Edited by Charles Edquist, Nicholas S Vonortas, Jon M Zabala-Iturriagagoitia and Jakob Edler
Chapter 9: Closing the loop: examining the case of the procurement of a sustainable innovation
The potential of public procurement of innovation to address ‘grand challenges’, such as sustainability, is increasingly acknowledged in both policy and academic circles (Edler and Georghiou, 2007; Edquist and Zabala-Iturriagagoitia, 2012). Procurement is indeed increasingly being used to address multiple policy agendas and objectives, be these social, environmental or otherwise (Erridge, 2004; McCrudden, 2004). This chapter explores the potential of the public sector to pursue specific sustainability goals through the procurement of innovation. This is done through an examination of a UK government initiative to collect and recover its own paper waste and produce a ‘closed-loop’ recycled copier paper. The model involves the shredding of confidential paper waste on-site, and the subsequent processing of this waste into recycled copier paper off-site, which is then sold back to government departments for their use. A key innovation in this process is the earmarking of paper supply for return to the (contributing) client organization. Creating a ‘closed loop’, the paper introduced traceability into waste disposal, ensured data security, stabilized expenditure on paper, reduced associated costs, and enabled both supplier and government client to capitalize on a burgeoning paper market. We detail how the parties involved also stimulated organizational, environmental and supply chain innovation through their procurement (purchasing) activities to achieve a more efficient, more sustainable and more cost-effective outcome. This chapter therefore deals with the process leading to the development and co-design of the ‘closed loop’, and addresses the main drivers and barriers influencing this particular innovation.
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