5. Influence attitudes and behaviour

When you start with circular procurement, you can expect stakeholders to start acting differently to what they are used to. This applies internally, for example, to the budget holder, internal client and contract manager. You also need cooperation from outside your organisation, for example from account managers, consultants and production managers working for potential chain partners. After all, you are asking something different of all of those involved in all steps of the processes, from design and production to return logistics and recycling.

5.1 Focus on motivation

There are all manner of theories about influencing behaviour. Influencing behaviour is difficult, but not impossible. Most researchers agree that humans change their behaviour based on certain urgency. Someone need to feel an urgent reason (i.e. a motivation) to change.

Realise that the motivation of others is often not the same as your own. You need to start by being clear on what motivates the other stakeholders. You can then start looking at whether different drivers can lead to the same goal. The people who share that goal with you and who are also willing to work towards it are your potential partners. They have the energy and motivation to take steps and to make your project a success.

You can also find motivation to change closer to home. Perhaps if your organisation has circular ambitions and the management provides active encouragement. In practice, this is still rare, but it can be a strong incentive for behavioural change. If the management helps to steer circular procurement or ways of working, employees’ motivation to change is likely to shift from ‘contributing to a better world’ to ‘doing my work well’ (i.e. maintaining income).

5.2 Inspire confidence

In many procurement processes, you know, in your role as client, exactly what you need. At least, that’s what you think you know. The result is often that you create a tightly packed technical specification where bidders can only differentiate based on price and service. That way, you leave little room for market parties to show their creativity.

If you ask a functional, open question, you inspire market parties to meet your need in the best way possible. This can create solutions that better suit both your needs and your circular ambitions.

Functional calls for tender, however, are only possible if you, the client, are confident that you will receive a positive response to your call. It may help to ask other public clients for their recent experiences or to start by exploring the market yourself to identify what market parties are actually capable of.

5.3 Emphasise the common interest

Pay attention – both internally and externally – to the common interest of your circular procurement process. It’s not hard to understand that a purchasing party would want to procure in a circular fashion, but on the basis of a budget as well. The contractor, on the other hand, also has an interest in maintaining circular ambitions, but will take into account other interests as well, such as the lowest possible procurement price from its suppliers, as well as efficient production processes.

The art is to find a common interest. It all starts with making clear what each other’s contribution could be and what attitudes and behaviours are needed for that contribution.

5.4 Commit to communication

Communication is an important means of communicating your circular ambitions and getting people excited about them. Concrete examples are always helpful. As an example, food made from oyster mushrooms grown on the coffee grounds from office coffee machines. Or lockers made from the surfaces of old desks. Wherever possible, you should also mention the impact that you achieved as well – such as the CO2 saving.

By making circular developments visible, you can inspire others to believe in them and start working on them too. Communication thus helps influence attitudes and behaviours. Don’t forget to include your suppliers in this as well.

Examples of how to communicate your circular successes:
Infographic for the circular restaurant The Green House in Utrecht 
Story behind the sustainable business hub Blue City in Rotterdam

5.5 Learn from circular examples

Once you have motivated people around you, it’s time to get going. Circular examples can act as the final push to take that all important step. There is ample knowledge and experience on circular procurement in case studies, both internationally and at domestic level. These case studies will tell you:

  • What the intention was
  • How the market was approached
  • What was asked for
  • What the outcome was

Find case studies that fit your situation or organisation, learn from them and determine your own steps towards circular procurement. No single example will fit your situation perfectly, so ‘copy paste’ will not be sufficient. You determine your steps (small, realistic, achievable and with the right internal and external partners) by combining knowledge and experience gained from others with your capabilities and ambitions, and those of your organisation and the rest of the chain.

Points for action

  • Dovetail with what motivates people.
  • Trust in one another as a point of departure, both internally and externally.
  • Ensure communication to make circular results visible.
  • Learn from circular examples.

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