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Tensions in sustainable supply chain management: instrumental, institutional, and paradoxical perspectives

PhD ceremony:dr. C. (Chengyong) Xiao
When:February 18, 2019
Supervisors:prof. dr. D.P. (Dirk Pieter) van Donk, prof. dr. J.T. (Taco) van der Vaart
Co-supervisor:dr. M.M. (Miriam) Wilhelm
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Economics and Business

In this thesis, we apply three theoretical perspectives to develop a thorough understanding about tensions in Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SSCM). In Chapter 2, we apply the instrumental perspective to conduct a cross-country comparison on the relationship between corporate sustainability performance and corporate financial performance. We found that firms in countries with higher levels of sustainability performance generally find it more difficult to capitalize on corporate sustainability performance than do their counterparts in countries with relatively low levels of sustainability performance. In Chapter 3, we apply institutional theory to explore the effect of institutional pressures in driving firms to overcome temporal tensions in SSCM. In countries with low levels of sustainability performance, firms with considerable slack resources are more responsive to stakeholder pressures than their peers with limited slack resources. In contrast, in countries with high levels of sustainability performance, there are no significant differences between firms with and without considerable slack resources in their responsiveness to stakeholder pressures. In Chapter 4, we delve into the buying firm and apply the paradox theory to explore how purchasing and sustainability managers are coping with the tensions in SSCM in an emerging-market context. While we find strong evidence for a persisting instrumental perspective (in which financial goals are given higher priority over social and/or environmental goals) in both the sensemaking and practices of purchasing and sustainability managers, we also observe an alternative response, taken primarily by sustainability managers that we labelled as “contextualizing”.