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Institutional Pressures and Sustainability Challenges in Supply Chains

Kauppi, K and Hannibal, CL (2017) Institutional Pressures and Sustainability Challenges in Supply Chains. Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, 22 (5). pp. 458-472. ISSN 1359-8546

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Abstract

Purpose – Firms are increasingly held accountable for the welfare of workers across entire supply chains and so it is surprising that standard forms of governance for socially sustainable supply chain management have not yet emerged. Assessment initiatives have begun to develop as a proxy measure of social sustainable supply chain management. This research aims to examine how social sustainability assessment initiatives instigate and use institutional pressures to drive third-party accreditation as the legitimate means of demonstrating social sustainability in a global supply chain. Design/methodology/approach – Ten assessment initiatives focused on assuring social sustainability across supply chains are examined. Data are collected through interviews with senior managers and publicly available secondary material. Findings – The findings show how the social sustainability assessment initiatives act by instigating institutional pressures indirectly rather than directly. Coercive pressures are the most prevalent and are exerted through consumer and compliance requirements. The notion of pressures operating as a chain is proposed, and the recognition that actors within and outside of a supply chain are crucial to the institutionalization of social sustainability is discussed. Originality/value – Studies on sustainable supply chain management often focus on how companies sense and act upon institutional pressures. To add to the extant body of knowledge, this study focuses on the sources of the pressures and demonstrates how assessment initiatives use coercive, normative and mimetic pressures to drive the adoption of social sustainability assessment in supply chains.

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