Sustainable supply chain management policies and practices

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Creative Sustainability
88 + 6
Managing sustainability in global supply chains has become one of the most challenging sustainability issues for companies. This challenge has also sparked research in the field of Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SSCM). Despite the great body of research, there is still little understanding of what kind of SSCM policies and practices are used in Finland. Also, there is little research done on the SSCM policies and practices used in the forest and grocery trade industry. The purpose of this thesis is to find out which pressures drive the aforementioned industries to adopt SSCM policies and how they practice SSCM on an operative level. This study also seeks to highlight the industry- specific as well as common challenges. The study is conducted by taking a qualitative, multiple case study approach. More specifically, eight employees are interviewed in total from four companies. This way, a holistic picture of the SSCM policies and practices can be drawn and any biases related to one company or informant can be minimized. The study provides three main findings. Firstly, though the SSCM policies and practices could be identified in both industries, the extent of how well they have been embedded in the company depends on the industry. More specifically, there were three practices where the two industries differed the most from each other. These were reward system linked to sustainability, technological integration and innovation. The second finding shows that for the most part, the two industries share the same challenges which were: proactive stakeholder management, enhanced communication with domestic competitors, assessment and auditing, and multi-tier SSCM. Finally, this study identifies situations where the policies and practices can become decoupled. For example, though external stakeholders demand the grocery retailers to make sure that environmental sustainability is assured in their sourcing, the majority of the SSCM practices that the grocery trade industry has, are limited to social sustainability. This study contributes to the SSCM literature by providing a ‘management processes’ perspective that integrates the concept of decoupling which seems to be lacking from the current SSCM literature. This thesis also serves managers and institutional investors by providing implications on which SSCM policies and practices to focus on if the goal is to improve the sustainability in the supply chains.
Thesis advisor
Temmes, Armi
sustainable supply chain management, corporate sustainability, decoupling, forest industry, grocery trade
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