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Int. J.

Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182

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Int. J. Production Economics

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Sustainable supply management: An empirical study

Blandine Ageron a,n, Angappa Gunasekaran b, Alain Spalanzani c
Department of Supply Chain and Information Systems, University of Grenoble, IUT Valence, Rue Barthélemy de Laffemas, 26 000 Valence, France
Department of Decision and Information Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, 285 Old Westport Road, North Dartmouth, MA 02748-1778, USA
Department of Supply Chain and Information Systems, University of Grenoble, 38 040 Grenoble, Cedex 09, France

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Sustainable business development has received much attention over the past decade owing to the
Received 28 October 2010 significant attention given by governments and both profit and not-for-profit organizations to
Accepted 10 April 2011 environmental, social and corporate responsibility. The emergence of a changing economic order has
Available online 19 April 2011
also made companies around the world seriously think about manufacturing and service sustainability.
Keywords: Global markets and operations have prompted companies to revisit their corporate, business and
Sustainability functional strategies in addition to focusing on outsourcing, virtual enterprise and supply chain
Supply management management. Sustainability research on supply management has received limited attention. Never-
Framework theless, considering the physically disbursed enterprise environment, supply management is critical for
Empirical research
organizational competitiveness. Realizing the importance of sustainability in supply management, an
attempt has been made to develop a theoretical framework and then to study the framework by means
of an empirical study using perceptions and practices of selected French companies. Finally, a summary
of findings and conclusions are reported.
& 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction the Journal of Operations Management (Linton et al., 2007),

International Journal of Production Economics (Piplani et al.,
In recent years, supply chain management (SCM) has received 2008), Journal of Supply Chain Management (Pagell et al., 2008),
a great deal of attention from practitioners and scholars. In Supply Chain Management: an International Journal (Lindgreen
a physically distributed enterprise environment, outsourcing has et al., 2009), and Journal of Cleaner Production (Baumgartner,
become an integral part of supply chain management. This 2011). More and more companies take this new issue into account
indicates the role of supply management in order to ensure the by editing sustainable development reports, by setting up
competitiveness of supply chains. Moreover, the sustainability of dedicated sustainable structures or by employing sustainable
supply chains relies on the sustainable supply management development experts. Min and Galles (1997) explore ‘‘green
considering the fact that even manufacturing has become more purchasing’’ to determine the key factors affecting a buying firm’s
of a service in which various resources are traded as commodities. choice of suppliers.
Therefore, sustainability in supply chain management is critical Our research is based on the assumption that it is currently
for the success of whole supply chain management. Nevertheless, essential and compulsory for companies to integrate sustainability
‘‘only recently have the logistic, operations management and issues in their SCM (Wolters et al., 1997). Handfield et al. (2002)
supply chain management research groups started publishing highlight that upstream partners, and more precisely, suppliers, are
more about the implementation of sustainability in supply net- frequently the most concerned with environmental preoccupa-
works’’ (Van Bommel, 2011) and the burgeoning body of litera- tions. Several examples of companies underline the importance of
ture addressing the issue of sustainability (Kleindorfer et al., this trend. Since 2003, Ford Motor Company requires its suppliers
2005; Jayaraman et al., 2007), considered it as a key dimension to have ISO 14001 certification and more than 5000 collaborators
of corporate social responsibility (CSR) (Pagell et al., 2008). In have been effected by this decision. Similarly, companies such as
recent years, an increasing number of special issues on sustain- Adidas, Nike and Sony have also taken steps toward increased
ability and sustainable SCM in recent years have been edited in sustainability with their suppliers. These ‘‘success stories’’ should
not, however, overshadow reality. Lots of companies experience
difficulties with their sustainable business development manage-
Corresponding author. Tel.: þ33 475418822; fax: þ33 475418844.
E-mail addresses: (B. Ageron),
ment even if they agree that nowadays their activity depends (A. Gunasekaran), considerably on their responsibility towards their partners (A. Spalanzani). and stakeholders (Dyllick and Hockerts, 2002). Indeed, taking

0925-5273/$ - see front matter & 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182 169

environmental issues into account influences the company’s integrated in the performance objectives for single companies but
upstream relationships (Beske et al., 2008) and its downstream also for the management of the whole supply chain (Bai and
customers. Sarkis, 2010). Social, environmental and economic factors must be
From this perspective, Seuring and Müller (2008) point out a taken into account and added to more usual operations set of
deficit of research dealing with sustainable development. Sustain- performance criteria (quality, cost, flexibility). Synthesizing prior
able development is defined as ‘‘a development that meets the research by Srivastava (2007) and Seuring and Müller (2008), a
needs of the present without compromising the ability of future concept of sustainable supply chain has been developed. Though
generation to meet their own needs’’ (WCDE, 1987). It relies on information systems and technologies, transportation, warehous-
the economic, environmental and social dimensions. Ho et al. ing, logistics networks have been integral components of SCM,
(2010), observe that green concerns are increasingly used as factors such as environmental purchasing, manufacturing, R&D
supplier selection criteria. Taking this perspective, in this paper and distribution emerge as common themes in SCM.
we study the sustainability of upstream SCM considering the fact Sustainability has become a significant concern for companies
that supply management (strategic alliances, supplier section and that integrate environmental and social issues in their strategy
its criteria) plays a major role in supply chain management. The (Srivastava, 2007). Today, firms are aware of the importance of
main objective of our research is to investigate whether ‘‘sustain- their partners’ sustainable responsibility in their own develop-
able sourcing’’ can positively impact company image and enhance ment (Dyllick and Hockerts, 2002; Bai and Sarkis, 2010) and
the drive for business sustainability (Walton et al., 1998; Hall, environmental sustainability of any organization is impossible
2000; Bowen et al., 2001). without incorporating Sustainable Supply Chain Management
The organization of the paper is as follows: Section 2 reviews (SSCM) practices (Preuss, 2005). Taking this idea further, Preuss
some selected literature on Sustainable Supply Chain Manage- (2005) outlines those environmental benefits that diminish if
ment (SSCM) and the importance of supply management sustain- companies adopt SSCM practices within their boundaries, yet do
ability. A theoretical framework for Sustainable Supply not incorporate their partners in the process. This means that for
Management (SSM) is proposed in Section 3. Section 4 discusses sustainability to be durable, companies must ‘‘build’’ beyond their
the research objectives and methodology employed. The results of own borders. Upstream and downstream partner implication
the empirical data analysis are presented in Section 5. Section 6 plays a major role in supply chain performance (Awasthi et al.,
includes a summary of findings, conclusions and future research 2010) and customer satisfaction (Bacallan, 2000; Carter et al.,
directions. 2000; Bai and Sarkis, 2010). However, this approach has to be
undertaken from a win–win perspective where each partner acts
in environmentally friendly ways by reducing resource utiliza-
2. Literature review tion, reducing waste and improving productivity (Wu and Dunn,
1995). By minimizing their green impact, companies consider the
In this section, we review the literature available on sustain- environment as an opportunity upon which they can build a
able supply chain and management in order to identify the gaps competitive advantage (Rao and Holt, 2005). The environment
between theory and practice and then develop a framework for ceases to be a constraint and becomes a collective concern to be
sustainable supply management. tackled in a green supply chain approach (Beamon, 1999).
Mentzer et al. (2001) defined supply chain management as, The issue of SCM has to be broadened to include environ-
‘‘the systemic, strategic coordination of the traditional business mental, social and economic issues to become sustainable. Carter
functions and the tactics across these business functions within a and Rogers (2008) define Sustainable Supply Chain Management
particular company and across businesses within the supply (SSCM) as ‘‘the strategic, transparent integration and achievement
chain, for the purposes of improving the long-term performance of an organization’s social, environmental and economic goals in
of the individual companies and the supply chain as a whole’’. the systemic coordination of key inter-organizational business
More recently, Lambert et al. (2006) state that it refers to ‘‘the processes for improving the long-term economic performance of
integration of key business processes from end-user through the individual and its supply chain’’. This means that specific
original suppliers, that provides products, services, and informa- environmental performance criteria have to be applied by all the
tion that add value for customers and other stakeholders’’. There supply chain partners (Awasthi et al., 2010) and simultaneously,
is a large and consistent body of literature dealing with sustain- promotion of responsible corporate environmental behavior must
ability in supply chain and special issues have been edited on this be encouraged (Lu et al., 2007). Helping suppliers recognize the
subject.1 This indicates importance of measuring the sustain- importance of resolving environmental issues and supporting
ability of a SCM. Taking sustainability into account in practice, them in installing their own improvement initiatives is a major
however, requires broadening SCM strategies, as ‘‘it is critical to issue that companies have to address today. Sustainability of
move forward to the systemic issues that exist at the intersection any organization is impossible without incorporating SSCM prac-
of sustainability, environmental management and supply chain’’ tices and environmental benefits diminish if downstream and
(p. 1075, Linton et al., 2007). From this perspective, Seuring and upstream partners are not integrated in sustainable practices as
Müller (2008) point out the need to take into account the three well (Preuss, 2005; Bai and Sarkis, 2010).
bottom line approach in the management of sustainable supply External pressures encourage companies to adopt SSCM prac-
chain. A wider range of issues (for example risk management) and tices. Companies need to increase their external legitimization to
a longer part of the supply chain (minor product suppliers’ fit socially constructed systems of norms, values, beliefs and
management) have to be incorporated in Sustainable Supply definitions (Darnall et al., 2008). Regulatory pressures play a
Chain Management (SSCM). This means that SSCM call for a more major role in this process as they oblige companies to adopt
cooperation among partnering companies in order to make the SSCM practices. They can negatively impact performance via
supply chain operational and to reach sustainable performance. penalties and fines in those firms that do not respect the
In this new context, environmental and social criteria have to be regulations. Meanwhile, environmental programs, grants, part-
nerships, etc., positively influence organizations and encourage
For example: Supply Chain Management in sustainable environment, Journal
them to set up SSCM practices, providing benefits when compa-
of Operation Management, 25(6) and Sustainability and Supply Chain Management, nies undertake pro-active environmental strategies. Indeed,
Journal of Cleaner Production, 16(15), 2008. pro-active engagement in sustainable practices lowers the risk
170 B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182

of introduction of new and costly regulations (Porter and Van der Bowen et al., 2001) have been examined. Nevertheless, Walker
Linde, 1995). It can become a competitive advantage for compa- and Philipps (2006) outlined that even if sustainable concerns are
nies as it influences government regulatory requirements. When essential for companies; more research needs to be undertaken in
this regulation is modeled after a company’s existing production the area of sustainable supply management. They suggest an
and supply chain processes this leads to a difficult-to-replicate agenda for sustainable supply practices development that include
(core competencies) competitive advantage for companies and suppliers’ education, integration of sustainability criteria in the
their suppliers (Carter and Dresner, 2001). suppliers’ selection process, suppliers’ innovation response to
In addition to these pressures, market conditions may influ- sustainable supply markets.
ence an organization’s decision to develop SSCM practices (Rao, Several researchers have tackled the issue of sustainability
2002) for example, this influence can be seen at different levels. in upstream supply chain. Zsidisin and Siferd (2001) focus on
More and more customers are aware of their personal environ- three common purchasing approaches for addressing this issue:
mental impact and in the name of being environmentally friendly resource reduction, product reuse and recycling. Carter and Carter
they accept to pay more for green products. By doing this, they (1998) enlarge this discussion by introducing substitution of
encourage and influence companies to adopt more SSCM practices materials. To help managers measure and evaluate supplier
and they ask in return companies to inform them on their performance, Handfield et al. (2002), Lu et al. (2007), and Ho
sustainable decisions and actions. In this perspective, companies et al. (2010) have developed a multi-objective decision making
need to develop IT/IS that are able to control, evaluate, improve processes based on an Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP)
and communicate environmental performance (Melville, 2010). method. Handfield et al. (2002) identified more than 50 criteria
Nevertheless, an organization’s sustainability initiatives and its among which are ISO 14000 certification, hazardous air emis-
corporate strategy must be closely interwoven, rather than sions, recyclable items, and chemical treatments, because com-
remaining independently managed programs and top manage- panies do not know which environmental performance indicators
ment support is necessary and often a key driver for successful should be measured. They outline difficulties in the process of
SSCM (Zhu et al., 2008). Customers can also develop negative evaluating suppliers while including environmental performance
attitudes against companies that are not aware of their impact. In as a criterion. It seems that the integration of environmental
this regard, we keep in mind the Nike ‘‘sweat shop’’ affair or more criterion complicates the evaluation process as suppliers’ envir-
recently BP which spent millions of dollars to control web- onmental responsibility must be added to traditional elements.
displayed information concerning its petroleum catastrophe in The alignment of environmental objectives with corporate ones is
the Gulf of Mexico. Reputation related to sustainability is now a essential but difficult to address. Handfield et al. (2002) point out
major concern that companies must deal with. It can enhance a that companies distinguish most important criteria from most
competitive advantage if companies exceed accepted standards easily assessed criteria. This distinction results from the fact that
and can generate business opportunities with other companies some criteria are extremely time consuming or are difficult to
(suppliers, competitors or customers) who value these principles measure by companies that are not always able to effectively
(Darnall et al., 2008). By controlling waste, companies can also determine the internal processes of their suppliers. Nevertheless,
lower production costs by using, for example, recycled materials the supplier selection process is critical for companies as it
or reduced packaging. This can be enforced for suppliers by focal influences and extensively participates in an organization’s
companies. response to concerns about sustainability (Zsidisin and Siferd,
Because of their contribution to performance and their essen- 2001). In this regard, a supplier’s capability to develop or acquire
tial role in supply chain functioning, suppliers must be carefully skills, infrastructure and Information Technologies and Informa-
evaluated and selected (Bowersox et al., 2000). Companies rely on tion Systems (IT/IS) are essential for companies (Vachon and
suppliers to increase their performance and that of the entire Klassen, 2008) and green IT/IS is an important challenge because
supply chain. Companies are increasingly focusing on their core of their ability to better support SSM (Watson et al., 2010).
competencies and outsourcing non-core activities, and thus the However, there are few articles that address sustainability
value created for the end customer is extended beyond the issues in supply management in particular, an empirical study
companies’ boundaries to upstream partners. In these way in SSM. Realizing the importance of SSM, an attempt has been
suppliers, who represent a critical resource for downstream made in this paper to study the factors that will influence SSM
companies; can create a competitive advantage by being pro- through development of a theoretical framework and empirical
active in green supply management (Handfield et al., 2002). In analysis.
this context, companies have no choice but to integrate sustain-
able practices in the selection and management of their suppliers
(Min and Galle, 1997; Bai and Sarkis, 2010). Many researchers 3. A model for sustainable supply management (SSM)
have highlighted the importance for companies to collaborate in a
sustainable way due to the potential of the environment for In this section, we develop a conceptual model for Sustainable
greater opportunity and profit. Even if SSCM is still in its infancy, Supply Management (SSM) based on the literature review and
it has the ability to affect government policies, manufacturing analysis. This model consists of 7 ‘‘building blocks’’ that will
operations, supply chain networks, strategic decision and design influence SSM: (1) reasons for sustainable SSM, (2) criteria
new business model. Considering sustainability, economic, envir- employed for SSM, (3) greening supply chains, (4) characteristics
onmental and social factors needs to be at the forefront of of suppliers, (5) managerial approaches for SSM, (6) barriers for
companies’ supplier selection agenda (Bai and Sarkis, 2010). SSM and (7) benefits and motivation for SSM. The detail of the
Handfield et al. (2002) point out the fact that suppliers have to model is discussed hereafter (Fig. 1).
be evaluated by taking into account green criterion in the
selection process and Carter et al. (2000) and Zsidisin and 3.1. Reasons for SSM
Siferd (2001) discuss the issue of sustainable purchasing. These
authors have focused on assessing the environmental perfor- As discussed earlier, the concern of government institutions,
mance of suppliers. Meanwhile, external impacts such as positive and both profit and not-for-profit organizations about global
image (Min and Galle, 1997) and internal ones like diffusion warming and depletion of natural, non-renewable resources and
across the whole companies’ functions (Walton et al., 1998; increasing industrial activities from developed and emerging
B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182 171

Reasons for Greening

SSM supply chains

Barriers for
Sustainable Supply Management
for SSM
Benefits and
for SSM

Characteristics of
for SSM

Fig. 1. Model for sustainable supply management.

economies have forced various stakeholders to focus on sustain- strategies, techniques and tools. Suppliers should be aware of these
able business development. In recent years, corporate, social and environmental issues to ensure that the focal company and they
environmental responsibility seems to have become part of themselves can manage their functions such that they address
strategic goals and objectives of both manufacturing and service environmental issues. At a more global level, corporate and social
organizations and contributes to the bottom line of the organiza- sustainability issues must be taken into account when formulating
tions in a positive way. There are other factors that also influence strategies, tactics and operational policies for sustainable supply
companies to pursue sustainable supply chain management, in management.
particular, as pertains to the upstream side of the supply chain.
These factors can be classified as either external or internal. The 3.4. Characteristics of suppliers
external factors include regulatory requirements, the nature of
the business, competitor, and stakeholder actions (such as NGOs) Supplier characteristics in terms of geographical location,
and internal factors include top management vision, customer company size, vision with well articulated strategic plans, and
demand and suppliers’ sustainable initiatives. Reviewing the global or domestic operations can influence their commitment
literature suggests that external pressure predominates when and support for sustainable supply management (SSM). For
pursuing SSM. example, small to medium sized companies can experience
challenges in terms of skills and capital when attempting to
3.2. Performance criteria employed for SSM support sustainable supply. Strategic thinking and visioning are
critical if companies intend to integrate their commitment for
Suppliers play a major role in SSCM; therefore using the corporate, social and environmental sustainability into their over-
‘‘right’’ criteria for their selection takes on great importance. all functioning. Strategic partnerships incorporate long-term
These criteria should include objectives such as price, quality, collaborative business relationships leading to sustainable supply
reliability (dependability), service rate, delivery performance, and chain management. Supplier location can define the general
flexibility, size of suppliers’ firm, supplier certifications, asso- culture and government regulations affecting social and environ-
ciated services, length of relationships, location, environmental mental sustainability and therefore, the commitment for sustain-
aspects, economic dependency, application of IT/IS and social able business development.
responsibility. Upstream supply chain design influences the
organization’s performance or that of the whole supply chain 3.5. Managerial approaches for SSM
especially when enterprise operations are based on strategic
alliances and core competencies so that companies compete Management takes on many different forms based on the
based on flexibility and responsiveness in a global market. We decision making processes of suppliers or partnering firms. It
have selected criteria pertaining to three sustainable perspectives can be active, reactive, pro-active, collaborative or individual. An
including corporate, social and environmental objectives. active management approach involves being continually alert and
keeping up with developments in sustainability strategies and
3.3. Greening supply chains techniques. This requires ongoing strategic plan and performance
outcomes monitoring. A reactive approach is employed by sup-
Greening supply chains is a broad strategy to manage materials pliers lacking a strategic plan. This type of approach could lead to
flow along value chains through different phases like sourcing, uncertainty in long-term performance and potentially be more
production and distribution so that the environment can be expensive when attempting to address sustainability issues
protected thanks to safeguarding natural resources, and reducing in terms of corporate, social and environmental responsibilities.
global warming and carbon footprint. Other environmental issues The pro-active approach has been widely employed by large
include waste reduction, packaging materials reduction, ISO 14001 companies, but small and medium enterprises (suppliers and
adherence, lean management, eco-design, production facilities, partnering firms of large scale supply chains for instance) are
clean programs, reducing carbon footprints, product life cycle more reactive. However, in order to sustain performance, a long-
costing or assessment, reducing transportation costs, reverse term, pro-active, strategic approach is essential for supply man-
logistics and remanufacturing. Since our focus is on supply man- agement. In the past decade, collaborative decision has gained
agement, we asked suppliers about different environmental issues, ground between focal company and partnering firms or suppliers.
172 B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182

Based on shared vision, systems, resources and actions, this opportunity to align their supply chains in accordance with
approach seems well suited for sustainable supply management, environmental and sustainability goals. Many companies have
but alignment of strategies is a challenging issue. An individua- witnessed an increase in their competitiveness and performance
listic approach tends to be faster, but may lack support as they have integrated green theory and methods into their
from suppliers and a long-term strategic perspective. The man- strategy. The consecutive value creation for customers provides
agerial approach adopted by suppliers and focal companies them with a sustainable competitive advantage. For many indi-
strongly influences the potential success of sustainable supply viduals the supply chain represents a holistic system. It seems
management. natural then that these effects need to be discussed and evaluated
from a total system perspective.
3.6. Barriers for SSM In this context, the integration of environmental and social
standards into strategic supplier management is the basis
Resistance to change always exists in organizations. Sources for sustainable supply management and the methods of con-
for resistance are multiple, potentially including top manage- structing a sustainable upstream supply chain have to be inves-
ment, financial issues, location, system capacity, culture, type of tigated. This is especially true as shortcomings in the extant
business, supply network configuration, costs, performance objec- literature beg a more detailed investigation of the construction of
tives, human resources, and knowledge management. It is impor- upstream supply chain for companies (Walker and Philipps,
tant to identify barriers to sustainable supply management in an 2006). As a result, we propose discussing sustainable supply
organization, be they in the focal company or in the supplier firm. chain management from the perspective of the supplier selection
Our goal is to study the enabling factors of supply management or process.
suppliers, thus the main focus will be on suppliers or partnering To address this research objective, we chose to consider the
firms. Some of the major barriers from the supply side can relative importance of sustainability compared to other tradi-
include: financial costs, green investments, ROI, product price, tional criteria (price, quality, delivery and service) from the
top management commitment, organizational culture of suppli- buying companies’ point of view. By focusing on supplier selec-
ers’ firms, production capacity, human resources, supply chain tion, we highlight the criteria employed in sustainable supply
configuration, location and size of suppliers, etc. management (Ho et al., 2010).

3.7. Benefits and motivation for SSM 4.2. Research methodology

Understanding perceived benefits of and motivation for sus- A questionnaire was designed to operationalize the model (see
tainability in supply management is essential for organizational Section 3). Based on a series of initial interviews within different
competitiveness in terms of price, quality, dependability, flex- companies, it includes questions about the demographic profile of
ibility and responsiveness. On many occasions, lack of knowledge both the company and the respondents, questions related to
about actual benefits and motivation can lead to not giving due sustainable business development and supplier selection criteria
attention to sustainable corporate, social and environmental (see Appendix A). Most of the questions were presented using a
efforts for enhancing organizational sustainability over the long- Likert scale. Respondents were invited to state the degree to
term. Benefits from sustainable supply management include which they agree with specific statements on a 7-point dimen-
customer satisfaction, quality, and innovation, trust, managing sional range from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The ques-
supply risk, fill rate, optimal inventory, flexibility, lead time and tionnaire is based on 26 questions concerning sustainable supply
cost control. These benefits must be considered when determin- management. Seven items concern sustainability in general and
ing whether sustainable supply management initiatives such the attitudes and perceptions of interviewees. Eighteen items
as ISO 14001, greening logistics, greening production, recycling, refer to upstream sustainable supply chain and more precisely
remanufacturing, design for sustainable products and processes, supplier selection. The seven questions about sustainable devel-
reducing carbon footprints, and life cycle assessment and costing opment focus on the definition and acceptance of sustainability,
merit investment or not. reasons for pursuing it, approaches to realizing it, the challenges
encountered, and the benefits sought by the companies. The 18
questions dealing with green supply chain address issues of
4. Research objectives and methodology classification of supplier selection criteria, upstream supply chain
greening and the capacity of suppliers to become environmental
After developing a conceptual model for sustainable supply caretakers.
management, we layout the research objectives for operationaliz- After completing and validating the questionnaire, ten
ing the model with the help of data collected from selected pre-tests were performed. These pre-tests were very useful as
companies in France. The main theme of this research is to they pointed out certain shortcomings and misinterpretations
determine the critical success factors and enabling conditions and allowed us to modify the questionnaire before its final
for sustainable supply management. Since the research subject is administration.
fairly new there are few reported studies on sustainable supply Data was collected from French companies from January to
management. Even a reported, comprehensive conceptual frame- March 2009. Due to certain difficulties in obtaining data and the
work for SSM is lacking, therefore, an empirical study is appro- opportunity to directly access companies, we deployed a face-to-
priate to bring out some major issues and challenges surrounding face administration methodology. We successfully collected 178
SSM. Details of the research objectives and methodology responses, all of them usable. Those individuals questioned
employed are presented hereafter. included supply chain managers, purchasing managers, CEOs,
and other managerial staff. (Table 1).
4.1. Research aims and objectives The profile of the respondents is consistent with our research
objectives. They are actors directly concerned with sustainable
Emergence of the green supply chain (Min and Galle, 1997; issues. More than 70% of the respondents are in charge of
Seuring and Müller, 2008) is one of the most significant environ- upstream relationships and are directly involved in sustainable
mental developments of the past decade, offering companies the supply management: 46.7% are supply chain managers and 29.7%
B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182 173

Table 1 factors for SSM. Due to the newness of the framework, we

Profile of the respondents (n¼ 178). attempted to empirically test the model by collecting data from
French companies, especially from suppliers to large companies
Respondent profile Observations
or supply chains. We analyzed the collected data according to the
Supply Chain Manager 83 (46.7%)a 7 ‘‘building blocks’’ of SSM which include: Reasons for sustain-
Operations Manager 15 (8.4%) ability in supply management, criteria employed for SSM, green-
Supply and Purchasing Manager 43 (29.7%) ing supply chains, characteristics of suppliers, techniques for SSM,
Marketing and Sales Manager 5 (2.8%)
Quality Manager 3 (1.7%)
barriers for SSM, and benefits of SSM.
CEO 6 (3.4%)
Other profiles 13 (7.3%)
5.1. Reasons for SSM
Observed frequency as a percentage.
Primary analysis of the main reasons for sustainable supply
management highlights the importance of top management
Table 2
implication (Table 4). Sustainability as an important component
Nature of the business of firms. of a company’s strategy results mainly from the CEO’s attitude
(Klassen, 2001). SSM is a decision that has to be encouraged and
Nature of the business of firms Observations supported internally at the corporate level. Nevertheless, our
results outline that the environment (Government regulatory
Manufacturing 133 (75%)a
Power generation and distribution 11 (6%) requirements, the industrial sector, nature of the business, etc.)
Medical and pharmaceutical 11 (6%) constrains and influences companies in their decision to imple-
Sales and distribution 12 (7%) ment SSM. This observation is consistent with increasingly
Logistic services provider 11 (6%) frequent proposals that external pressures, such as government
regulatory requirements, are significant in sustainable develop-
Observed frequency as a percentage.
ment adoption (Porter and Van der Linde, 1995; Hall, 2000;
Preuss, 2005). Indeed, specific regulations (ROHS, reduction of
hazardous substances and emissions of pollutants and WEEE,
Table 3
waste of electrical and electronic equipment for example) and
Firm size. governmental agencies have emerged as prime players in efforts
to control companies and emphasize waste reduction.
Number of employees Observations A second, important external motivation for SSM is the nature
of the companies’ business. Transportation or chemical compa-
Fewer than 100 9 (5%)a
Between 100 and 1000 96 (54%) nies frequently have bad images as they significantly participate
More than 1000 73 (41%) in creating environmental damage, in part because of serious
environmental, health and safety related accidents. To change this
Observed frequency as a percentage. perception, they need to make an effort by promoting sustainable
decisions and actions. Moreover, competitor’s actions largely
influence the environmental decisions and actions taken by these
are supply and purchasing managers. As for the rest of the companies. By going beyond minimum regulatory requirements,
respondents, 8.4% are operations managers and 1.7% are quality or by addressing current customer expectations concerning sus-
managers. It is interesting to note that CEOs represent 3.4% of our tainability, they can improve their environmental performance
respondents. (e.g. reducing waste, using alternative transportation channels,
Because we planned to explore sustainable business develop- recycling their products, etc.) and their competitiveness (e.g.
ment across a wide spectrum of industries, we did not restrict our improving product quality, cutting costs, increasing customer
sample to a specific sector or set of company characteristics. In satisfaction, innovating, etc.). Non-Governmental Organizations
the survey, the selected companies represent a wide variety of (NGO) are a different class of stakeholders that, via their actions,
sectors (Table 2). develop a collective environmental conscience. They are an
87% of the 155 responding companies are linked to the important factor in the current context of environmental aware-
manufacturing sector (including power generation and distribu- ness as they can influence community perceptions about a given
tion (11; 6%)) and medical and pharmaceutical (11; 6%). The other company and its sustainable behavior.
23 companies representing 13% of the sample were from sales A primary internal driving force behind SSM adoption is top
and distribution (12; 7%) and third logistics service provider management’s desire for a particular corporate image with
(11; 6%).
Our sample consists primarily of large companies (MNE) (155;
73%), of which only 33 (27%) are independent or family owned
Table 4
(Table 3). Reasons for SSM.

Reasons for SSM Mean Std deviation

5. Empirical analysis
Top management vision 5.1 1.224
Government regulatory requirements 5.17 1.528
Owing to the current lack of a theoretical framework for Nature of business 4.84 1.709
SSM (as discussed in the research objectives and methodology Customer expectations 4.74 1.697
section), and considering the importance of the subject, we Competitor actions 4.02 1.791
Other stakeholders such as NGOs 3.86 1.521
have developed a framework. This is based on a review and
Suppliers’ green initiatives 2.82 1.366
analysis of the available literature concerning upstream supply
chain management, enabling conditions and critical success Note: Likert Scale: 1 ¼no agreement; 7¼ complete agreement.
174 B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182

customers and stakeholders. Companies do not want to risk being that environmental issues (9.7) exceed social responsibility
responsible for purposeful or accidental environmental damage. (10.62) in importance. This result corroborates the predominance
To limit this liability, pollution reduction mechanisms and of environmental concerns compared to social characteristics
employee health and safety actions are implemented in many (Seuring and Müller, 2008).
companies and this sustainable responsibility has to be extended A second important conclusion can be drawn from Table 5. It
to all partners in their supply chains. Customer expectations appears that there are some significant differences in supplier
are also a major pressure for sustainable concerns. Customers selection criteria ranking. If most companies agree that quality,
ask for products and services with environmental properties price, reliability, service, delivery and flexibility are the most
meeting their requirements and they are prepared to pay important criteria (standard deviation o3,5), an important gap
more for environmentally friendly products. When companies appears concerning other criteria. A consensus emerges around
do not take environmentally sound decisions, however, they traditional supplier selection criteria and on the contrary, sig-
can face customer boycotts. Suppliers also provide important nificant differences appear concerning other criteria (standard
motivation for SSM as they actively participate in the perfor- deviation 44). This result confirms that most companies evaluate
mance of the whole supply chain. By eco-designing green pro- their suppliers according to few major criteria.
ducts or using environmentally friendly transportation, suppliers
can help their customers be more pro-active in green initiatives
5.3. Greening supply chains
and practices.
Table 4 underlines that companies integrate sustainable issues
Sustainability remains an extremely confused and complex
in their strategy under pressure from external actors that are not
issue for companies. For 64%, actions and decisions related to
supply chain members, such as government institutions or NGOs
sustainable supply management are linked to environmental and
that impose specific sustainable conditions on companies (Walker
green practices (Table 6). Actions such as waste reduction and
and Philipp, 2006; Zhu and Sarkis, 2007). It is interesting to note
packaging savings emerge as major issues. On the contrary, green
that these players are the least interested in potential gain but are
transportation channels and reverse logistics appear to be less
the most coercive. Within a supply chain we observe that
important in SSM. This result is consistent with the fact that we
customers are pivotal. Because they are the ones that benefit
are considering upstream supply chain and that these decisions
most from the value creation, they exert significant pressure on
and actions are more relevant to downstream supply chain
the supply chain partners. Whereas suppliers participate exten-
(Sarkis, 2003).
sively in value creation, they weakly influence their partners. In
This result emphasizes a frequent amalgam between sustain-
contrast, focal companies transfer their sustainable constraints
able supply chain and greening as a general trend. This melding
and obligations onto their suppliers, thus increasing upstream
has been largely observed and discussed in supply chain research
(Jayaraman et al., 2007; White and Lee, 2009), as sustainability
can refer to environmental issues, greening, and sustainable,
5.2. Performance criteria employed for SSM social responsibility. This remark should not minimize the impor-
tance of social and economic issues, however (Bai and Sarkis,
Table 5 presents results concerning supplier selection criteria. 2010). We observed that the social motor for SSM is the least
We confirm that quality (2.3) and price (2.62) constitute the two mentioned (57%) among the 3 components of sustainable supply
most important criteria in the supplier selection process. Even if management (economic, 75% and environment, 98%), hence con-
sustainability emerges as a new criterion in the supplier selection firming Seuring and Müller’s study (2008). Based on a survey of
process (Ho et al., 2010), other traditional criteria are more highly 191 articles on the sustainability topic, they observe that most of
valued (Vachon and Klassen, 2008) . It is interesting, however, to the papers integrate economic preoccupations and very few social
note that green concerns are seen as important compared to other aspects. Only 20 articles refer to social responsibility, 31 deal with
criteria such as personal relationships and Information Technol- the 3 components simultaneously and 140 only discuss greening
ogy and Information Systems (IT/IS). More precisely, we observe issues.
Finally, we observe that sustainable practices are quite differ-
ent from sustainable talk. If sustainable supply management
mainly concerns the corporate level, its operationalization in
Table 5
terms of decisions and actions, is confused and difficult, and is
Importance of performance criteria in the upstream supply chain.
frequently reduced to greening issues. In the next section, we will
Supplier selection criteria Mean Std. deviation

Quality 2.30 1.857

Price 2.62 2.317 Table 6
Reliability 4.09 3.113 Greening supply chains.
Service rate 5.01 3.452
Delivery 5.23 3.003 Greening supply chains Mean Std. deviation
Flexibility 7.09 3.511
Size 7.32 3.961 Waste reduction 5.34 1.216
Certification 8.14 4.508 Savings from packaging 5.13 1.362
Confidence 8.68 4.448 ISO 14 001 certification 5.04 1.414
Associated services 8.71 4.941 Lean management 5.02 1.431
Long term relationships 9.09 4.123 Eco-design 4.80 1.370
Geographic proximity 9.32 5.203 Production resources system 4.80 1.422
Environmental issues 9.70 4.767 Clean programs 4.75 1.401
Economic dependency 10.05 5.150 Reducing carbon footprint 4.44 1.481
Personal relationships 10.82 6.938 Product life cycle management 4.42 1.503
IT and IS 10.21 4.280 Green transportation channels 4.19 1.478
Social responsibility 10.62 5.636 Reverse logistics 4.14 1.422

Note: Scale: 1 ¼most important; 17 ¼ least important. Note: Likert scale: 1¼ no agreement; 7 ¼complete agreement.
B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182 175

discuss the characteristics of suppliers concerned with sustain- 5.5. Managerial approaches for SSM
able development.
Table 8 highlights the approaches companies prefer concern-
ing their SSM. One can argue that the combination of an active
5.4. Characteristics of suppliers attitude associated with a corporate decision is a main character-
istic of sustainable supply management. Companies integrate and
When companies decide to develop sustainability with their develop sustainable issues in order to create value for their
upstream partners, it seems that they give preference to strategic customers and to be more competitive (Rao and Holt, 2005).
large and international suppliers originating from Western Eur- Sustainability becomes an intended strategy and creates compe-
ope (Table 7). titive advantage, as opposed to being merely a reactive response
The financial investment necessary for sustainable supply against external or internal pressures.
management can explain the weak implication of small busi- The second characteristic of SSM is cooperation. Companies
nesses. On the contrary, large scale companies have significant need to develop external collaboration in order to be effective and
resources that they can mobilize for sustainability. Another efficient. It is essential for focal companies in order to integrate
reason for the comparatively weak showing by Small and Med- sustainable issues in their strategy and to master it to export it to
ium-Sized Enterprises (SME) is the current difficult international the supply chain as a whole (Vachon and Klassen, 2008). Focal
financial situation, and the resulting necessity to concentrate companies collaborate within their supply chain partners (sup-
resources on more vital preoccupations. It seems like sustain- pliers and customers) with a goal of sustainability. Suppliers, even
ability is an inaccessible luxury for SMEs at present. before customers and others stakeholders, are the first partners to
Long-term relationships are essential for sustainable partner- be involved in this sort of initiative (Cardone and Moati, 2008).
ships and strategic suppliers are frequently partners with whom
companies have developed close relationships as they contribute 5.6. Barriers to SSM
largely to customer’s value creation and overall performance
(Carter and Dresner, 2001; Handfield et al., 2002). The same Several academic studies have addressed and confirmed that
conclusion emerges when the suppliers’ geographic characteris- financial preoccupations remain the principal barrier for SSM
tics are discussed. Focal companies will encourage geographically (Table 9) (Min and Galle, 1997). Most companies indicate two
close partners to commit themselves on sustainable issues. major finance related concerns: the difficulty in assessing the
Western European and North American suppliers are preferred amount to invest and evaluating the return on investment.
to Asian or East European ones. Regionalization and consolidation Moreover, additional challenges arise when one considers that
of supply chains constitute a competitive advantage for compa- sustainability is something relatively new for companies, it
nies, on which they will create value for their customers (Kearney, requires increased dependence between supply chain partners,
2009). A key condition for SSM is the existence of a confidence and it is difficult to distribute the costs and the benefits between
network built by focal companies with their suppliers. partners.
Finally, suppliers aware of sustainable issues will naturally be Profitability is an important issue that must be confronted in
more involved in SSM. In this regard, North American suppliers the context of sustainable investments. We previously high-
are significantly engaged in sustainable supply management, lighted that sustainable supply management emerges as a reac-
despite certain pre-conceived ideas to the contrary. tion to government regulatory requirements and we observe that
few companies consider sustainability as a real means of creating
Table 7 value for customers and increasing their performance. Those
Suppliers’ characteristics in SSM. companies that consider sustainability as an advantage for over-
coming competitive barriers can, however, benefit from this first
Suppliers’ characteristics Mean Std. deviation
competitor position (Porter and Van der Linde, 1995).
Large scale companies 4.94 1.435 Finally, focal companies are aware of the human resources and
Strategic suppliers 4.90 1.484 material capabilities that suppliers are ready to acquire or
Western European suppliers 4.41 1.435 develop in order to satisfy them. A lack of competences and
North American suppliers 4.27 1.419
Small and medium-sized enterprises 4.25 1.602
Geographically near suppliers 4.15 1.583 Table 9
Asian suppliers 4.07 1.520 Barriers to SSM.
Non-strategic suppliers 4.07 1.651
Central European suppliers 4.06 1.462 Barriers to SSM Mean Std. deviation
South American suppliers 3.94 1.356
Financial costs 5.02 1.501
Note: Likert scale: 1¼ no agreement; 7¼ complete agreement. Green investments 4.85 1.545
Return on investment 4.81 1.574
Supplier’s facilities 4.54 1.473
Suppliers’ human skills 4.43 1.582
Green induced changes 4.42 1.729
Product price 4.34 1.651
Table 8 Supplier’s top management commitment 4.22 1.636
Managerial approaches for SSM. Suppliers’ firm culture 4.17 1.680
Product characteristics 4.19 1.714
Managerial approaches for SSM Mean Std. deviation Focal company’s facilities 4.04 1.678
Supply chain configuration 4.01 1.684
Active 5.25 1.363 Suppliers’ firm size 3.99 1.652
Collaborative 5.25 1.399 Company human skills 3.79 1.684
Reactive 4.79 1.713 Supplier’s location 3.75 1.722
Pro-active 4.58 1.732 Focal firm’s previous sustainability experiences 3.67 1.386
Individual 4.06 1.761 Top management commitment 3.41 1.680

Note: Likert scale: 1¼ no agreement; 7¼ complete agreement. Note: Likert scale: 1¼ no agreement; 7 ¼complete agreement.
176 B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182

Table 10 6.1. Summary of findings

Benefits and motivations expected from SSM.
The following enabling conditions and critical success factors
Benefits and motivations expected from SSM Mean Std. deviation
for SSM highlight the results of our research efforts.
Customer satisfaction 5.29 1.225
Supplier’s capabilities to innovate 4.79 1.462
Quality 4.73 1.614
6.1.1. Reasons for SSM
Trust in suppliers 4.45 1.673 The major reasons influencing SSM adoption include top
Upstream supply chain risk management 4.23 1.653 management vision, government regulatory requirements, type
Fill rate 4.09 1.660 of business sector, customer demand, competitor actions, and,
Reduction of stock 3.95 1.632
other external stakeholders such as NGOs. If the potential gain to
Flexibility 3.75 1.588
Order fulfillment costs 3.75 1.675 be had from pursuing SSM is under question, it is essential for
Supplier lead-time 3.46 1.565 companies to evaluate external and internal pressures from the
perspectives of corporate, social and environmental responsibil-
Note: Likert scale: 1¼ no agreement; 7¼ complete agreement. ities. Internal drivers are mainly associated with organizational
factors such as top management vision, shareholders or founder’s
value and middle management and employees commitment
production facilities constitute a major barrier for suppliers. This (Bowen et al., 2001). A positive top management vision of SSM
result is consistent with previous conclusions related to supplier influences the involvement of company in environmental initia-
characteristics. Once again, we can argue that large companies tives and practices (Zsidisin and Siferd, 2001). By becoming more
adapt themselves to customers’ expectations concerning sustain- environmentally friendly, they expect higher competitive advan-
ability. In comparison to SMEs, it is easier for them to acquire and tage (Porter and Van der Linde, 1995), increased company’s brand
develop the adequate capabilities necessary to respond to sus- image (Bai and Sarkis, 2010) and environmental performance
tainability demands. (Hervani and Helms, 2005). Interestingly, Walker et al. (2008)
observe that middle management commitment and employee
5.7. Benefits and motivation for SSM involvement are more and more related to SSM. Environmental
motivations and ethical value filtering the whole organization,
The principal expected benefit for SSM is customer satisfac- becomes a ‘‘way of life’’.
tion. When companies undertake sustainable development initia- Companies’ environmental efforts are also driven by external
tives, they are trying to improve their image with their customers reasons. Government regulation and legislation are major pres-
and stakeholders, and to create a positive impression among their sure for companies (Walton et al., 1998; Zhu et al., 2008). Their
partners (Table 10). This observation confirms that having a desire to be thought leader for sustainability or innovator for new
sustainable supply chain is mainly a marketing decision, and environmental regulations, transform this government regulatory
thanks to it companies improve customer perceptions. In this constraint in a motivation or a positive driving force in SSM. This
perspective, selecting and managing the suppliers is a necessary can become a source of organizational capabilities that generate
step (Bai and Sarkis, 2010). competitive advantage (Rao and Holt, 2005).
We observe that government regulatory requirements and Whatever are the major reasons influencing SSM adoption
perceptions of responsible behavior are significant motivations (internal or external), companies must be aware of the opportu-
for SSM. On the contrary, competitive advantage does not seem to nities created by dealing with environmental issues. These can
be an important motivation owing, perhaps, to the difficulty in lead to the gain of new customers, to economic benefits, to
evaluating the value of sustainability for customers. Nevertheless, sustainable capabilities, competitive advantage, etc.
Rao and Holt (2005) highlight positive and encouraging results for
those who get involved in sustainable supply management. 6.1.2. Performance criteria for SSM
Surprisingly, cost reduction is not a significant reason for SSM. Based on the empirical findings, we determined that perfor-
This issue is relatively less important compared to other argu- mance objectives of quality, price, reliability, service rate, deliv-
ments such as supplier’s capability to innovate, and quality or ery, and flexibility are appropriate to support the sustainability of
trust. This distant position is certainly due to the fact that it is not upstream supply chains. SSM based on collaboration within the
easy for companies to evaluate sustainable development and thus supply chain improve manufacturing performance (Vachon and
to assess the financial gains. The lack of green IS/IT adoption in Klassen, 2008). Other criteria that are not so significant include
order to evaluate the eco-efficiency of SSM has been highlighted size, certification, trust, associated services, long-term relation-
by Walton et al. (1998). This statement, however, is not true for ships, geographic proximity, environmental concerns, economic
all companies, as we observe that today few of them are engaged reliance, personal relationships, IT and IS and social responsibility.
in a green accounting system for their carbon footprint, for It is important to note that suppliers are interested only in the
example. outcomes, but not in those processes that create the outcomes.
Therefore, suppliers should also look at the processes so they can
ensure the anticipated outcomes for SSM and can develop internal
6. Summary of findings and conclusions environmental capabilities.

Based on the literature review and analysis, we developed a 6.1.3. Greening supply chains
theoretical framework for sustainable supply management. This Greening supply chains is a major management and operations
framework primarily focuses on suppliers and their firms’ invol- strategy. This means that the green supply chain concept should
vement in developing and managing a sustainable business. be applied across whole value chains (despite our focus here only
In order to validate the framework in a real life context, we on sustainable supply management). SSM should be integrated
developed a questionnaire to operationalizing the model. The with the rest of the supply chain phases and their sustainability.
whole process refined the SSM framework and helped identify the There are several major issues that need to be addressed while
enabling conditions and critical success factors. developing green supply management. The factors that are
B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182 177

considered most important should include waste reduction, sav- reactive mode has also been observed in uncertainty environ-
ing packaging materials, achieving ISO 14001 certification, lean ment, where pro-active environmental practices such as colla-
management, eco-design and production facilities. Factors such as boration with suppliers, are limited as focal companies prefer to
cleaner programs, controlling carbon footprints, product life cycle manage and allocate internally scarce resources (Carter and
management, green transportation channels and reverse logistics Carter, 1998). Even if pro-active approach to the environment
are also considered important and related to environmental could lead to development of supply capabilities including knowl-
issues and social responsibility. In order to tackle these major edge and know-how on sustainable issues (Bowen et al., 2001;
green issues, Vachon and Klassen (2008) advocate environmental Sarkis, 2003) suggest that a. Whatever the managerial approaches
collaboration between supply chain partners (suppliers and for SSM, companies will face difficulties to set up pro-active
customers). For companies, a direct and joint involvement of approaches for SSM because of the complex nature of sustainable
theirs suppliers in the development of environmental manage- decisions (Zhu et al., 2008; Bai and Sarkis, 2010). If collaboration
ment and solutions, will reduce the green impact from their with suppliers could constitute an answer for SSM, companies
products, processes and the supply chain’s material flows (Carter should develop environmentally conscious business practices
and Carter, 1998; Bowen et al., 2001). Exchange of mutual (such as reduction, reuse, remanufacture, recycling, etc.
information, strong willingness to learn from each other and good Srivastava, 2007), set up environmental performance metrics
understanding of each others responsibilities and capabilities in (Awasthi et al., 2010) and identified green supply chain alter-
regard to environment management will create a rich collabora- natives (Sarkis, 2003).
tive context and improve environmental performance. Therefore,
companies should be encouraged to develop environmental
6.1.6. Barriers to SSM
collaboration with their suppliers in order to get better greening
Supply management should consider the perceived and real
supply chains (Handfield et al., 1997).
barriers to SSM. This will help companies develop suitable
strategies and action plans for reducing the effect of these barriers
6.1.4. Characteristics of suppliers on successfully achieving SSM. Some of the major barriers to SSM
Companies should analyze supplier characteristics in order to include financing the greening of supply management, return on
determine suitable strategies, techniques, operational policies and investment, supplier production capabilities, supplier’s human
tools for SSM. Some of the criteria for choosing suitable suppliers resources, green induced changes, supplier culture, nature of the
should include the relative importance for the company of multi- product, company production capacity, supply chain network and
national enterprises, strategic partnerships with suppliers, suppli- top management support for SSM. Barriers such as supply chain
er’s geographic profile, supplier size, non-strategic partnerships, networks, supplier size, focal company human resources, locali-
and supplier’s location, but not from suppliers’ perspectives. zation and experiences and top management support do not have
However, suppliers, as they can be identified as key drivers of the same importance. Bowen et al. (2001) outline the difficulties
SSM practices, should be aware of these in their operations to that companies face when they want to assess the economic gains
enhance SSM (Vachon and Klassen, 2008). In this regard, Carter and coming from their environmental practices. Zhu and Sarkis (2007)
Dresner (2001) suggest that suppliers can help and support SSM, observe that Chinese manufacturers suffer economic losses
even if they act seldom as a direct driving force. By providing because of this short term vision of environmental management.
valuable ideas, their integration and cooperation in SSM can help to This difficulty of assessing economic gains through environmental
manage more effectively sustainable issues (Vachon and Klassen, performance is however overcome when green practices are
2006), Strategic partnerships with suppliers become a source of developed in the long-term (Carter and Dresner, 2001). This
organizational capabilities which are expected to generate compe- long-term perspective of green practices is an important condi-
titive advantage and improve environmental performance (Porter tion for companies to perform good SSM and should be under-
and Van der Linde, 1995). Nevertheless, companies have to be taken in all sustainable issues. This assumption will permit
recognizant of suppliers’ carbon footprint and if they do not want companies to overcome several challenges regarding barriers
to pay higher inputs costs due to their suppliers’ carbon-related for SSM.
costs, they have to be attentive to their suppliers’ locations and
supplier environmental practices, In this perspective, we propose
6.1.7. Benefits and motivations of SSM
that Environmental Management Systems should to be adopted in
The perceived benefits and motivations of sustainable supply
order to reduce environmental impacts throughout the supply
management should be taken into account while making deci-
chain (Darnall et al., 2008).
sions regarding SSM development. Customer satisfaction, suppli-
ers’ innovation capacity, quality, trust, supply risk management,
6.1.5. Managerial approaches for SSM and fill rate are some of the major benefits of SSM that should be
Various managerial approaches have been employed for SSM. considered. Benefits such as optimal inventory, flexibility, supply
Globally speaking active, collaborative and reactive decision chain cost and supply lead time are not considered that important
making approaches have more positive impact on SSM than do and as such should be given a lower priority. The pressure of
pro-active and individual approaches. The relative importance of customer as a primary motivation for companies to cooperate
these characteristics depends upon the supplier and its capacity with them for environmental objectives has been observed in
to drive sustainable practices for its customers (Vachon and several researches. Persuasion to push for waste reduction and
Klassen, 2008). By contributing to the reduction of wasted cost improvements is very often used by customers to improve
chemicals, the development of environmental technologies or their environmental image and reputation. Audit and external
the solving of waste disposals problems, suppliers create value certifications such as ISO 14001 can also provide information on
for their customers and become more competitive (Rao and Holt, the environmental performance of suppliers. This upstream
2005). Government regulations, competitors’ green supply chain pressure on environmental questions is explained by the suppli-
management and customers can influence companies’ decision ers’ contribution to customers’ green issues (Zhu et al., 2008;
making approaches. Under such pressures, companies react fre- Srivastava, 2007) and additionally for the improvement of man-
quently in a compliance driven way (Walkers et al., 2008) and do ufacturing performance (Vachon and Klassen, 2008). By collabor-
not appear to have integrated environmental concerns. This ating with their suppliers on greening supply chains, focal
178 B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182

companies are expected to improve their performance in  Active, collective and reactive decision making approaches
traditional dimensions – quality, fill-rate and flexibility – and have more positive impact on SSM than do pro-active, colla-
to benefit from suppliers’ capabilities to innovate in sustain- borative and individual approaches.
able issues and to manage supply risks. In this perspective, we  Financial barriers have more impact on SSM than do non-
argue that in order to meet the customers’ expectation, compa- financial barriers
nies have to integrate their suppliers in SSM as they can help to  The vision of supplier firm top management and their support
provide valuable ideas on sustainability (Walker et al., 2008) and is a critical success factor in SSM.
can be source of efficient use of resources and environmental  Key benefits such as customer satisfaction, supplier innova-
capabilities (Porter and Van der Linde, 1995; Handfield et al., tion, quality and capacity have greater positive impact on
1997). SSM than do lead-time, cost, flexibility and inventory

6.2. Conclusions and future research directions These findings can be used as research hypotheses to expand
the scope of further research on SSM. The following are some
In this paper, the importance of sustainable supply chain additional, potential future research directions:
management, in particular SSM has been discussed and analyzed.
A theoretical framework for SSM along 7 dimensions was devel-  Develop a more comprehensive model for SSCM based on SSM.
oped, an empirical study to validate the theoretical framework  Study SSCM with help of empirical data collected from
was conducted, and a list of enabling conditions and critical companies.
success factors for SSM was summarized. The results of this  Develop a framework for performance measures and metrics
research can be summarized as follows: in SSM.
 Conduct cross-country empirical studies to see if there is any
 External factors or pressures have positive impact on the difference in the emerging models for SSCM.
development of SSM.
 Internal factors have less impact on SSM as compared to
external factors. At present, the authors are pursuing research on some of
 Performance objectives are more appropriate for selecting the above topics. Once the results are available, we will report
suppliers in the upstream supply chain than are processes. them and their analysis to the academic and practitioner
 Sustainability strategies and action plans tend to have more communities.
positive outcomes on sustainable supply management than do
performance objectives.
 Waste reduction efforts have greater impact on greening Acknowledgments
supply chains than do environmental issues.
 Suppliers’ demographic characteristics significantly influence The authors are most grateful to two anonymous reviewers for
SSM. their constructive and helpful comments on the earlier version of
 Multi-national and small and medium enterprises have differ- the manuscript which helped to improve the presentation of the
ential impact on sustainable supply management. paper considerably.

Appendix A. Questionnaire. Sustainable supply management

The purpose of this questionnaire is to develop a better understanding of sustainable supply management (SSM). The objective is to
determine if sustainability is currently taken into account in the suppliers’ selection process as suggested by some scholars (Seuring and
Müller, 2008; Ho et al., 2010) The information gathered will help us to determine the reasons for SSM, the criteria employed for SSM, the
greening supply chains strategy adopted by companies, the characteristics of suppliers concern with sustainability, the managerial
approaches for SSM, the barriers, the benefits and the motivation for SSM.

1. Company characteristics

1. Name of the company? y y y y y y y

2. Activities of the company? y y y y y y ..
3. Your company is
a. Independent
b. A subsidiary
c. National
d. International
4. Birth of your company
5. Number of employees
6. Sales amount
B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182 179

2. Sustainable supply management in your company

180 B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182
B. Ageron et al. / Int. J. Production Economics 140 (2012) 168–182 181

3. Personal demographic characteristics

1. Your name? y y y y y y y
2. Your phone number? y y y y y y
3. Your mail address
4. Your sex
5. Your age
6. Your function in company
a. Supply chain
b. Operations
c. Supply
d. Purchasing
e. Quality
f. Marketing
g. Sales
h. Finances
i. R&D
j. CEO
k. Other yy
7. Your experience in the company
8. Your experience in the function

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