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Supplier perceptions of distributive justice in sustainable apparel sourcing

Ulla Normann (VIA University College, Herning, Denmark)
Chris Ellegaard (Department of Management, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark)
Morten Munkgaard Møller (Center for Industrial Production, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark)

International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

ISSN: 0960-0035

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is two-fold: first, it attempts to determine whether suppliers perceive distributive justice (equity) when their key customers implement sustainable sourcing initiatives based on assessment governance, composed of codes of conduct and auditing; second, it generates insights into specific costs, rewards, and investments and how these together result in perceived equity.


A qualitative research design was adopted for this study. A total of 30 executives from textile manufacturing suppliers in China, India, and Bangladesh were interviewed to determine their perceptions of distributive justice in relation to their key customers’ sustainable sourcing initiatives.


Most of the interviewees perceived that their customers’ assessment of governance initiatives was unfair. Four types of suppliers are identified based on their varying perceptions of the equity equation.

Research limitations/implications

The findings introduce distributive justice as an important mediating variable between assessment-based governance and compliance. They also provide insights into the various types of perceived costs, rewards, and investments related to sustainable sourcing, and how they form varieties of the equity equation. The findings rely on a limited number of respondents and should, therefore, be researched further.

Practical implications

Assessment based on codes of conduct and auditing is the most prevalent sustainable sourcing governance approach, but suppliers may perceive this as an injustice leading to non-compliance. Buying companies are therefore advised to consider supplier perceptions of costs, rewards, and investments and adapt their sustainable sourcing initiatives accordingly.

Social implications

Increased consideration of distributive justice in sustainable sourcing should increase the likelihood of supplier compliance, improving conditions for employees in global textile plants.


Extant research has studied the connection between assessment-based sustainability governance and compliance or overall performance. This paper contributes by suggesting that distributive justice might be a mediating variable helping to explain this connection.



An early version of this paper was presented in 2015 at the 31st annual Industrial Marketing and Purchasing (IMP) Conference in Kolding, Denmark.


Normann, U., Ellegaard, C. and Møller, M.M. (2017), "Supplier perceptions of distributive justice in sustainable apparel sourcing", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 47 No. 5, pp. 368-386.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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