling $45bn p.a.

Findings: The authors' analysis shows that some SP practices are evident in public sector procurement practice and that the extent and nature of SP practices varies significantly across regions. In addition, the authors highlight the main facilitators of, and barriers to, engagement with SP and investigate their importance for engagement with particular dimensions of SP.

Research limitations/implications: Survey respondents are volunteers and may to some degree be more interested in, or engaged with, SP than other public sector organisations. The analysis is cross-sectional and therefore provides only a snapshot of SP practice in the public sector organisations studied.

Practical implications: The paper identifies how policy and practice in SP vary across regions, providing practical insights into whether and how government policies are being implemented around the world.

Originality/value: The paper provides the first systematic and comprehensive insight into how public bodies are implementing SP internationally and of the major situational factors that are shaping engagement with SP. The authors evaluate the current effectiveness of policy initiatives regarding SP and highlight the organisational catalysts and inhibitors of greater involvement in SP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-476
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • Public procurement
  • Social responsibility


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