Sustainable procurement in the United Kingdom public sector

Helen Walker, Stephen Brammer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

363 Citations (SciVal)


Purpose - This study aims to investigate sustainable procurement in the UK public sector. Design/methodology/approach - Sustainable procurement is investigated using a questionnaire that draws on established scales for "purchasing social responsibility". The survey was administered across the UK public sector, and 106 responses were received from procurement officers. Findings - Analysis of quantitative and qualitative survey data reveal there is significant variation across public sector agencies in the nature of sustainable procurement practice. Local authorities have a particularly strong emphasis on buying from local and small suppliers relative to other sectors, health looks generally lower in many categories, and education appears to have something of an emphasis on environmental aspects of sustainable procurement. Cost has been found to be the leading barrier to sustainable procurement, and top management support the leading facilitator. Research limitations/implications - There is likely to be selection bias in the sample, with those practitioners engaging in the sustainability agenda being more likely to have responded to the questionnaire. The United Kingdom government has an objective amongst the leaders in Europe on sustainable procurement by 2009, and early signs are encouraging that progress towards this goal is underway. Originality/value - This paper provides the first survey of sustainable procurement practices across the UK public sector. It also provides a conceptual framework of influences upon the propensity to engage in sustainable procurement practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-137
Number of pages10
JournalSupply Chain Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Public procurement
  • Public sector organizations
  • United Kingdom


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