Skip to main content

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


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  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.

  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.

    Article  Google 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.

  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.

  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 Affairs

  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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Dodd, N., & Wolf, O. (2012). Revision of the green public procurement (GPP) criteria for textile products. DG JRC (IPTS) 2012.

  10. European Union. (2011). Buying green! A handbook on green public procurement. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

  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.

  12. Flyvbjerg, B. (2006). Five misunderstandings about case-study research. Qualitative Inquiry, 12, 219–245.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Government of Sweden. (2006). Communication on green public procurement 2006/07:54: Miljöanpassad offentlig upphandling.

  14. Gunningham, N. (2009). Environment law, regulation and governance: Shifting architectures. Journal of Environmental Law, 21, 179–212.

    Article  Google 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.

  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.

  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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Lidberg, M. (2011). Hantering av miljö- och hälsorisker i textila produktkedjor: En fallstudie av Stockholms läns landsting. Working paper, Södertörn högskola.

  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.

    Article  Google 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.

    Article  Google 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.

  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.

  25. Olsson, J., & Hysing, E. (2012). Theorizing inside activism: Understanding policymaking and policy change from below. Planning Theory & Practice, 13, 257–273.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Parikka-Alhola, K. (2008). Promoting environmentally sound furniture by green public procurement. Ecological Economics, 68, 472–485.

    Article  Google 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.

  28. Preuss, L. (2009). Addressing sustainable development through public procurement: The case of local government. Supply Chain Management, 14, 213–223.

  29. PWC. (2009). Collection of statistical information on green public procurement in the EU. PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

  30. Roos, S., Posner, S. (2011). Rekommendationer för hållbar upphandling av textilier 2011. Swerea IVF-rapport 11001.

  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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. SEMCo. (2012). Kemikaliesubstitution genom offentlig upphandling: slutrapport. Swedish Environment Management Council.

  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.

  36. Swedish Competition Agency. (2012). Siffror och fakta om offentlig upphandling.

  37. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. (2010). Miljöanpassad offentlig upphandling: En fråga om att kunna, vilja och förstå.

  38. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA 2009). Tar den offentliga sektorn miljöhänsyn vid upphandling? En enkätstudie 2009.

  39. Swedish National Audit Office. (2006). Regeringens styrning av Naturvårdsverket (RiR 2006:2).

  40. Swedish National Audit Office. (2011). Miljökrav i offentlig upphandling – är styrningen mot klimatmålet effektiv? (RiR 2011:29).

  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.

    Article  Google 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Thomson, J., & Jackson, T. (2007). Sustainable procurement in practice: Lessons from local government. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 50, 421–444.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Walker, H., & Brammer, S. (2009). Sustainable procurement in the United Kingdom public sector. Supply Chain Management, 14, 128–137.

    Article  Google 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.

    Article  Google 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Patrik Hall.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hall, P., Löfgren, K. & Peters, G. Greening the Street-Level Procurer: Challenges in the Strongly Decentralized Swedish System. J Consum Policy 39, 467–483 (2016).

Download citation


  • Green public procurement
  • Sweden
  • Decentralization
  • Compliance
  • Commitment
  • Capability