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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Adoption and Implementation of Kaiser Permanente's Guideline for Purchasing Chemicals: An In-Depth Case Study

  • Author(s): Foushee, Christina Marie
  • Advisor(s): Newcomer, Robert
  • et al.

This study uses organizational change, diffusion of innovation, and strategic management theories to explore the adoption and implementation of an innovative process for purchasing chemicals and chemical-containing products at Kaiser Permanente (KP), the largest not-for-profit health system in the United States. Case study methodology and content analysis were used to design and analyze this study. Interviews were conducted with key decision makers at KP headquarters in Oakland, California and with informants from nongovernmental organizations that partnered with KP in purchasing chemicals purchasing efforts. In addition to interviews (n = 19), private and public documents (n = 22) were examined and analyzed to triangulate the data. This exploratory study carefully documents the complex factors that influenced an innovation in the purchase of chemicals and chemical-containing products by an industry leader widely recognized for its environmental stewardship initiatives. This study highlights specific organizational successes at KP in driving the design and manufacture of environmentally preferable product alternatives. However, it also characterizes the substantial contextual and regulatory barriers that KP confronted as it tried to establish a more sustainable base of operations. These barriers included: (a) difficulty acquiring product information; (b) difficulty reducing chemicals and chemicals of concern in the supply chain due to various factors, such as lack of available alternatives; (c) limited organizational resources to pursue or verify product information or create new products; (d) difficulty addressing the large and complex range of products that enter KP's supply chain; and (e) difficulty surmounting barriers posed by existing regulations governing chemicals.

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