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A field-level examination of the adoption of sustainable procurement in the social housing sector

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– The purpose of this paper is to report on a field-level examination of the adoption of sustainable procurement in social housing. It explores the role of regulation and procurement consortia in sustainable procurement.


– The study employs a case study of the UK social housing sector and uses an online survey (n=116) of UK Housing Associations. Factor analysis identifies three parsimonious dimensions of sustainable procurement. Attitudinal data are analysed to explore the field-level adoption of sustainable procurement and the role of consortia.


– The results delineate sustainable procurement activities into three factors; direction setting, supplier-centric assurance and local socially oriented supply. High yet sup-optimal levels of sustainable procurement activity are revealed. Prevailing attitudes identify positive commitments to sustainable procurement at individual, organisational and sector levels. The value of network collaboration is identified. Tenants as critical stakeholders do not prioritise sustainable procurement creating challenge for inclusivity. Regulators are seen to a have low level of sustainable procurement knowledge and procurement consortia a high perceived knowledge.

Research limitations/implications

– Results provide insight into the effect of sustainable procurement policy, the role of regulators and network structures and consortia, raising issues around legitimacy, coopetition, stakeholder engagement, performance measurement, and functional/sectoral maturity.

Social implications

– The identification of the potential exclusion of tenants in sustainability debates is particularly significant to deliver social value.


– The relative newness of the social housing sector and its quasi-public sector status provides an original contribution to the consortia and sustainable procurement literatures.
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Keywords: Consortia; Coopetition; Procurement; Public sector; Social housing; Sustainability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute for Built Environment Sustainable Technologies Research, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK

Publication date: July 6, 2015

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