Year

2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Management, Operations and Marketing

Abstract

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability have gained increasing attention among organizations and researchers in recent decades. This thesis extends this attention to the whole supply chain where there exists a gap between the desirability and actual practice of implementing CSR and sustainability from a supply chain perspective. What is more, CSR is commonly deemed a cost rather than a source of competitive advantage for business operations.

A study of the existing research pertinent to CSR in supply chains identifies two aspects of this gap. Firstly, from the perspective of triple bottom line, the majority of current research focuses on the environmental dimension neglecting the social dimension. Secondly, while there is an abundance of literature on CSR and corporate sustainability, these issues are rarely addressed in the supply chain context. As a result, little is known on how to implement them along an entire supply chain.

In order to fill the identified gap, a comprehensive conceptual framework of key strategic environmental and social initiatives across an entire supply chain is constructed. The framework provides some support for the claim that CSR and sustainability are beneficial for business performance in the long term. Furthermore, a roadmap which prioritizes key CSR initiatives is established to demonstrate practical steps for implementing CSR in supply chains.

A three-stage research method is adopted in this study. Initially, a conceptual framework of CSR implementation in supply chains is constructed by a literature review guided by the UN Global Compact. Second, this framework is tested and refined by secondary data from the latest sustainability reports of seven global companies. Thirdly, interviews with sustainability managers and focus groups with scholars and sustainability enthusiasts are performed to both confirm the theoretical contribution of the framework and to provide practitioner knowledge for making the framework more effective practice by guiding the generation of the roadmap.

The academic contribution of the study takes the form of theory building using an inductive approach to construct the comprehensive framework of CSR and sustainability strategic initiatives across an entire supply chain. Based on the adoption of initiatives in the framework identified in stages two and three of the study, a roadmap is established to guide practitioners on how to implement appropriate strategic CSR and sustainability initiatives in supply chains.

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