To what extent can sustainability be embedded in decision-making for procuring public services?

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2015
Thesis identifier
  • T14027
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201091323
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Government bodies have an obligation to drive sustainable development. One focus at legislative level is sustainable public procurement of goods and services. Effective planning and monitoring is an essential part of the process of transformation toward sustainable procurement. Post-normal science approaches treat this process as more than just setting targets and showing a set of results. It is an activity that can shape the direction of an organisation, a department or an individual and facilitate adaptive changes to a more sustainable model. This thesis examines the extent to which sustainability policy can be embedded in decision-making for procurement within local government. This thesis takes a three-step approach to the research question, with an empirical study based in Scotland between December 2011 and December 2013. First the context of sustainable public service procurement was explored using ten case studies. The drivers and barriers to sustainable service procurement were established in order to design and recommend solutions. The second stage of the research developed and tested a new toolkit for translating policy and uncovering specific sustainability attitudes. The third phase of the empirical research used workshops to analyse the attitudes of public sector procurers and partner organisations. All of the research was undertaken as the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill was being passed, the content of which provided a standard for sustainable public procurement to measure the findings against. This thesis finds that the definition and very notion of sustainability is still not clear for many procurement decision-makers. The sustainability of public service procurement is often dependent on the priority or expertise of the procurement manager, with little guidance or consensus on sustainable development. It emerged that many procurement practitioners in local government responsible for implementing sustainability policy construct barriers to doing so effectively and do not see sustainability as a core aspect or responsibility of service provision. A post-normal sustainability technology can be of use in this respect, offering a 'messy' solution to the problem. The case study organisation adopted the toolkit created for this research. This thesis concludes that embedding sustainability into decision-making for procuring public services will require firmer legislation and better translation of the sustainable development agenda for procurement managers.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2015
Former identifier
  • 1231344