Influence conduct & behaviour

A It is hard, but not impossible to influence behaviour. To enable circular procurement, several internal and external stakeholders need to change their habitual behaviour. In your own organisation this includes the budget holder, the internal client and the contract manager. Outside your organisation, too, you need various stakeholders to participate, such as account managers, consultants and production managers at potential value chain partners. This involves stakeholders covering all steps from design and production to reverse logistic and recycling.

Tip 1: Focus on motivation

There are many theories about influencing behaviour. Most authors agree that a person changes their behaviour out of sense of urgency. A person must have a compelling reason (= motivation) to change. Don't forget that your own motivation will not necessarily be the same as the motivation of the person you need something from. So first you must find out what motivates the other stakeholders. Once you know that, you can determine whether different motivations might lead to the same goal. The persons who share that goal with you and are willing to put effort into it are your potential partners. They have the energy and motivation to move forward. People with the energy to contribute will turn your project into a success.

The motivation to change can also be found closer to home, for instance if your organisation has the ambition to become circular and actively prompts people to act accordingly. In practice, this does not happen much, but it could be a strong incentive from higher up in the organisation. Internal focus on circular procurement or circular working will shift the motivation to change from ‘better world’ to ‘do my job well (= securing income)’. Such a motivation may be less ‘intrinsic’, but it is a strong driver for change at an individual level.

Tip 2: Create trust

In many procurement projects the client knows what they want – or at least they thinks they knows. This results in technical specifications, where suppliers can only distinguish themselves based on price and quality. However, this leaves little room for the creativity of market players.

By formulating open-ended, functional requirements you put the focus on your needs. That gives market players the confidence they can provide the best possible solution. This often results in solutions that are better suited to the client's needs. Requests based on functional specifications can only be used, however, if the client is confident this approach will result in a solution for his needs. You can foster this confidence, for example, by asking other public clients about their recent experiences, or by doing a your own market survey to find out what market players are capable of.

It is important to consider, both internally and externally, what the common interests are and how to place these interests at the heart of the procurement process. Make clear what each stakeholder can contribute to these common goals and what is required of them in terms of attitude and behaviour.

Tip 3: Focus on communication

Although the concept of circular economy is steadily gaining popularity, case examples remain a powerful communication tool. For example, croquettes made of oyster mushrooms grown on the coffee grounds from your own machine or lockers made from old desktops. Support your examples where possible by showing the impact on sustainability.

Examples like these make circular developments visible and can inspire others to start addressing these issues as well. This is how communication helps to influence attitude and behaviour. You should therefore focus strongly on communicating visible results and involve suppliers in this process. See for instance the The Green House infographic (Dutch) of het story of Blue City.

Tip 4: Create support at senior management level

To be able to experiment with a new approach or give suppliers more space, you must be able to make mistakes. Without room for mistakes it is not possible to try out a new process and the results will be marginal. Support from senior management is vital to ensure that employees have the confidence to experiment. In their Roadmap Circular Procurement & Commissioning the Metropolitan Region Amsterdam devoted one of the chapters to creating commitment at senior management level.

Tip 5: Just do it

Once you have gathered motivated people around you, you should get started. There is a lot of knowledge and experience available on circular procurement, including case examples from the Netherlands and other countries. Find this information, learn from it and define the necessary steps to make your procurement circular. There are many case studies that describe the intended goals, the way the market was approached, the way proposals were called for, and the final result. As none of these examples are perfect, and they certainly will not be a perfect fit for your situation, a copy-paste action will not suffice. You define your steps (small, realistic, achievable and involving the right internal and external partners) by combining the knowledge and experience of others with your own possibilities and ambitions and those of your organisation and the value chain.


  • Focus on people's motivation and connect with what motivates others.
  • Use mutual confidence - both internally and externally - as your starting point: Only by giving confidence you will receive confidence in return.
  • Create commitment at senior management level in your organisation, to ensure support for your efforts to involve the rest of the organisation in your circular ambitions.
  • Just get started with circular procurement and involve the stakeholders as you go along - they will see what it is like to do things in a different way.

Background information

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