Supply Chain Social Sustainability: From the Perspective of a Supplier Operating Under a Restricted Operating Environment.

Author:Najjar, Mohammad


In recent years, globalization and the advancement in information technology have stimulated a growing number of stakeholders to monitor supply chain operations and activities. Many firms have started to recognize that in this competitive environment, more attention should be given to supply chain's operations, in particular to aspects that go beyond the traditional elements, such as quality to supply chain responsibility (Mani, Gunasekaran, Papadopoulos, Hazen, & Dubey, 2016). As a consequence, concepts such as "SSCM: sustainable supply chain management," "logistics social responsibility," "ethical sourcing," and "socially responsible purchasing" have started to emerge in the literature (Carter & Rogers, 2008; Seuring & Muller, 2008; Leire & Mont, 2010; Ciliberti, de Haan, de Groot, & Pontrandolfo, 2011; Marshall, McCarthy, Heavey, & McGrath, 2015; de Camargo Fiorini, & Jabbour, 2017).

However, many firms have struggled in managing their suppliers' operations and activities, especially distant suppliers in developing countries (Mani et al., 2016). Therefore, they have started to adopt new practices to ensure suppliers' compliance to social and environmental requirements (Ciliberti et al., 2011). Although there have been several initiatives to address suppliers' environmental responsibility, only in recent years have suppliers' social responsibility been gaining increasing attention (Chen et al., 2017).

Therefore, due to the increasing importance of socially sustainable practices for both academicians and practitioners, this study represents a stream of research that focuses on the different facets of effective supply chain management. It gives more attention to suppliers in developing countries operating under restricted operational environments. More specifically, this paper seeks to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Identify the major driving forces that influence the adoption of socially sustainable practices.

  2. Identify the practices that have been adopted by firms to ensure compliance with socially sustainable requirements.


    Major Driving Forces of Social Sustainability

    The unethical behaviors and practices of some firms in the industry have stimulated a growing number of stakeholders to monitor firms' and suppliers' operations more closely (Rowe, 2006; Pedersen, 2009). Several stakeholder groups have been identified in the literature.

    International bodies (e.g., the United Nations) seek to level the playing field among supply chain members by initiating a set of conventions to enforce different countries to adopt socially sustainable practices. Furthermore, local and governmental authorities utilize these conventions to formulate laws to protect against breaches of labor rights and working conditions (Walker & Jones, 2012; Chen et al., 2017). However, in developing countries, enforcement policies to adopt socially sustainable practices lag behind their European counterparts, which is due to the rapid growth of the economy.

    Indeed, several research studies have emphasized the impact of customers on the adoption of social sustainability across the supply chain (Cramer, 2008; Awaysheh & Klassen, 2010). Large customers can pressure firms to adopt socially sustainable practices to ensure supply chain members' compliance with socially responsible requirements.

    Equally important, many non-governmental organizations have started to emerge. These organizations (e.g., Ethical Trading Initiatives, Fair Labor Association) formulate standards and establish initiatives to monitor firms' operations and activities across the supply chain. They communicate breaches in labor rights or working conditions to the public. In fact, non-governmental organizations may influence a firm's reputation, its competitive position in the industry, and consumers' purchasing behaviors (Carter & Rogers, 2008; Mueller, Gomes dos Santos, & Seuring, 2009; Park-Poaps & Rees, 2010; Tate, Ellram, & Kirchoff, 2010).

    Since the focus on this study is to investigate the different socially sustainable practices, this section will be addressed in the following section.

    Socially Sustainable Practices

    These driving forces have stimulated a growing number of firms to adopt several practices to manage suppliers' social sustainability. The literature focuses on three major practices adopted by firms to ensure suppliers' compliance, i.e., certificates, audits, and codes of conduct (Ciliberti, de Groot, de Haan, & Pontrandolfo, 2009; Gimenez & Tachizawa, 2012).

    In recent years, a wide range of certificates (e.g., SA8000, ISO26000) have become available. They are used during supplier selection to ensure minimal levels of acceptable socially responsible behaviors (Lee & Kim, 2009; Pagell, Wu, & Wasserman, 2010). In fact, third party certificates address different issues and have distinct evaluation processes. Consumer markets prefer certificates that address a broad range of issues (e.g., labor rights, fair wages, child labor, etc.), whereas business-to-business markets prefer certificates that address specific issues (e.g., health and...

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