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Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK, and
Alliance Boots, Nottingham, UK
Abstract Purpose – Increasingly, private sector companies are aiming to buy and supply products and services in a sustainable way, termed “sustainable supply chain management” (sustainable SCM), using purchasing and supply to reduce negative impacts on the environment, economy and society. There is often a gap between rhetoric and reality, with companies often accused of paying green lip service to sustainable SCM. This research aims to explore sustainable SCM issues in companies that have been recognized as leaders in their sectors, and investigate what factors inﬂuence sustainable SCM, and how practice might change in the future. Design/methodology/approach – Current practice in sustainable SCM and predictions for the future were explored in case studies of seven UK companies, through semi-structured interviews with purchasers and CSR practitioners, and secondary data collection from reports and websites. Sectors included aerospace, retail, pharmaceuticals, and food and drink. Findings – Companies were mapped onto a typology of approaches to sustainable SCM, based on internal and external enablers and barriers. Companies were classiﬁed as Internal focusers, Reserved players, External responders, and Agenda setters. Predictions for the future of sustainable SCM within the companies were also explored. Research limitations/implications – The typology could be further explored through a survey of ﬁrms from different sectors, and with ﬁrms not seen as leading in their ﬁeld. Originality/value – The paper draws on contingency theory and existing sustainable SCM literature to develop a typology of approaches to sustainable SCM. The paper draws useful lessons from leading companies for practitioners seeking to implement sustainable SCM. Keywords Case studies, Corporate responsibility, Sustainable supply chains, Sustainable development, Supply chain management, United Kingdom, Multiple retailers Paper type Research paper
It is no longer enough for ﬁrms to be concerned only with seeking a proﬁt - they should also give something back to society at large, minimize their negative impacts on the environment and have some responsibility for the behaviour of their suppliers on issues such as child labour, health and safety and pollution. Supply chain management (SCM) is the management of a network of interconnected organisations involved in the provision of product and services to end customers (Harland, 1996). There has been increasing interest in recent years in how organisations address sustainability in their supply chains, which has been described as SCM that incorporates the triple bottom line of sustainability. Sustainable SCM means that organisations are held responsible for the environmental and social performance of their suppliers. In this paper we deﬁne sustainable SCM as the pursuit of sustainability objectives through the purchasing and supply process, incorporating social, economic and environmental
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Supply Chain Management: An International Journal 17/1 (2012) 15– 28 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 1359-8546] [DOI 10.1108/13598541211212177]
elements. Sustainable SCM incorporates a variety of concepts such as environmental or green SCM, where ﬁrms seek to minimize negative environmental impacts in their supply chains. It also includes the consideration of social issues in the supply chain, such as ensuring suppliers have decent working conditions, or ensuring goods are sourced ethically and fairly along the supply chain. The economic aspect of sustainable SCM can include buying from local suppliers to support local economic regeneration. Organisations vary in the focus of their sustainable supply chain activities, with some ﬁrms putting greater emphasis on green issues and others prioritising social aspects. Organisations face barriers and enablers to sustainable SCM (Seuring and Mu ¨ ller, 2008), and these can be either internal or external to the organisation (Hervani et al., 2005; Walker et al., 2008). What is less clear from previous research is whether certain types of organisations are more internally or externally motivated to engage in sustainable SCM. In this research we aim to delve deeper into whether the support (or constraint) for sustainable SCM lies within or outside a ﬁrm, and develop a typology with which to classify organisations. Firms differ in what causes them to engage in sustainable SCM, with some ﬁrms being driven from within by their top management to engage in sustainable supply issues, and others responding reactively to outside inﬂuences such as stakeholder pressures or customer requirements. The approach to sustainable SCM is contingent on the context and circumstances that the ﬁrm operates in. In this study, we 15
the paper adopts a contingency theory perspective and brings together existing literature to develop a typology of sustainable SCM approaches. 1995. Hanna et al. Third.Sustainable supply chain management across the UK private sector Helen Walker and Neil Jones Supply Chain Management: An International Journal Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2012 · 15 –28 adopt a contingency theory perspective to explore the approaches that seven large ﬁrms have to sustainable SCM. Looking more speciﬁcally at the purchasing and supply function. First. it explores the practices of leading ﬁrms in sustainable SCM. 2000. A focus on cost reduction can run counter to sustainable SCM (Min and Galle. Zhu et al. Large customers may inﬂuence smaller suppliers to meet sustainable SCM practices (Walton et al. Preuss. 2000). and the predictability of tasks. . 2008). Green et al. Lawrence and Lorsch. 2006). Walker et al. providing lessons for organisations seeking to improve their sustainable SCM practices. and Burns and Woodward (Burns and Stalker. 2005). 2005.. 2004.... and greenwashing (Greer and Bruno. 2000) including middle management (Drumwright. with larger ﬁrms more likely to engage in sustainable SCM (Min and Galle. 2002). Handﬁeld et al. 2005). How do organisations vary in perceptions of internal and external enablers and barriers to sustainable SCM practices? . Hervani et al.. based on perceptions of internal and external barriers and enablers. 2001). 1998. Governments are inﬂuential through policy (Carter and Ellram.. Proactivity in sustainable SCM may lead to ﬁrm competitiveness (Sharma and Vredenburg. Lee. 2001). 1996). 2006). 2005). 2004. based on the variety of organisational approaches to sustainable SCM. Kogg.. Government regulation can inhibit sustainable SCM (Porter and Van de Linde. Literature review Theoretical underpinnings: a contingency approach This section sets out the theoretical underpinnings of the paper. and a reliance on traditional accounting methods.. sustainable SCM can be hindered by a lack of training (Cooper et al. A contingency theory perspective is appropriate in this research because we assume there is no one right way to approach sustainable SCM. conclusions are drawn. 2008).. Sustainable SCM can enhance competitive advantage (Forman and Sogaard. NGOs exert pressure on ﬁrms (Hall. Hall. Since organizations differ in the tasks they perform and environments they face. 2000. and predictions for the future of sustainable SCM are discussed. 2006). Schwartz. 2001) and a supportive culture (Carter and Jennings. as can a lack of commitment amongst suppliers (Wycherley... Buttermann et al. 2007. and exert pressure in the supply chain (Handﬁeld et al. 2001. developing capabilities is important (Jennings and Zandbergen. Sustainable SCM is also beneﬁted by adopting an Environmental Management System (EMS) (Chen. 1995). A literature review follows that introduces a contingency theory perspective and then draws on previous research to develop a typology for sustainable SCM based on whether an organization is inﬂuenced more by external or internal enablers and barriers. Day and Lichtenstein. 2008). 2001. as do investors (Green et al.. and that the best course of action is contingent upon the internal and external situation. 2008). 1999. a lack of management commitment (Carter and Dresner... 2006). New et al. The next section outlines the ﬁndings of the study. Collaboration with suppliers is important for sustainable SCM (Seuring and Mu ¨ ller. to gauge where sustainable SCM practices might head in years to come. Early proponents of contingency theory include Lawrence and Lorsch. 2007). Looking at the purchasing and supply function. Literature review of sustainable SCM contingent factors Previous research has identiﬁed that organisations can face a variety of barriers and enablers to sustainable SCM (Seuring 16 and Mu ¨ ller. Internal enablers can be differentiated between broader organisational factors and those speciﬁc to the purchasing and supply function. 2004. competitive pressures (Cooper et al. 2003. 1967). Vachon and Klassen. 2004. and ensuring it aligns with corporate strategy (Narasimhan and Das. Ketokivi.. 2006). Hughes. Darnall et al.. 2001. How do organisations vary in predictions for the future of sustainable SCM? The contributions of this research are threefold. 1997. Min and Galle. 2003. Maignan et al. 2007.. 2000) and having other SCM priorities (Tummala et al. Min and Galle. 1996a. Other internal corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices can inﬂuence sustainable SCM (Meehan et al.. 2005) or help manage reputational and environmental risk (Carter and Carter. Contingency theory suggests no single organizational structure is inherently more efﬁcient than all others. Stonebraker and Liao. Cousins et al. the appropriate organizational structure is in each case a function of such factors as technology. 1961. A contingency theory perspective has been adopted in supply chain management studies (Fisher. including implications for practitioners and future research.. 2007.. 2005. 2001. Zhu and Sarkis. and industry type (Min and Galle. Finally. 2006. and specifying a sustainable SCM strategy is of beneﬁt (Drumwright. Sustainable Procurement Taskforce. 2001b) and understanding (Cooper et al. External barriers include consumer desire for lower prices (Orsato. 2001. market. Zhu et al. Walker et al. Trowbridge.. 1998. Moving to barriers to sustainable SCM. which do not facilitate reporting on the triple bottom line (Rao and Holt. 2005. Vachon and Klassen. The paper is structured as follows. In this study. Broad organisational issues include having top management commitment (Min and Galle. 1998. Other barriers include a lack of supportive corporate structures and processes (Grifﬁths and Petrick. 2002. Woodward. Sharfman et al.. 2007.. 2000).. 2006). 1994. a distinction can been drawn between large and small ﬁrms. Verghese and Lewis. and that these can be either internal or external to the organisation (Hervani et al. 2005). 2006).. 2001. we adopt a contingency theory approach to sustainable SCM. 2000. 2007) and regulation (Hall. 1998. 2005).. 2008). Linton et al. United Nations. Hervani et al. 2000. Hall. 2005). Teuscher et al. which are then discussed in the context of the literature. Preuss. 1965.. 1994.. 2005. Stonebraker and Aﬁﬁ. Second. 2002). 2001. and the best practice case studies are mapped onto this typology. 2008) and in studies of environmental SCM (Bowen et al.. Maignan et al. The following research questions are addressed in this paper: . 2000. Walker et al. 2001. it explores predictions of the future of sustainable SCM within companies.. 1997). 2001a. 1996b. 2001). This study aims to develop a typology of organisational responses to sustainable SCM. The seven leading companies are classiﬁed according to the typology. 2008). Bowen et al. The methodology for the study is then presented.. 2001. 1997. The involvement of employees is also beneﬁcial (Hanna et al. External drivers come from a range of stakeholders.
“Internally focused” organisations are more inﬂuenced by internal factors (for example. employee involvement and management commitment). For example. and go through stages from basic to more advanced (Carroll. the literature reviewed in the sections above has identiﬁed internal and external enablers and barriers to sustainable SCM. 1999). and that these can be internal and external to the organisation. Several existing models show how organisations differ in their response to CSR and sustainable SCM. Studies have brought practitioners and academics together to try to predict the future for purchasing and supply 20 years into the future (Harland et al. a ﬁve-year forecast for supply shows academics have been making some effort to try to look ahead (Carter and Smeltzer.Sustainable supply chain management across the UK private sector Helen Walker and Neil Jones Supply Chain Management: An International Journal Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2012 · 15 –28 In sum. The future of sustainable SCM Previous research has made predictions for supply.. but not speciﬁcally for sustainable SCM. and are less inﬂuenced by external barriers. This research enquires into what the future holds for sustainable SCM.. In our typology. “Agenda Setters” are affected by enablers internal to the ﬁrm. Predictions for the future of consumer demand for environmentally products exist (Carter and Narasimhan. 2006). These are summarized in Figure 1. Developing a typology It is apparent from the literature review that a variety of barriers and enablers inﬂuence organisations in their Figure 1 Enablers and barriers identiﬁed during the literature review approach to sustainable supply chain management. 1979. “Reserved Players” perceive external enablers yet face internal barriers. 2003). As an outcome of the literature review. 2004. 2006. Cousins et al. International Institute for Sustainable Development. we are seeking to develop a typology to help classify the variety of pressures and organisational responses to sustainable SCM. Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. “External Responders” are more likely to be inﬂuenced by aspects from outside the organisational 17 . four types of companies can be observed. 1998).
and an interview protocol was developed on the basis of the reviewed literature. Participating organisations were sought through the Corporate Responsibility Group. to explore barriers and enablers to sustainable SCM practices. Fourteen semi-structured face-to-face Figure 2 Typology of organisational responses to sustainable supply chain management interviews were conducted with at least one senior manager in each organisation. an explorative study was conducted in the summer of 2006 based on interviews from seven different organisations. Of the twelve companies emailed. Looking to the next three to ﬁve years. with scales included to assist in positioning organisations on the typology. What have been the enablers you feel have helped make progress? . and participants reviewed a draft case study report. 2003). and enhance reliability. how do you see the future for sustainable SCM practices? . How long has your company been active in sustainable SCM? . was evident in all seven companies. we retained the richness of the case data by providing examples below of the speciﬁc barriers and enablers given by the case organisations. 2003). four purchasing specialists. supplier evaluation questionnaires and internal newsletters. 2003). seven agreed to take part. However. environmental/CSR policies. Interviews lasted about one hour. and when ‘how’ or ‘why’ questions are being asked (Yin. The framework is presented in Figure 2. and the authors independently coded and compared their coding structures to ensure similar themes were emerging.Sustainable supply chain management across the UK private sector Helen Walker and Neil Jones Supply Chain Management: An International Journal Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2012 · 15 –28 boundaries. All interviews were taped and transcribed. 1994). The analysis revealed that most of the themes identiﬁed in the literature review were observable within the case organisations. The unit of analysis for the study was sustainable SCM projects or initiatives that the organisation engaged in or planned for the future. In this study. Method and analysis This study chose to adopt a qualitative approach to investigation. due to time constraints because of the seniority of some of the interviewees. Conducting multiple case studies provided the opportunity to increase the analytical generalisability of the ﬁndings (Yin. NGO. Secondary data was collected from reports and web sites. Interview questions included: . What factors have led to these practices being carried out? . However. Will there be consolidation or will there be developments in sustainable development activity. what other changes do you foresee that could affect sustainable procurement here? An analytical framework drawn from the literature review was employed. a body of practitioners that seeks to work together and share learning on the wider CSR topic. This allowed us to position the organisations within the typology. to provide professional and expert perspectives. The use of protocols is advocated to enhance the reliability of case studies (Yin. including customer. The factors identiﬁed from the literature review showed a good degree of ﬁt with those observed in the case studies. adopting a case study approach which is beneﬁcial when the subject of interest is in its infancy (Eisenhardt. which seems applicable to sustainable SCM in the private sector. and the company names were made anonymous to encourage openness of response from interviewees. What have been the barriers or constraints you feel have held back progress? . The companies agreeing to participate are described in Table I. The participants included ﬁve Directors/ Heads of CSR. Which factors have been most important? . Findings and discussion The frequency of observations from the seven case studies is presented in Table III. some additional themes were identiﬁed which are presented in Figure 3. and assisted us in identifying dominant factors and making comparisons across the cases. and Government pressure. including annual reports. and ﬁve CSR or supplies managers. The analysis was conducted iteratively through the course of data collection. Please can you describe what your company does in the way of sustainable SCM? . providing evidence of internal validity. Is sustainable SCM activity company-wide? Which function is responsible? . 2003). Long-standing work. Triangulation with these secondary data sources was conducted to enhance the validity and reliability of the study (Yin. 1989). which functioned as a “shell” for the gathered data (Miles and Huberman. 18 . in most cases going back at least ﬁve to ten years. with additional categories added based on interviewee comments. as discussed in the ﬁndings section. Companies were chosen because they had been recognized as leaders in sustainable SCM in their sectors (see Table II). Interviews were also conducted with the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) and Business in The Community (BiTC – a charity with 700 þ company members committed to improving the positive impact of businesses on society).
delivery. and energy) A leading food retailer with interests in ﬁnancial services PharmaCo Pharmaceutical AeroCo Defence EngineerCo Aviation and defence SupermarketCo Food retailer FoodCo Food producer A leading nutrition and health company BeverageCo Beverage producer A world leading premium drinks business trading in over than 180 countries £65.000 globally Yes. Corporate Citizenship Report on web site Focus is on environmental impacts (e.000 Yes.4bn £19.000 Yes. on web site Yes.3bn 150. as part of Corporate Citizenship Report Sustainable supply chain management across the UK private sector Description 19 £11.6bn 276.g. outlines responsibilities as signatory to United Nations Global Compact £9. and support of defence aerospace systems A provider of power systems and services to four global markets (civil aerospace. detailed supply chain policy as part of 2007 CSR report Not evident on website. Focus is on compliance. supplier performance. on web site A global company engaged in the development. supplier code on web site Yes.7bn £7. available on web site 97.000 Yes.500 38. available on web site Yes. available on web site £15.050 globally Yes.7bn 100. researching solutions to climate change) Yes.000 Yes.Helen Walker and Neil Jones Table I Description of participating companies RetailCo General retailer A leading international pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer A research-based pharmaceutical company operating in more than 100 countries £22. and health & safety Yes. available on web site Policy focuses on Boots brand products and involved the Ethical Trading Initiative Annual turnover Number of employees CSR/sustainable/environmental policy? Supply Chain Management: An International Journal Sustainable SCM policy? Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2012 · 15 –28 . defence aerospace.9bn 110. marine.9bn 22.
and an element of organisational reluctance (Greer and Bruno.. and RetailCo using the Ethical Trading Initiative’s standard as the foundation of its sustainable SCM work. BeverageCo seeking to work with leaders in other sectors. several enablers which did not feature in the literature were identiﬁed including leadership. The public sector in the UK has been particularly active in promoting sustainable procurement amongst public sector buyers (Walker and Brammer. 2005) was highlighted by RetailCo and SupermarketCo. Zhu et al. BeverageCo. 2009). and EngineerCo the least. a lack of knowledge on the part of purchasers (Cooper et al. whereas SupermarketCo mentioned the most. was organisational size. 2005). 2002) as a driving force was raised by four companies (RetailCo. 1996) that can all limit progress. and CIPS. resource. BiTC and CIPS recognised the importance of public sector developments for private sector buyers.. and FoodCo explained how they work directly with producers (i.. Sharfman et al. FoodCo and SupermarketCo were all particularly interested in working with suppliers.Sustainable supply chain management across the UK private sector Helen Walker and Neil Jones Supply Chain Management: An International Journal Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2012 · 15 –28 Table II Relevant CSR and supply chain achievements for the seven companies Company AeroCo RetailCo Year 2006 2003 2006 2006 2004 2003 2006 2004 n/a 2006 2005 2006 Relevant awards and achievements Shortlisted for a BiTC award Winner of two CIPS award Rated best non-food retailer by BiTC and runner-up to M&S as best company Three BiTC awards including for overall CSR work and for supply chain management. Other new external enablers include PharmaCo wanting to improve the whole pharmaceutical industry performance. and BeverageCo) is linked to cost. 1998. CIPS Supply Management Award: Most innovative project and Overall winner Winner of CIPS award Rated best beverage company by BiTC Winner of two CIPS award No awards achieved but joint founder of bodies assessing sustainable procurement and a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact Rated best aerospace and defence company by BiTC Winner of “Best contribution to corporate responsibility” CIPS award Rated second best food and drug retailer by BiTC BeverageCo PharmaCo FoodCo EngineerCo SupermarketCo Internal enablers All previously identiﬁed internal enablers were reported by the organisations. AeroCo and RetailCo mentioned none at all. 2001).. and the sustainable SCM process not being robust enough. It was suggested that large companies are often able to do more as greater expertise. 2001. farmers). This contrasts with previous research showing SupermarketCo to be under regulatory pressure to adopt sustainable SCM (Hall. 2001) were mentioned by RetailCo. SupermarketCo. Other internal factors afﬁrming previous ﬁndings included a lack of management commitment (Carter and Dresner. External enablers Turning to external enablers SupermarketCo and RetailCo perceive the most external enablers. and this may have had the effect of raising sustainable SCM awareness amongst private sector suppliers. whereby these companies have not been able to invest in people or systems to extend their sustainable SCM work right throughout their supply chains so a more focused approach has been needed. 2001. Hervani et al. RetailCo and CIPS both noted how academic involvement such as improving product packaging. 2007. RetailCo perceived as many internal barriers as they did internal enablers. a lack of strategy (Grifﬁths and Petrick. There was evidence of collaboration with suppliers (Seuring and Mu ¨ ller. New aspects identiﬁed were resource limitations. a range of internal factors were identiﬁed as shown in Table III. 2007. and identiﬁed in previous studies (Min and Galle. RetailCo demonstrated a willingness to share purchasing expertise with its suppliers. External barriers Fewer external constraints were identiﬁed by the interviewees. Customer requirements (Carter and Carter. Trowbridge.. 2006) were apparent as the food and beverage industry organisations BeverageCo. 2008). Increasing interest from investors (Green et al. something that SupermarketCo also sees as important. 20 Sectoral differences (Zhu and Sarkis. and SupermarketCo) as well as by CIPS and BiTC. and CIPS and BiTC. 1998) were raised by all seven company representatives. with RetailCo perceiving most internal enablers and FoodCo the least. Vachon and Klassen. Verghese and Lewis. Government policy and regulation was only reported by AeroCo and RetailCo as driving them forward.. SupermarketCo and FoodCo perceived the least internal barriers. 2007. EngineerCo. However.e. Intense competition (Sharma and Vredenburg. NGO activity (Maignan et al. and buying power is available. Cost pressures (Min and Galle. Resource (raised by PharmaCo. 1996a. 2000). 2001). PharmaCo’s observed that language barriers can make it difﬁcult to communicate . and procurement’s willingness to work with colleagues in other functions. and AeroC0 stated how performance targets can tend to dominate other initiatives. 2001) was highlighted by PharmaCo. FoodCo. Min and Galle. An internal factor not mentioned by the companies but by CIPS. Internal barriers Moving on to barriers. 2007. Vachon and Klassen. 2000).
Table III Patterns of internal and external barriers and enablers in case organisations (predictions for future in brackets) RetailCo Pharma Co General retailer Pharmaceutical Total AeroCo Defence EngineerCo Aviation and defence SupermarketCo Food retailer FoodCo Food producer BeverageCo Beverage producer U U U (U) U (U) U U (U) U U U U Internal enablers People issues Top management commitment Employee involvement Culture U U UU (U) U (U) U U Helen Walker and Neil Jones 3 2 3 5 (2) 1 3 (3) 0 Sustainable supply chain management across the UK private sector Strategic issues Strategic alignment Risk management Performance measurement Organisational size Functional issues Purchasing and supply function Internal integration Total internal enablers (Future internal enablers) U (U) U 26 (2 2) 25 (2 3) (UU) U U (U) U U 25 (2 2) U U (U) 24 (2 2) UUU (UUU) UUU (U) (U) UU 24 (2 2) (UU) 22 (2 3) 23 (0) 8 (8) 4 (1) 2 29 (2 14) 21 U UU U U U (U ) 5 (3) 3 (0) U U U U 1 (0) U U U(U) (U) 7 (5) U UU U U U U U U UU U U U U U (U) U (U) U U(U) U External enablers Government NGOs Competitors Customers Suppliers Investors Academics Media Sectoral Global Total external enablers (Future external enablers) U U U (U) UUU U UU 7 (1) (U) (U ) 3 (3) U (U) U (U) (U) 5 (3) 2 (3) 4 (2) 2 4 (2) 8 2 1 5 (1) 5 (3) (4) 33 (15) 21 U Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2012 · 15 –28 U U U Supply Chain Management: An International Journal Internal barriers Culture Strategic issues Resource Reputational risk Performance management Organisational size Functional issues Purchasing and supply function Internal integration 26 21 21 21 25 24 (continued) .
to position on typology (arrow indicates future direction) 1 1 1 2 1 1 3 10 Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2012 · 15 –28 Supply Chain Management: An International Journal .Helen Walker and Neil Jones Table III RetailCo Pharma Co General retailer Pharmaceutical 26 22 23 24 21 AeroCo Defence EngineerCo Aviation and defence SupermarketCo Food retailer FoodCo Food producer 21 BeverageCo Beverage producer 22 Total 2 19 Sustainable supply chain management across the UK private sector U 22 U 0 1 Enablers 2 6 Barriers (3 Future enablers) U 2 0 Enablers 0 Barriers (0 Future enablers) 0 2 2 Enablers 2 3 Barriers (2 2 Future enablers) U 1 2 3 Enablers 2 3 Barriers (2 2 Future enablers) U U U U U U 5 3 Enablers 4 Barriers (2 1 Future enablers) 1 1 Enablers 0 Barriers (0 Future enablers) 1 2 Enablers 2 1 Barriers (3 Future enablers) Total internal barriers External barriers Government NGOs Competitors Customers Suppliers Media Sectoral Global Total external barriers Total enablers and barriers.
increase supplier communication. It is encouraging that many of the enablers of sustainable SCM are internal to a company. Supportive structures and processes within the purchasing and supply function. knowledge sharing with suppliers. Ensure other procurement priorities do not compete with sustainable SCM. producers/ farmers) build long supplier relationships. inclusion in contract documentation and terms and conditions. and SupermarketCo felt the sheer volume of CSR information makes it difﬁcult to deﬁne priorities. . and work with suppliers. was seen to hold back progress. Dominant internal factors Some of the factors identiﬁed in the study were mentioned repeatedly by interviewees and emerged as a pattern across the case organisations in their discussion of present and future issues. support sustainable SCM within the purchasing and supply function (n ¼ 16). . . e. . Buyer knowledge needed. Availability of toolkits. Interviewees discussed speciﬁc purchasing and supply activities that support sustainable SCM which are summarized in the list below: . 23 . The dominant internal themes emerging across the seven case organisations (and the number of times they are mentioned. importance of including sustainability criteria in new contracts. Keep eye on activity after supplier relationship established. support certain suppliers (e. . . Prioritise sustainable SCM with key suppliers. and devote resources to support sustainable SCM (n ¼ 6). BeverageCo has observed different standards in different countries. Ensure sufﬁcient resource to support sustainable SCM. align purchasing and supply strategy and CSR strategy with corporate strategy (n ¼ 7). enhanced through training programmes. . N ¼ X) in Table III include the need to: .Sustainable supply chain management across the UK private sector Helen Walker and Neil Jones Supply Chain Management: An International Journal Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2012 · 15 –28 Figure 3 Additional themes identiﬁed in the study requirements to suppliers in other countries. Demanding requirements from NGOs were raised by FoodCo. and BiTC raised the point that international standards are perceived by some to be barriers to competition. and practitioners can use these dominant themes as pointers to guide activity in implementing sustainable SCM. Remaining external barriers were only mentioned by one interviewee in each case. EngineerCo explained how its very strong brand reputation means that extra sustainable SCM work is not likely to create more demand for its products. only mentioned by PharmaCo. assess more suppliers. Insufﬁcient supplier commitment. inclusion in standard supplier selection criteria. EngineerCo identiﬁed cultural barriers across different locations. ensure performance measures support sustainable SCM (n ¼ 6).g.g.
One area where there is widespread agreement is around the skills and knowledge needed by individual buyers. investor. customer. BeverageCo and SupermarketCo see signiﬁcantly more work being needed.Sustainable supply chain management across the UK private sector Helen Walker and Neil Jones . an organisation with strong internal enablers such as senior management commitment and culture. Reserved players . . PharmaCo: a balance between internal and external pressures in the future. AeroCo: demands from Government but performance focus limiting internal enablers. This may be because the case organisations in this research are fairly well-developed in terms of implementing sustainable SCM. shown in Figure 4. The seven companies take their respective positions depending on the frequency of observations of the various factors. . and media pressure. Practitioners.. 24 . . PharmaCo. CIPS. . . Dominant external factors The most inﬂuential stakeholders and external factors appear to be: . . The future The second research question led to an investigation of predictions for the future of sustainable SCM. For BeverageCo there is the need to be aware of country differences in terms of procurement standards and the need to be able to react to any unforeseen events that could impact on supply chains. and may attach a greater importance to the value of working with suppliers. Emerging economies are seen by the majority of the companies to include China and India. . 1999). as shown in Figure 4. . . BeverageCo: understanding country differences and more suppliers to consider. Customers (n ¼ 6). which are summarized as follows. Sectoral issues (n ¼ 8). The mapping approach developed in this typology and the list of factors in Table III. RetailCo: increasing pressure from customers and NGOs. and competitor pressures. Supply Chain Management: An International Journal Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2012 · 15 –28 . NGOs (n ¼ 6). External responders . . EngineerCo: individuals exploring CSR internally and making proposals. yet emphasis on incorporating sustainable SCM within the purchasing and supply function. and customer enablers. . The reasons for the suggested movements include: . NGO. . FoodCo: business practice drives work from within with NGO inﬂuence. and AeroCo suggested that similar work would be going on as is currently being carried out. The sustainable SCM typology By analyzing the frequency of responses. FoodCo. . Figure 4 Case organisations mapped onto the typology Internally focussed . Share good practice in sustainable SCM. it is possible to plot each ﬁrm’s current sustainable SCM position in relation to internal and external factors. PharmaCo: process and training plus media. RetailCo: strong internal barriers plus customer. depending on their internal and external circumstances. . NGO. a need to prioritise certain CSR activities. Agenda setters None of the companies fell within the Agenda setter quadrant. When asked about the next three to ﬁve years RetailCo. AeroCo: heavily inﬂuenced by government. and the growing importance of health debates around nutrition and obesity impacting on a food retailer. EngineerCo: supply chain personnel recognise importance and employee forum enabling more work. The dominance of suppliers in inﬂuencing sustainable SCM is a novel ﬁnding compared to previous research (Walker et al. Support for procurement within the organisation. Based on predictions for the future it is possible to plot movements for each ﬁrm. SupermarketCo : CSR team. and BiTC alike see a need for purchasers to be more knowledgeable on the whole sustainability and CSR subject and in future to be able to integrate demands in this area into their purchasing practices. which did not identify suppliers as driving sustainable SCM. 2008). and whether more internal or external drivers or constraints are predicted. Media and corporate reputation (n ¼ 6). Prioritisation of key commodities depending on criticality of supply and supply continuation. can be used by ﬁrms in other sectors to identify the barriers and enablers they experience internally and externally as they engage with the sustainability agenda. This contingent approach can help organisations decide the best course of action in sustainable SCM. EngineerCo is likely to be more active but mainly as it is starting from a slightly lower base. FoodCo: desire to be doing more driven jointly from within and by NGOs. The greater changes predicted by SupermarketCo are due to increasing customer demands. BeverageCo: companywide CSR targets and work with NGOs and suppliers. Suppliers (n ¼ 8). An example might be the Body Shop (Wycherley.
The next section goes on to draw conclusions that result from the study. Supply Chain Management: An International Journal Volume 17 · Number 1 · 2012 · 15 –28 SupermarketCo: combination of external and internal factors. more crossfunctional working within the company and a need to communicate requirements to supply chain partners is likely to demand new buyer skills. but this will not be representative of those ﬁrms that are less advanced in terms of introducing sustainable SCM. 1984). organisational factors including strategic. and senior representatives from seven large companies that are seen to be leaders in the subject were interviewed. with each company anticipating their sustainable supply activities increasing in the coming years. exploring different organisational responses to sustainable SCM. and even with competitors. Practitioners could use the typology and list of factors in Table III to reﬂect upon how they currently engage with sustainable SCM. in order to encompass the supplier’s perspective. we found that all of the factors identiﬁed in the literature were corroborated as they were mentioned by at least one of the interviewees. as previously listed. The contingent approach could also be adopted to explore the factors inﬂuencing organisations that have not progressed so far along to road to sustainability as the leading companies included in our research. and stakeholder involvement (including NGOs and Government). Fourth. In addition. As small ﬁrms make up 99 percent of companies worldwide. . This contingent approach suggest there is no single best course of action. Key enablers were customer requirements. and this study is no exception as it has focused on large companies with the resources to commit to sustainable SCM. and Agenda setters. other organisational priorities. In addition.Sustainable supply chain management across the UK private sector Helen Walker and Neil Jones . Third. and how they might wish to change their approach in the future. Companies were classiﬁed as Internal focusers. and that a ﬁrm’s approach to sustainable SCM is dependent on the internal and external circumstances it faces. practitioners could explore the implementation of purchasing and supply activities that support sustainable SCM. Second. communication and knowledge deﬁciencies. to show how they varied in their perceptions of internal and eternal barriers and enablers. the ability of buyers to tackle the subject. Our ﬁrst objective was to identify the various internal and external factors that encourage or constrain organisations in engaging in sustainable SCM. the purchasing and supply department needs to ensure that sustainable SCM strategy aligns with the corporate strategy. investigating sustainable SCM from a small ﬁrm perspective would also be of beneﬁt (Walker and Preuss. This research has focused on large ﬁrms that are seen to be leading in sustainable SCM. insufﬁcient supplier commitment. the increasing role being played by the public sector. Future research could also focus on how sustainability issues are approached in buyer-supplier dyads or in supply networks. people and functional issues. and developing a typology with which to classify organisational approaches to sustainable SCM. Barriers to progress included pressures to reduce costs. The literature review led to identiﬁcation of internal and external barriers and enablers to sustainable SCM. The study therefore met its aim of exploring whether the perceived support (or constraint) for sustainable SCM lies within or outside a ﬁrm. 2008). academics and investors. In addition. and are interested in learning from the practices of ﬁrms seen as leaders in sustainable SCM. There is also a need to be doing more to train buyers in sustainable SCM. and there is an issue of how generalisable the ﬁndings are for organisations in the UK and developed countries. Enabling factors included a procurement team’s ability to work with other areas of the company. The typology is intended to be generalisable across industries and sectors. Some new factors have been identiﬁed for the ﬁrst time from the case studies. weak processes. and a desire for a whole industry to be adopting new practices. This study has also identiﬁed new constraints. The results of the study may be generalisable to other large ﬁrms in developed countries who have already made some progress with their sustainable SCM agenda. more research is needed into the challenges facing smaller ﬁrms as they engage in the sustainability agenda. It is encouraging that many of the enablers of sustainable SCM are 25 internal to the company. and cultural barriers. buyers’ abilities to embrace new skills. exploring interrelationships between factors affecting sustainable SCM more fully. reputational risk. External responders. Predictions for the future of sustainable SCM within the companies were also explored. and accounting methods that focus on short term measures. adopting a collaborative approach to sustainable SCM seems to be of beneﬁt. When we conducted the data collection. and how organisations vary in predictions for the future of sustainable SCM. We then used the interview data to map the organisations onto a typology of approaches to sustainable SCM. and yet variety was found across the seven companies in terms of what inﬂuences them. A literature review initially identiﬁed a variety of internal and external barriers and enablers to sustainable SCM. although it is beyond the scope of the current study. Conclusions This study sought to investigate private sector sustainable SCM in the UK. including limited resource. and the case studies conﬁrmed and added to these. Reserved players. First. which means it is within practitioner’s sphere of inﬂuence to bring about changes in the direction a company takes in sustainable SCM. the external factors inﬂuencing organisational adoption of sustainable SCM could more thoroughly be explored from a stakeholder theory perspective (Freeman. Practitioners could initiate such sharing of expertise at industry events. Implications for practice The companies included in this study are widely seen to be sustainable SCM leaders. the majority of sustainable SCM studies have focused on researching large ﬁrms. The research questions that the study sought to answer explored how organisations vary in perceptions of internal and external enablers and barriers to sustainable SCM practices. A contingency theory approach was adopted. Implications for future research The research could be extended through a large-scale crosssectoral survey. Constraints of the research The ﬁndings of this research are based on case studies of seven companies already acknowledged as progressive in sustainable SCM. There appears to be an emerging trend of a willingness to share sustainable SCM practices and experiences across industries.
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