Information Exchange and Processing in Buyers and Suppliers in Green Public Procurement: An Absorptive Capacity Perspective

  • Mieko Igarashi


Green public procurement involves environment-related information exchange and knowledge transfer between buyers and suppliers. Existing research has paid little attention to information exchange and processing in buyers and suppliers, and very little to the public procurement setting. This chapter therefore aims to provide a novel investigation of how environment-related information is processed and used in buyers and suppliers from the view of absorptive capacity (AC). This study employs case studies and data were collected in interviews with public buyers and their suppliers in the private sector in 2015. The findings suggest that public procurement outcomes can depend on the interaction of buyers’ and suppliers’ AC. The greenness of outcome in public procurement can be dependent on how two actors interact regarding AC.



I would like to thank case organizations for sparing time for the interviews and verification of my understanding. I am also thankful to Prof. Magnus Sparrevik for invaluable comments on manuscripts and assistance with data collection. Finally I acknowledge Prof. Poul Andersen and Prof. Luitzen de Boer for their insightful comments all through the development of this chapter.


  1. Alberg Mosgaard, M. (2015). Improving the practices of green procurement of minor items. Journal of Cleaner Production, 90, 264–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amann, M., Roehrich, J. K., Eßig, M., & Harland, C. (2014). Driving sustainable supply chain management in the public sector. Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, 19(3), 351–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arroyo-López, P., Holmen, E., & de Boer, L. (2012). How do supplier development programs affect suppliers?: Insights for suppliers, buyers and governments from an empirical study in Mexico. Business Process Management Journal, 18(4), 680–707.Google Scholar
  4. Bryman, A. (2016). Social research methods (5th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1990). Absorptive capacity: A new perspective on learning and innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35(1), 128–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Commission of the European Communities. (2008). Public procurement for a better environment. COM(2008)400, Retrieved November 30, 2011, from
  7. Cousins, P., Lamming, R., Lawson, B., & Squire, B. (2008). Strategic supply management: Principles, theories and practice. Harlow: Financial Times/Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  8. Dyer, J. H., & Singh, H. (1998). The relational view: Cooperative strategy and sources of interorganizational competitive advantage. Academy of Management Review, 23(4), 660–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Erridge, A., & McIlroy, J. (2002). Public procurement and supply management strategies. Public Policy and Administration, 17(1), 52–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. European Commission. (2011). Buying green! A handbook on green public procurement. European Union. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from
  11. European Union. (2004). Directive 2004/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts public supply contracts and public service contracts. Official Journal of the European Union. Retrieved November 1, 2013, from
  12. Flynn, A., & Davis, P. (2014). Theory in public procurement research. Journal of Public Procurement, 14(2), 139–180.Google Scholar
  13. Giunipero, L. C., Hooker, R. E., & Denslow, D. (2012). Purchasing and supply management sustainability: Drivers and barriers. Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, 18(4), 258–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gluch, P., Gustafsson, M., & Thuvander, L. (2009). An absorptive capacity model for green innovation and performance in the construction industry. Construction Management and Economics, 27(5), 451–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Grandia, J., Steijn, B., & Kuipers, B. (2015). It is not easy being green: Increasing sustainable public procurement behaviour. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 28(3), 243–260.Google Scholar
  16. Grant, R. (1996). Toward a knowledge-based theory of the firm. Strategic Management Journal, 17(Winter Special Issue), 109–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Holt, D. (2004). Managing the interface between suppliers and organizations for environmental responsibility – An exploration of current practices in the UK. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 11(2), 71–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Igarashi, M., de Boer, L., & Fet, A. M. (2013). What is required for greener supplier selection? A literature review and conceptual model development. Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, 19(4), 247–263.Google Scholar
  19. Igarashi, M., de Boer, L., & Pfuhl, G. (2017). Analyzing buyer behavior when selecting green criteria in public procurement. Journal of Puclic Procurement, 17(2), 141–176.Google Scholar
  20. Lane, P. J., Koka, B. R., & Pathak, S. (2006). The reification of absorptive capacity: A critical review and rejuvenation of the construct. The Academy of Management Review, 31(4), 833–863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lane, P. J., & Lubatkin, M. (1998). Relative absorptive capacity and interorganizational learning. Strategic Management Journal, 19(5), 461–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McCue, C., & Prier, E. (2008). Using agency theory to model cooperative public purchasing. Journal of Public Procurement, 8(1), 1–35.Google Scholar
  23. McKevitt, D., & Davis, P. (2013). Microenterprises: How they interact with public procurement processes. The International Journal of Public Sector Management, 26(6), 469–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McKevitt, D., & Davis, P. (2015). How to interact, when and with whom? SMEs and public procurement. Public Money & Management, 35(1), 79–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McKevitt, D. M., Flynn, A., & Davis, P. (2014). Public buying decisions: A framework for buyers and small firms. The International Journal of Public Sector Management, 27(1), 94–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Meinlschmidt, J., Foerstl, K., & Kirchoff, J. F. (2016). The role of absorptive and desorptive capacity (ACDC) in sustainable supply management: A longitudinal analysis. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, 46(2), 177–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 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(1), 160–167.Google Scholar
  28. Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldana, J. (2014). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  29. Min, H., & Galle, W. P. (1997). Green purchasing strategies: Trends and implications. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 33(3), 10–17.Google Scholar
  30. New, S., Green, K., & Morton, B. (2002). An analysis of private versus public sector responses to the environmental challenges of the supply chain. Journal of Public Procurement, 2(1), 93–105.Google Scholar
  31. OECD. (2003). The environmental performance of public procurement; Issues of policy coherence. OECD Publishing. Retrieved December 2, 2017, from
  32. Parikka-Alhola, K., Nissinen, A., & Ekroos, A. (2006). Green award criteria in the most economically advantageous tender in public purchasing. In K. V. Thai & G. Piga (Eds.), Advancing public procurement (pp. 257–279). Boca Raston: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  33. Preston, D. S., Chen, D. Q., Swink, M., & Meade, L. (2017). Generating supplier benefits through buyer-enabled knowledge enrichment: A social capital perspective. Decision Sciences., 48(2), 248–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Revilla, E., Sáenz, M. J., & Knoppen, D. (2013). Towards an empirical typology of buyer–supplier relationships based on absorptive capacity. International Journal of Production Research, 51(10), 2935–2951.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rizzi, F., Frey, M., Testa, F., & Appolloni, A. (2014). Environmental value chain in green SME networks: The threat of the Abilene paradox. Journal of Cleaner Production, 85, 265–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sáenz, M. J., Revilla, E., & Knoppen, D. (2014). Absorptive capacity in buyer–supplier relationships: Empirical evidence of its mediating role. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 50(2), 18–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schiele, H. (2007). Supply-management maturity, cost savings and purchasing absorptive capacity: Testing the procurement–performance link. Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, 13(4), 274–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schiele, H., Veldman, J., & Huttinger, L. (2011). Supplier innovativeness and supplier pricing: The role of preferred customer status. International Journal of Innovation Management, 15(1), 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Todorova, G., & Durisin, B. (2007). Absorptive capacity: Valuing a reconceptualization. Academy of Management Review, 32(3), 774–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Uttam, K., & Le Lann Roos, C. (2015). Competitive dialogue procedure for sustainable public procurement. Journal of Cleaner Production, 86, 403–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Van den Bosch, F. A. J., Volberda, H. W., & de Boer, M. (1999). Coevolution of firm absorptive capacity and knowledge environment: Organizational forms and combinative capabilities. Organization Science, 10(5), 551–568.Google Scholar
  42. Varnäs, A., Balfors, B., & Faith-Ell, C. (2009). Environmental consideration in procurement of construction contracts: Current practice, problems and opportunities in green procurement in the Swedish construction industry. Journal of Cleaner Production, 17(13), 1214–1222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Walker, H., Di Sisto, L., & McBain, D. (2008). Drivers and barriers to environmental supply chain management practices: Lessons from the public and private sectors. Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, 14(1), 69–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  45. Zahra, S. A., & George, G. (2002). Absorptive capacity: A review, reconceptualization, and extension. The Academy of Management Review, 27(2), 185–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zheng, J., & Caldwell, N. (2008). An asymmetric learning in complex public-private projects. Journal of Public Procurement, 8(3), 334–355.Google Scholar
  47. 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

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mieko Igarashi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Industrial Economics and Technology ManagementNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

Personalised recommendations