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As above, not so below: developing social procurement practices on strategic and operative levels

Daniella Troje (Department of Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Thomas Andersson (School of Business, University of Skövde, Skövde, Sweden)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 26 August 2020

Issue publication date: 18 March 2021




Procurement is increasingly used as a strategic tool to mitigate societal issues such as social exclusion and unemployment of marginalized groups. By conducting social procurement and imposing so-called employment requirements, organizations can create job opportunities for marginalized people. Such practices are becoming increasingly popular in the construction sector, but remain scattered, which hinders the effective creation, use and dissemination of cohesive and commonly shared social procurement practices. Accordingly, this paper analyzes the creation, use and dissemination of social procurement practices in the Swedish construction sector.


The theory of proto-institutions, which refers to institutions under development, is applied to analyze 46 interviews with construction practitioners.


There is currently little convergence of social procurement practices, due to practices not being fully internalized across organizations and projects; interns hired through employment requirements not having strong enough incentives to engage with their internships; actors working strategically and operatively having different possibilities to create social procurement practices; and the development of maintenance mechanisms for the formalization of sustainable practices being weak.


This paper contextualizes efforts to increase equality, diversity and inclusion of marginalized groups in the construction sector. The adoption of an institutional perspective of practice development elucidates the institutional constellation of existing institutional logics that impact on this practice development. This paper also indicates how the work with social procurement can become more effective and efficient and maximize the social value output for marginalized people living in social exclusion. For institutional theory, it illustrates how proto-institutions can be driven by both top-down and bottom-up perspectives.



This research was funded by Svenska Forskningsrådet Formas, grant number 2013-1837.


Troje, D. and Andersson, T. (2021), "As above, not so below: developing social procurement practices on strategic and operative levels", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 40 No. 3, pp. 242-258.



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