Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to explore contextual barriers to supplier development for sustainability (SDS) in global supply chains and managerial remedies to mitigate such barriers. Design/methodology/approach– A dyadic case study design was adopted with a Western European buyer and six of its Chinese suppliers. The database consists of 41 interviews and 81 documents. Findings– Contextual barriers to SDS in global supply chains derive from complexities in the sustainability concept, socio-economic differences, spatial and linguistic distance, as well as cultural differences between buyers and suppliers. Partial remedies include effective joint communications, an open organizational culture, and the fostering of cross-contextual understanding. Research limitations/implications– The findings contribute to theory development at the intersection of sustainable and global supply chain management research. They help to explain why scarce sustainability-related progress in global supply chains has occurred in recent years. Practical implications– The identified barriers facilitate managerial decision making that will expedite SDS progress in global contexts. Social implications– By diffusing knowledge regarding available remedies, the study contributes to improving SDS effectiveness, thereby fostering sustainability capabilities and performance of suppliers. Originality/value– This research highlights the criticality of contextual barriers to SDS. The barrier effects that stem from differing real-world conceptions of sustainability may inform future sustainable supply chain management research within and beyond SDS.
International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 6, 2016