Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 103, Issue 4, pp 567–586 | Cite as

Public Versus Private Sector Procurement Ethics and Strategy: What Each Sector can Learn from the Other

  • Timothy G. Hawkins
  • Michael J. Gravier
  • Edward H. Powley


The government purchasing market constitutes the largest business sector in the world. While marketers would benefit from a deep understanding of both sectors, how the two sectors differ in terms of ethics and strategy largely remains unknown. The purpose of this research, therefore, is to explore differences between the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors on two critical aspects of business-to-business procurement: ethics and strategy. Using survey data from a sample of 328 procurement professionals in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, key differences are explored. Findings suggest that buyers in the for-profit sector are more likely to behave opportunistically. Conversely, the buyers’ leaders in the not-for-profit sector behave more opportunistically and are more willing to turn a blind eye to their subordinate buyers’ opportunistic behaviors. In addition, key differences in procurement strategy are unveiled suggesting that not-for-profit procurement practices have some room for improvement. Based on the findings, theoretical and managerial implications are drawn, and a future research agenda is proposed.


business sector ethics gender  leadership opportunism procurement strategy 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy G. Hawkins
    • 1
  • Michael J. Gravier
    • 2
  • Edward H. Powley
    • 1
  1. 1.Naval Postgraduate School, Graduate School of Business and Public PolicyMontereyU.S.A.
  2. 2.Bryant UniversitySmithfieldU.S.A.

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