Journal of Consumer Policy

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 467–483 | Cite as

Greening the Street-Level Procurer: Challenges in the Strongly Decentralized Swedish System

  • Patrik HallEmail author
  • Karl Löfgren
  • Gregory Peters


This article investigates the every-day street-level practice of green public procurement (GPP) in Sweden, a country with one of the most decentralized systems of public administration within the European Union (EU). The street-level procurement officers in Swedish local and regional government are in charge of purchases estimated to represent between 10% and 15% of Sweden’s GDP. This article examines the constraining and enabling factors behind the individual procurement officer’s choice of green procurement in textiles and clothing through a combination of qualitative interviews and a review of documentary sources. The analysis shows that while indirect support through European and national soft regulation and policy advice is imperative for “greening” procurement, the direct factors which influence the local outcome of GPP comprises factors on the local level: political commitment and environmental knowledge, the organizational structure of local government and the local interpretation of the regulatory framework. This study shows that a decentralized structure has possibilities of furthering ambitions of buying green if there are committed politicians and public officials, an optimal level of internal centralisation and an external support structure of knowledge and enabling rules.


Green public procurement Sweden Decentralization Compliance Commitment Capability 


  1. Bäck, H., & Larsson, T. (2008). Governing and governance in Sweden. Lund: Studentlitteratur.Google Scholar
  2. Bauer B., Christensen J., Christensen K., Dyekjær-Hansen T., & Bode, I. (2010). Benefits of green public procurement. Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers.Google Scholar
  3. Boström, M., & Karlsson, M. (2013). Responsible procurement, complex product chains and the integration of vertical and horizontal governance. Environmental Policy and Governance, 23, 381–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boström, M., Börjeson, N., Gilek, M., Jönsson, A. M., & Karlsson, M. (2012). Responsible procurement and complex product chains: The case of chemical risks in textiles. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 55, 95–111.Google Scholar
  5. Brammer, S., & Walker, H. (2011). Sustainable procurement in the public sector: An international comparative study. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 31, 452–476.Google Scholar
  6. Clement, S., Plas, G., & Erdmenger, C. (2003). Local experiences: Green purchasing practices in six European cities. In C. Erdmenger (Ed.), Buying into the environment: Experiences, opportunities and potential for eco-procurement. Sheffield: Greenleaf.Google Scholar
  7. DEFRA. (2010). Revised government buying standards for textiles. London: Department for Environment, Food and Rural AffairsGoogle Scholar
  8. DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. J. (1983). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48, 147–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dodd, N., & Wolf, O. (2012). Revision of the green public procurement (GPP) criteria for textile products. DG JRC (IPTS) 2012.Google Scholar
  10. European Union. (2011). Buying green! A handbook on green public procurement. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.Google Scholar
  11. European Commission. (2008). Public Procurement for a better environment. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.Google Scholar
  12. Flyvbjerg, B. (2006). Five misunderstandings about case-study research. Qualitative Inquiry, 12, 219–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Government of Sweden. (2006). Communication on green public procurement 2006/07:54: Miljöanpassad offentlig upphandling.Google Scholar
  14. Gunningham, N. (2009). Environment law, regulation and governance: Shifting architectures. Journal of Environmental Law, 21, 179–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hood, C. (2011). The blame game: Spin, bureaucracy, and self-preservation in government. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  16. ISO14001. (2004). Environmental management systems—requirements with guidance for use. Geneva:  International Organization for Standardization.Google Scholar
  17. Kippo-Edlund P., Hauta-Heikkilä H., Miettinen H., & Nissinen, A. (2005). Measuring the environmental soundness of public procurement in Nordic countries. Copenhagen:  Nordic Council of Ministers.Google Scholar
  18. Koontz, T. M., & Thomas, C. W. (2006). What do we know and need to know about the environmental outcomes of collaborative management? Public Administration Review, 66, 111–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lidberg, M. (2011). Hantering av miljö- och hälsorisker i textila produktkedjor: En fallstudie av Stockholms läns landsting. Working paper, Södertörn högskola.Google Scholar
  20. Lipsky, M. (1980). Street-level bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the individual in public services. New York: Sage.Google Scholar
  21. Meehan, J., & Bryde, D. (2011). Sustainable procurement practice. Business Strategy and the Environment, 20, 94–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Michelsen, O., & de Boer, L. (2009). Green procurement in Norway: A survey of practices at the municipal and county level. Journal of Environmental Management, 91, 160–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Nissinen A., Parikka-Alhola K. & Rita, H. (2009). Environmental criteria in the public purchases above the EU threshold values by three Nordic countries: 2003 and 2005. Ecological Economics, 68, 1838ERLIN.Google Scholar
  24. Ochoa, A., Führ, V., & Günther, D. (2003). Green purchasing in practice: Experiences and new approaches from the pioneer countries. In C. Erdmenger (Ed.), Buying into the environment: experiences, opportunities and potential for eco-procurement. Sheffield: Greenleaf.Google Scholar
  25. Olsson, J., & Hysing, E. (2012). Theorizing inside activism: Understanding policymaking and policy change from below. Planning Theory & Practice, 13, 257–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Parikka-Alhola, K. (2008). Promoting environmentally sound furniture by green public procurement. Ecological Economics, 68, 472–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Perera, O., Morton, B. & Perfrement, T. (2009). Life cycle costing in sustainable public procurement: A question of value. International Institute for Sustainable Development.Google Scholar
  28. Preuss, L. (2009). Addressing sustainable development through public procurement: The case of local government. Supply Chain Management, 14, 213–223.Google Scholar
  29. PWC. (2009). Collection of statistical information on green public procurement in the EU. PriceWaterhouseCoopers.Google Scholar
  30. Roos, S., Posner, S. (2011). Rekommendationer för hållbar upphandling av textilier 2011. Swerea IVF-rapport 11001.Google Scholar
  31. Rowley, H. V., Peters, G. M., Lundie, S., & Moore, S. J. (2012). Aggregating sustainability indicators: Beyond the weighted sum. Journal of Environmental Management, 111, 24–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. SEMCo. (2012). Kemikaliesubstitution genom offentlig upphandling: slutrapport. Swedish Environment Management Council.Google Scholar
  33. SOU. 2013:12 Goda affärer - en strategi för hållbar offentlig upphandling. Government report available at
  34. Stockholm County. (2009). Verktyg för miljöanpassad upphandling: Tx – Textil. Available at Accessed March 2013.
  35. Swedish Chemicals Agency. (2010). REACH och straffsanktioner.Google Scholar
  36. Swedish Competition Agency. (2012). Siffror och fakta om offentlig upphandling.Google Scholar
  37. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. (2010). Miljöanpassad offentlig upphandling: En fråga om att kunna, vilja och förstå.Google Scholar
  38. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA 2009). Tar den offentliga sektorn miljöhänsyn vid upphandling? En enkätstudie 2009.Google Scholar
  39. Swedish National Audit Office. (2006). Regeringens styrning av Naturvårdsverket (RiR 2006:2).Google Scholar
  40. Swedish National Audit Office. (2011). Miljökrav i offentlig upphandling – är styrningen mot klimatmålet effektiv? (RiR 2011:29).Google Scholar
  41. Taylor, C., Pollard, S., Rocks, S., & Angus, A. (2012). Selecting policy instruments for better environmental regulation: a critique and future research agenda. Environmental Policy and Governance, 22, 268–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Testa, F., Iraldo, F., Frey, M., & Daddi, T. (2012). What factors influence the uptake of GPP (green public procurement) practices? New evidence from an Italian survey. Ecological Economics, 82, 88–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Thomson, J., & Jackson, T. (2007). Sustainable procurement in practice: Lessons from local government. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 50, 421–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Walker, H., & Brammer, S. (2009). Sustainable procurement in the United Kingdom public sector. Supply Chain Management, 14, 128–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Walker, H., Schotanus, F., Bakker, E., & Harland, C. (2013). Collaborative procurement: A relational view of buyer-buyer relationships. Public Administration Review, 73, 588–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zhu, Q., Geng, Y., & Sarkis, J. (2013). Motivating green public procurement in China: An individual level perspective. Journal of Environmental Management, 126, 85–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Global Political StudiesMalmö UniversityMalmöSweden
  2. 2.School of GovernmentVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  3. 3.Chemical Environmental ScienceChalmers School of TechnologyGothenburgSweden

Personalised recommendations