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The impact of leanness on supply chain sustainability: examining the role of sustainability control systems

Hasitha Dinithi Rupasinghe (Faculty of Graduate Studies, General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, Ratmalana, Sri Lanka)
Chaminda Wijethilake (Essex Business School, University of Essex, Colchester, UK)

Corporate Governance

ISSN: 1472-0701

Article publication date: 13 January 2021

Issue publication date: 8 June 2021



An alignment between financial and operational measures is an essential element to capture the lean productivity improvements enabling supply chain sustainability. With the aim of supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in addressing corporate sustainability challenges, this study aims to examine the impact of leanness on supply chain sustainability, and the moderating role of sustainability control systems (SCS) on the relationship between leanness and supply chain sustainability.


Drawing on lean manufacturing and the levers of control framework, survey data was collected from 106 manufacturing SMEs in Sri Lanka. Moderated multiple regression analysis was used to test the proposed hypotheses.


The study finds that lean manufacturing practices, such as just-in-time deliveries, quality management, environmental management and employee involvement show a significant positive impact on supply chain sustainability. As proposed, the interactive use of SCS shows a significant, positive moderating impact on the relationship between employee involvement and social supply chain sustainability. The diagnostic use of SCS negatively moderates the relationships between just-in-time deliveries and economic supply chain sustainability, and environmental management and economic supply chain sustainability. However, both interactive and diagnostic uses of SCS do not show any significant moderating impact between lean manufacturing and environmental supply chain sustainability.

Research limitations/implications

The following limitations should be taken into account in interpreting the results and implications of this study. Firstly, the study refers to supply chain sustainability as environmental, social and economic sustainability. As these concepts represent broader perspectives of sustainability, and no consensus on how to measure has yet been agreed, future studies may focus on other variables that might capture different perspectives of supply chain sustainability. Secondy, future researchers may further extend the role of SCS (including all four control systems – belief, boundary, interactive and diagnostic) in examining the impact of leanness on supply chain sustainability. Thirdly, this study has considered a sample of manufacturing SMEs in the Western province in Sri Lanka. The results should be carefully generalised to other manufacturing organisations in Sri Lanka and beyond. Finally, future studies may also investigate the impact of leanness on supply chain sustainability by using alternative methodologies, such as multiple case studies.


SMEs are more likely to focus on diagnostic control systems with the aim of promoting economic supply chain sustainability. However, the findings reveal that manufacturing SMEs in the developing country context lack strong SCS to enable supply chain sustainability.



Rupasinghe, H.D. and Wijethilake, C. (2021), "The impact of leanness on supply chain sustainability: examining the role of sustainability control systems", Corporate Governance, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 410-432.



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