Skip to Main Content

July 16, 2020 (10:30 AM - 12:00 PM, EST)

Sustainability in the Supply Chain



Nicholas Poggioli

Corporate Ecochains

Nicholas Poggioli, University of Michigan

Companies cannot achieve environmental sustainability until they link their operations to environmental systems (ecosystems) and demonstrate their operations remain within consumption boundaries that determine if ecosystems are themselves sustainable. Drawing on supply chain transparency research, I develop the concept of the ecochain, the full set of ecosystems a firm depends on for the material flows in its supply chain, including upstream input sourcing, midstream distribution, and downstream waste disposal. Ecochain transparency links a firm's material production practices to ecosystems and provides the first operational, measurable definition of whether a firm is or is not sustainable: a firm is sustainable if it has (1) mapped and disclosed its entire ecochain and (2) no ecosystem in its ecochain has a degrading or unknown sustainability status. Making firms' sustainability status contingent on ecosystem status also provides a needed incentive for firms to engage in collective action with other ecosystem users to sustainably manage ecosystems, an incentive missing from current corporate sustainability approaches.

Elke Schüßler

Towards improving labor standards in global supply chains? Unpacking the dynamics of (de)coupling purchasing and CSR in leading garment retailers and brands

Elke Schüßler, Johannes Kepler Universität Linz (presenting)
Sarah Ashwin, London School of Economics
Nora Lohmeyer, Radboud University

The garment industry is one of the most labor-intensive industries in the world and a critical case for understanding the possibilities and limitations of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives for addressing societal grand challenges. Recent research that has demonstrated the importance of coupling CSR policies with actual purchasing practices, showing how tighter coupling can explain better labor standards compliance in garment factories. These insights are in line with policy recommendations stressing that labor standards need to be “embedded” in buying firms and not remain “siloed” into CSR departments. Building on this research, and drawing on 40 semi-structured interviews with CSR and procurement managers of a matched sample of 20 leading garment retailers and brands from Germany and the UK as well as on publicly available data, the aim of our study is to treat (de-)coupling as a dependent variable and examining the dynamics leading to different configurations of tight and loose coupling between CSR and purchasing. We contribute, first, to the institutional literature by treating decoupling as a transitory, socially contested state and focusing on the intra-organizational rather than the field level in understanding how organizations deal with potentially conflicting societal demands.  Second, we contribute to the research on CSR by elaborating on the contestations and negotiations surrounding the ways in which corporate responsibility is implemented and diffused in organizations. Third, we contribute to the supply chain and labor governance literature by opening up the black box of the buying firm and providing comparative insights on the intraorganizational dynamics that foster a close alignment between CSR and purchasing.

Vivek Soundararajan

Informal labour supply chain intermediation: A value intermediation perspective

Vivek Soundararajan, University of Bath (presenting)
Andrew Crane, University of Bath
Michael Bloomfield, University of Bath 
Laura Spence, Royal Holloway University of London
Genevieve LeBaron, University of Sheffield

The majority of the extant literature vilifies informal labor supply chain intermediation. Not much attention has been given to the conditions under which informal labor supply chain intermediation activities are performed responsibly. We address this gap through in-depth research of informal labor supply chain intermediation activities through whom workers obtain employment in factories in a South Indian knitwear garment cluster. We draw on an economic-sociological understanding of value and valuation and explore informal labor supply chain intermediation through a value intermediation perspective. We found various activities through which informal value intermediation activities - namely scoping, distributing, matchmaking, and consulting - are performed in a responsible manner. Further, we found that informal labor supply chain intermediation is responsible when plural value entanglement conditions the viability and scalability of the intermediation activities.