Circular public procurement practices in Danish municipalities

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Abstract

Public procurement is the acquisition of products and services needed for public organizations to fulfill their functional objectives. Public procurement can also be a tool to meet horizontal objectives such as environmental or social ones. In this paper, public procurement is highlighted as a tool for the transition to circular economy. However, circular public procurement cannot be confined to just a procurement department as it requires collaboration internally across departments and externally with partners in the supply chain. The current practices within public procurement are explored in the analyses of eight proactive Danish municipalities, with a focus on the development from green to circular public procurement. This research is based on practices and learning theory to understand what actually happens in an organization, in other words, how people work. The difference between practices and policies is noticeable in public procurement, as policies stipulate general guidelines, while the inclusion of green and circular aspects depend on the competences of each individual procurement department. Tools supporting this inclusion are at the center of successfully using public procurement to support environmental concerns, for example, through the application of ecolabels, while the lack of circular public procurement tools presents a barrier for further uptake. In several of the cases explored, green public procurement practices are driven by demand from end-users, while the rather fewer experiences with circular public procurement are project-based and driven by management. From the procurement departments’ point of view, circular procurement is still perceived as “new and difficult,” and the principles of circular procurement are vague. Also, circular public procurement requires competences that are not present in the procurement departments today, and therefore their understanding of circular procurement is restricted to a few well-known cases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124962
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume281
ISSN0959-6526
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Circular economy
  • Circular public procurement
  • Ecolabels
  • Green public procurement
  • Procurement practices

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