Sustainable purchasing in the retail industry : a model of environmentally responsible purchasing

Abstract: Given the important role that businesses play in addressing the issue of environmental sustainability, a perspective on organizations’ responsiveness toward environmental sustainability suggests that one of the most challenging decisions to be made within an organization is to engage in environmental purchasing. Because preserving the environment and maintaining economic growth have become the goal for many organizations, decisions about sustainable organizational purchasing are growing in importance.Ethics research in business has tended to focus on a perspective of consumer environmental purchasing, leaving the understanding of the organizational perspective and why and how organizations purchase sustainably relatively under-researched. Among all the decisionmaking units, individual executives play a key role in sustainably responsible purchasing within a business. However, few previous studies have contributed to the role of the individual in such processes or examined the drivers and motives of environmentally responsible individual behavior in an organization. This thesis is a study under the rubric of understanding environmentally responsible purchasing behavior among purchasing professionals in the food retail industry of Sweden. Developed here is a theoretical framework that seeks an understanding of how environmental purchasing decisions are managed and affected by various factors in the organization. In other words, the research model of this thesis aims to investigate what determines purchasing professionals’ decision to engage in environmentally responsible purchasing. This is initially based on cognitive frameworks proposed by Fishbein and Ajzen’s theory of reasoned action, and ethical decision-making theories, but extended from findings of interviews with experts in the field and an in-depth review of the related literature. Based on the model, the factors of attitude, relativism, idealism, peers, and top management influence were proposed as possible drivers of environmentally responsible purchasing, considering stakeholder influence as a moderator in the framework. All of these relationships were empirically tested in response to the research question of this thesis. Using a quantitative research method, a survey was conducted to test this research model. This was to examine whether empirical results confirm this study’s hypotheses on the drivers of environmentally responsible purchasing at the individual level within the organization. A total of 573 usable questionnaires, providing a response rate of 37.4%, were tested using structural equation modeling (SEM) analysis to evaluate the proposed hypotheses on the research model. The results show how these factors influence environmentally responsible purchasing and provide support that all the proposed hypotheses are acceptable in the studied context.The acceptance of all proposed hypotheses highlights that moral beliefs and situational and organizational factors play an important role in an individual’s environmentally responsible decision–making process within an organization. The empirical findings also imply that the decision making in the context under study is far too complex to be explained only in terms of cognitive beliefs. The model offers insight into the drivers of attitudes and behavior in this context, positing a relationship between cognitive and emotional variables based on individual and situational aspects. In addition to theoretical insights, the findings of this study offer suggestions on how companies can effectively implement environmentally responsible purchasing by influencing their employees, yet fundamentally improve organizational culture.

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