Supply Chain Practice

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Sustainable supply chain management across the UK private sector
Helen Walker
Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK, and

Neil Jones
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
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Organisations face barriers and enablers to sustainable SCM (Seuring and Muller, 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

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. A contingency theory perspective is appropriate in this research because we assume there is no one right way to approach sustainable SCM, and that the best course of action is contingent upon the internal and external situation. The
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