Managerial Commitment to Sustainable Supply Chain Management Projects

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/jbl.12073
Date01 December 2014
Published date01 December 2014
Managerial Commitment to Sustainable Supply Chain Management
Projects
Thomas F. Gattiker
1
, Craig R. Carter
2
, Xiaowen Huang
3
, and Wendy L. Tate
4
1
Boise State University
2
Arizona State University
3
Miami University
4
University of Tennessee
Most companies are under pressure to improve the environmental sustainability of their supply chains. However, there is considerable vari-
ance in companiesability to successfully deploy environmental management projects. One important factor, according to articles in the
academic and business press, is the ability of champions of sustainable supply chain management (SCM) projects within organizations to gain
the commitment of colleagues (e.g., other managers from a variety of functions) to help these projects succeed. Therefore, this paper examines
variables that affect a project champions ability to gain this commitment from colleagues. In particular, building on existing research, this
research employs a video-based experimental design to examine the effect of the inuence approach that the project champion employs, the
values of the person the champion is trying to inuence, and the organizational climate. The results suggest that organizational climate and
certain individual values directly affect commitment. There are also interactions between values and inuence tactics. The research adds to the
elds growing knowledge on the antecedents of sustainable SCM within companies while providing valuable guidance for environmental
champions and for top managers.
Keywords: sustainable supply chain management; commitment; intraorganizational inuence theory; laboratory experiment
INTRODUCTION
There is mounting evidence that sustainable supply chain man-
agement (SCM) practices can lead to improved rm performance
(Golicic and Smith 2013). However, managers who champion
sustainable supply chain initiatives are not always successful
when it comes to gaining the organizational commitment needed
to bring these initiatives to fruition. This research explores how
champions of sustainable SCM initiatives can more effectively
gain the buy-in of other managers within their organization.
Using an experimental design, this study assesses the effect of
several potential drivers of managerial commitment to such pro-
jects. Based on intraorganizational inuence theory (Kipnis et al.
1980; Yukl and Falbe 1990), the process of gaining managerial
commitment is conceptualized as one or more interpersonal inter-
actions, in which a project champion attempts to gain buy-in
from other managers in the company. The antecedents of com-
mitment under investigation are: the inuence approach that the
project champion employs, the values of the person the champion
is trying to inuence, and the organizational climate. Specically,
this study attempts to answer the following research questions,
which we explain in more depth below: What is the effectiveness
of specicinuence tactics for gaining commitment to sustain-
able SCM projects? Does the efcacy of a particular inuence
tactic depend on the values of the manager being inuenced
that is, are some tactics particularly effective with certain types
of people and ineffective with others? What is the effect of the
company climate on the commitment-seeking process?
Many companies are increasing their efforts and expenditures
related to environmental management, both internally and in the
supply chain (Haanaes et al. 2011; Makower 2013) in the hope
of enhancing operational and nancial performance (Klassen and
McLaughlin 1996; Carter et al. 2000; Melnyk et al. 2003; Golicic
and Smith 2013; Wong 2013) as well as reducing environmental
impacts (Parmigiani et al. 2011; Pagell and Shevchenko 2014).
However, existing research shows a formidable gap between
companiesdesire for sustainable supply chains and what they
are actually doingand doing effectively. For example, a 2007
AT Kearny/Institute for Supply Management survey found that
only about half of the companies that had a corporate-level sus-
tainability policy had in turn created a more specic sustainabil-
ity policy at the supply management-level (Institute for Supply
Management 2007). In a recent study of the consumer goods sec-
tor, CEOs reported large gaps between companies shouldand
my company doesresponses to a wide range of environmental
initiatives with embedding sustainability into strategy and opera-
tions of supply chainshaving the biggest gap of any of the ini-
tiatives (Environmental Leader 2011). Research based on a series
of focus group interviews of supply management executives in
large rms concludes:
Many companies have ambitious high-level environmental
goals and policies; but, companies have not reached the
point where buyers and other primary contributors have
integrated environmental considerations into day-to-day
decision making. Moreover, supply executives are not con-
dent in their ability to reach this end. (Gattiker et al.
2008, 28)
The same research identies a lack of buy-in across the com-
pany as one of the key barriers to implementing environmental
management projects.
Corresponding author:
Thomas F. Gattiker, Department of Information Technology and
Supply Chain Management, Boise State University, 1910 University
Drive, Boise, ID 83725, USA; E-mail: TomGattiker@boisestate.edu
Journal of Business Logistics, 2014, 35(4): 318337 doi: 10.1111/jbl.12073
© Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals
Indeed, numerous earlier studies have also found that when it
comes to supply chain-related environmental projects, a key suc-
cess factor is the ability of the project advocate or champion to
gain buy-in or commitment of others in the company (Drum-
wright 1994; Handeld et al. 1997; Crane 2000; Carter and
Jennings 2004; Carter et al. 2007; Willard 2008). Cantor et al.
(2012) show that buy-in explains almost 50% of the variance in
frequency of involvement in environmental behaviors. Buy-in is
especially important in the environmental arena because these
projects are often initiated by individuals who lack the positional
power to mandate otherscooperation (Rabin 2004; Cantor et al.
2013).
Although the ability of a change agent to inuence others is
an important issue, only a few studies address how project cham-
pions gain the commitment of colleagues to sustainable SCM
projects. Exploratory (Drumwright 1994; Carter and Dresner
2001) and conrmatory (Gattiker and Carter 2010) studies have
yielded insights regarding the processes by which internal cham-
pions work to advocate environmental initiatives. Nevertheless,
signicant gaps within this area remainboth theoretical and
methodological. In the next two subsections, we discuss the need
for additional research and we describe how this paper endeavors
to meet this need.
Theoretical motivation
The commitment-building process includes a number of
elements: (1) the champion or change agent; (2) the individual(s)
whose buy-in the agent seeks (such individuals are referred to as
the inuence target(s)); (3) the organizational context in which
the inuence attempt takes place; and (4) the issue or project
itself (Kipnis et al. 1980; Yukl and Falbe 1990).Any one of
these factors can affect the degree to which individuals give their
backing and cooperation to projects when such support is
requested. However, existing studies examining why individuals
commit to (or do not commit to) environmental projects focus
heavily on the change agent with much less attention paid to the
other three factors. A systematic understanding of what makes
champions successful necessitates studies that take into account
all four key elements of the inuence processeither by includ-
ing them in the research model or by holding them constant. To
this end, our research model examines the inuence tactics used
by the project champion, the personal values of the inuence tar-
get, and the organizational context, while holding the nature of
the project constant.
To examine the inuence tactics used by the champion, we
utilize intraorganizational inuence theory (Kipnis et al. 1980;
Yukl and Falbe 1990), which is a well-developed body of
knowledge focusing on how individuals within companies gain
the commitment of others for issues that they are advocating.
Building on existing literature, we focus on two tactics that merit
special consideration when it comes to the natural environment:
legitimating and inspirational appeals.
A second key element is the inuence target. The target has
received less research attention than the champion. The target is
half of the championtarget dyad, and, as with buyersupplier
dyads it is essential to understand both halves (Johnston et al.
2004; Nyaga et al. 2010). Characteristics of the target may affect
the targets tendency to buy-in to particular issues and/or they
may interact with other antecedents of buy-in. To help ll in
some of the picture, we draw on a well-developed body of litera-
ture (e.g., Stern et al. 1993, 1995, 1998, 1999) from the psychol-
ogy and sociology elds dealing with the relationship between
pro-environmental behavioroutside the work place (e.g., recy-
cling, signing a petition) and several fundamental individual val-
ues. We extend this inquiry to the workplace by investigating
whether there is a systematic relationship between the degree to
which a target possesses these values and the targets likelihood
of supporting a supply chain environmental project that a cham-
pion is attempting to advance. We then assess whether the ef-
cacy of various inuence approaches that champions can use
depends on the values of the inuence target (i.e., do tactics and
values interact?). As champions can often make accurate infer-
ences about colleaguesvalues from prior interaction or reputa-
tion, understanding whether the efcacy of particular inuence
tactics is affected by the targets values is powerful knowledge
for champions to have.
The third key element is the organizational context in which
the inuence process occurs. An organizational climate which is
supportive of organizational learning and employee risk taking
has been found to have particularly strong associations with
environmental initiatives within rms (Carter 2005; Paulraj
2011). Individuals interpret organizational cues, such as signals
from their superiors, to make inferences about whether organiza-
tional support for environmental initiatives exists, and this in turn
affects their willingness to become involved (Cantor et al. 2012).
These ndings strongly imply that studies on championing envi-
ronmental projects need to take into account the organizational
context in which the championing occurs. Some organizational
cultures are more supportive of environmental management than
others (Linnenluecke et al. 2009). When organizational contexts
are not supportive of particular issues, involvement in those
issues can be personally risky to employees with respect to their
workplace images (Grant and Mayer 2009). Therefore, the model
incorporates the level of image risk (Ashford 1986; Ashford
et al. 1998; Mullen 2005) inherent in the organizational climate.
Finally, environmental projects are not all alike. They differ
from one another on many dimensionsfor example, product
focused versus process focused, structural versus infrastructural,
etc.and the type of project can affect project success and likeli-
hood of project implementation (Klassen and Whybark 1999;
Orsato 2006; Tate et al. 2011). Research using inuence theory
has demonstrated that project characteristics can affect the likeli-
hood of target commitment to the project (Kipnis and Schmidt
1985; Yukl et al. 1996). Earlier studies on gaining commitment
for environmental projects have not controlled for the nature of
the project, thus allowing an important source of unexplained
variance. To guard against this possibility, our model controls
for the type of project by holding this variable constantthat is,
we focus on one type of pressing environmental initiative.
Methodological motivation
Sustainable SCM research has relied on eld studies (case study
and survey methodologies), thus creating an additional blind spot
methodological homogeneity. However, researchers as a
Managerial Commitment to Sustainable SCM 319

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