Panel Paper: Sustainable Public Procurement Implementation in U.S. Local Governments

Friday, November 3, 2017
New Orleans (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Nicole Darnall, Stuart Bretschneider, Lily Hsueh, Justin M. Stritch and Melissa Duscha, Arizona State University

Each year in the U.S., governments purchase $1.6 trillion of goods, including vehicle fleets, construction materials, chemicals, electronics and office materials, which contribute to global climate change during their production and use. Local governments that utilize sustainable procurement principles (SPP) can mitigate these impacts swiftly and significantly while stimulating an increase in businesses’ production of sustainable products and services. However, many local governments do not have SPPs, and others have failed to implement them fully, suggesting that there are significant barriers to implementing SPPs more broadly. These concerns have prompted the United Nations Environmental Program to identify SPP as a critical factor needing to be addressed if governments are to promote a low carbon economy. This research addresses these concerns by assessing local governments’ SPPs implementation barriers and facilitators. It draws on a unique dataset constructed from a national-level survey that was sent to department directors of finance, environment and public works departments in all U.S. cities with at least 50,000 residents. Our findings emphasize how organizational factors (including capacity, leadership, technology, and centralization) are associated with stronger degrees of SPP implementation. Additionally, we find that cities’ relationships with vendors, commitment to innovation, and rules and procedures are related to their degree of SPP implementation. Each of these factors has important implications for governments that wish to embed SPP more deeply within their procurement decisions, thus reducing their environmental impacts throughout their supply chain.