Public Procurement – Price-Taker or Market-Shaper?

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This paper examines the role of government procurement as a social policy mechanism within a multilateral open trading system. Government regulations globally are being transformed to foster more responsible business conduct in multinational enterprises (MNEs). Yet, concern that sustainability may present a discriminatory barrier to trade has stalled the progress of sustainable public procurement (SPP) at the international level, raising questions regarding the role and scope of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) to align taxpayer funded contracts with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.
Design/methodology/approach: With a focus on social sustainability, this paper reviews policy documents, grey and academic literature to identify emergent themes in public procurement policy and supply chain legislation in high-income countries.
Findings: Frontrunner nations are adopting a mandatory approach to sustainable public procurement and due diligence legislation is elevating supply chain risk from reputational damage to legal liability. While technological innovation and the clean, green production of manufactured goods dominates the sustainable public procurement literature, the social aspects of sustainability poverty, inequality and human rights remain underrepresented.
Originality: To build the capacity to stimulate competition based on social and environmental policy objectives, the paper introduces the concept of priceless procurement in business-to-government (B2G) contracts.
Limitations: This paper is limited to the examination of high-value government procurement covered by the WTO-GPA (2012). Contracts below GPA thresholds, and the category of defence are beyond the scope of the paper.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Perspectives on International Business
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 18 Oct 2021