Public procurement of cellulose-based and locally produced textiles - incentives and barriers for sustainable purchasing in the Swedish healthcare sector
Abstract: Background: This study describes the incentives and barriers of public procurement of cellulose-based and locally produced textiles in the Swedish healthcare sector governed by the county councils and regions. The size of the public procurement market is substantial which makes it imperative to analyse the procurement decisions taken by this large customer from a sustainability perspective. To understand these decisions better the public procurement is also analysed from an organisational perspective discussing pressures from global, regional and local stakeholders and governing authorities. Methods: Empirical and primary data was collected from three semi-structured interviews with procurement officers, strategic buyers and heads of procurement departments in three county councils and regions in Sweden. The qualitative data was supplemented with quantitative data from a survey targeting the additional 18 county councils and regions in Sweden. All 21 county councils and regions in Sweden participated in or responded to the interview and survey study. Six (33 %) complete responses were submitted, while five (28 %) surveys were partially responded to. Seven (39 %) county councils and regions did not participate in the study. The quantitative survey data was analysed through the Fisher’s exact test and a thematic analysis was applied jointly on the interview and survey data due to the identical interview and survey questions. Results: The four themes found in the empirical data were concluded to be the decision-making in these procurement processes being affected by many stakeholders, a high trust on suppliers for information updates and sustainable responsibility, an existing knowledge gap on cellulose-based and locally produced textiles and the challenges and opportunities surrounding the regulation of sustainability in the contract terms in the public procurement of textiles. The procurement officials being in a leading or nonleading position did not show any statistically significant effect on the perception of the clarity in the relevant political directives and how this influences the possibility to take sustainable action in the procurement process, nor on whether the short-term (lowest) price has a higher priority than the long-term (e.g. long-term societal and environmental costs) in the procurement of textiles. Conclusion: The sustainable public procurement of textiles within the Swedish healthcare sector governed by the county councils and regions is characterized by a high level of organisational complexity including many global, regional and local stakeholders. The governing authorities as well as the procuring organizations and suppliers show interest in implementing sustainable procurement processes which is however aggravated by static contract terms, limited knowledge on novel textile materials and the perceived costs related to the procurement.
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