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The hidden side of sub-supplier firms' sustainability – an empirical analysis

Shobod Deba Nath (School of Management, Massey Business School, Massey University, Auckland Campus, New Zealand) (International Business, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh)
Gabriel Eweje (School of Management, Massey Business School, Massey University, Auckland Campus, New Zealand)
Aymen Sajjad (School of Management, Massey Business School, Massey University, Auckland Campus, New Zealand)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 7 July 2020

Issue publication date: 9 December 2020

1274

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate how sub-suppliers decouple the implementation of sustainable supply management practices in supply chains, and what institutional logics permit these suppliers to do so.

Design/methodology/approach

Following a qualitative design, we conducted 23 in-depth semi-structured interviews with owners and managers of apparel sub-suppliers. To corroborate research findings, the views of owners and managers were triangulated by further interviewing 18 key representatives of wide-ranging institutional actors.

Findings

The findings suggest that owners and managers of sub-suppliers use two decoupling responses: (1) consensual strategy to compromise sustainability requirements (2) concealment strategy. In addition, this paper identifies multiple institutional types of conflicting logics: instrumental logic, legitimacy logic complexity and gaps in normative logic, which interplay amongst sub-suppliers whereby permit to decouple the implementation of supply management practices.

Research limitations/implications

While the current paper provides an early contribution from the perspectives of second-tier and third-tier suppliers, future research could be extended to include further upstream sub-suppliers and downstream tiers including the end consumers.

Practical implications

It is important for brand-owning retailers and first-tier suppliers to predict sub-suppliers' decoupling behaviour and conflicts for supply management practices implementation since they may present potential vulnerability for buyers and lead suppliers.

Originality/value

This study extends the application of institutional theory and contributes to the literature on extended suppliers' supply management practices in a developing country context, which is an under-researched area.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors sincerely thank the guest editors and the reviewers for their insightful, detailed and helpful comments throughout the revision process.

Citation

Nath, S.D., Eweje, G. and Sajjad, A. (2020), "The hidden side of sub-supplier firms' sustainability – an empirical analysis", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 40 No. 12, pp. 1771-1799. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOPM-05-2019-0403

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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