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Exploring the roles of lead organisations in spreading sustainability standards throughout food supply chains in an emerging economy

Minelle E. Silva (Excelia Business School, La Rochelle, France)
Gustavo Picanço Dias (Federal University of Piauí, Picos, Brazil)
Stefan Gold (Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Kassel, Kassel, Germany)

The International Journal of Logistics Management

ISSN: 0957-4093

Article publication date: 14 January 2021

Issue publication date: 22 July 2021




This paper investigates how food supply chains (SCs) introduce sustainability standards (i.e. organic and/or Fair Trade labels). The authors combined the concepts of power and dependence with types of governance mechanisms to analyse for-profit and cooperative organisations. The authors explored nuances of how lead organisations are spreading sustainability standards.


Four cashew nut and honey SCs were investigated as case studies in Brazil, with data gathered through 15 interviews, secondary data and field visits. Data were examined through a content analysis process following a combined deductive and inductive approach.


Sustainability is spread driven by market pressure, mainly through the diffusion of technical information, either by lead organisations enablers or inter-organisational relations. The authors found that the type and structure of organisations impact the source of power (mediated or non-mediated) and level of mutual dependence between buyer and supplier. For instance, suppliers that hold a strategic position use direct governance mechanisms, which, in turn, lessens the power imbalance in regard to the lead organisation. The authors found in the analysis, a close relation between governance mechanisms and the spread of sustainability, which is ultimately based on strong SC relationships.

Practical implications

By recognising their role and the contingencies in spreading sustainability standards along the SC, managers of lead organisations can better design their relationships as well as create strategies to increase their supply chain sustainability (SCS) performance.


This paper contributes to the underexplored issue of how sustainability standards are spread throughout SCs in Latin America. Also, it shows how different types of SC rely on governance mechanisms that foster SCS.



This reserch project was funded by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (Brazil), Grant number 426155/2018-1.


Silva, M.E., Dias, G.P. and Gold, S. (2021), "Exploring the roles of lead organisations in spreading sustainability standards throughout food supply chains in an emerging economy", The International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 32 No. 3, pp. 1030-1049.



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