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Institutional Sustainable Purchasing Priorities: Stakeholder Perceptions vs Environmental Reality
International Journal of Operations & Production Management
  • Madeleine Pullman, Portland State University
  • Robin Wikoff, Portland State University
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Purpose This purpose of this paper is to understand the environmental impacts of stakeholder-driven sustainable purchasing policies in institutional settings. Design/methodology/approach The research is framed using stakeholder and life cycle assessment (LCA) theories. The study uses a multi-method approach. Starting with interviews to understand the breadth of sustainability issues and significant food purchases facing institutional purchasing managers, the authors subsequently perform LCA of these various policies using the most popular food item in different categories. Findings From the interview results, the authors found that food purchasers focus predominately on cost, thus, are committed to food and packaging reduction. They are driven to buy local foods based on their consumer stakeholders but share their commitment to buying local products if the cost is appropriate. In the LCA of popular food items in multiple scenarios, avoiding food waste of various forms had significantly higher carbon emissions savings than packaging reduction or transportation minimizing (buy local) strategies. Research limitations/implications The sample relied solely on the perceptions of institutional purchasing managers in university dining services. Future research should involve collecting data from other stakeholder groups such as the customers themselves, institutional leaders, and in other types of institutional settings such as hospitals and government agencies. Practical implications The research provides managers with insights concerning the trade-offs between different sustainability objectives. In particular, findings show that reducing waste related animal protein has a bigger impact on environmental performance than many other popular sustainability objectives such as buying local or reducing packaging waste. Social implications The paper focuses on the purchasing trade-offs of buying local vs national food products, different packaging solutions, and food waste generation. These decisions offer some social benefits (improve the economic situation for local farms vs consolidated food producers) as well as multiple environmental benefits. Originality/value The paper presents new findings on the sustainability purchasing priorities of stakeholders in institutional food settings and subsequent LCA of those policies to show which might have the most environmental impact.

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Pullman, Madeleine and Robin Wikoff. 2017. Institutional sustainable purchasing priorities: Stakeholder perceptions vs environmental reality, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 37(2):162-181.