From Principles to Practice: Sustainable Supply Chain Management in SMEs
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Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SSCM) is an evolving discipline, and incorporates the environmental and social performance dimensions of sustainability with the traditional measure of economic performance; current SSCM research indicates a skew towards economic performance and its interaction with environmental performance, while social performance is underrepresented (Pagell and Wu, 2009, Schaefer, 2004, Sharma and Ruud, 2003). The UK clothing industry represents a relevant research focus due to its supply chain complexity, and scale and scope of its environmental and social impacts; this thesis further recognises the tendency for academic research to focus on Large Enterprises (LE) (Curran and Blackburn, 2001) and investigates how SSCM is implemented in UK SME clothing supply chains to understand how and why they address economic, environmental and social performance and the potential contribution to developing the SSCM concept. An inductive case study methodology is employed and the research focuses on 4 UK clothing SMEs with primary data collection a series of semi-structured interviews, supported by observation, company documentation and archival data. Three theoretical lenses are applied and the findings indicate that SMEs manage their supply chains for sustainability in ways that strongly align with their specific characteristics and apply a greater emphasis on long-term, trust-based and mutually beneficial supplier relationships. A rich view of SSCM practice in SMEs is developed, which reflects the more intangible and human components of sustainability and supply chain relationships, and how these can be harnessed to achieve firm specific commitments. This thesis fulfils an identified need to study how sustainability is addressed in SME supply chains within a single industry; SSCM research to date has focused on large organisations and multiple industry perspectives. It contributes to knowledge in both the SSCM and SME research fields by identifying key gaps within the combined literature, critiquing sustainability models and developing a conceptual framework from the findings, which aims to embed social performance and offer a more integrated approach to SSCM in this context.
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