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Socially responsible sourcing: reviewing the literature and its use of theory

Marta Zorzini (Department of Management Science, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Linda C. Hendry (Department of Management Science, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Fahian Anisul Huq (Department of Management Science, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Mark Stevenson (Department of Management Science, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 5 January 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to determine the state-of-the-art in socially responsible sourcing (SRS) research, leading to an agenda for further work; and to evaluate the use of theory in this context. SRS is defined as the upstream social issues within the sustainability literature, where social issues include human rights, community development and ethical issues but exclude environmental concerns.

Design/methodology/approach

A systematic literature review of 157 papers that include SRS published in ABS listed journals. The papers have been analysed according to their research content, with a particular focus on the use of pre-existing theories.

Findings

Key findings for researchers and managers alike include an analytical discussion of strategies developed to date to embed SRS in an organisation; and key research gaps include a particular need to consider the supplier perspective in developing countries. In terms of the use of theory, a typology is proposed, which (in ascending order of effectiveness) is as follows: theory dressing, theory matching, theory suggesting/explaining and theory expansion.

Research limitations/implications

The review is limited to papers published in the ABS list; and the analysis of the use of theory is limited to the SRS literature. The findings suggest that insightful papers can be written without any use of theory but that as a field develops, a greater depth of application of theory is needed to aid understanding.

Originality/value

This is the only review that focuses exclusively on social issues SRS, excluding environmental issues, thus allowing for a greater depth of discussion on social issues; and is unique in its detailed critical analysis of the use of theory.

Keywords

Citation

Zorzini, M., Hendry, L.C., Huq, F.A. and Stevenson, M. (2015), "Socially responsible sourcing: reviewing the literature and its use of theory", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 60-109. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOPM-07-2013-0355

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited