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Measuring social issues in sustainable supply chains

Payman Ahi (Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)
Cory Searcy (Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)

Measuring Business Excellence

ISSN: 1368-3047

Article publication date: 16 March 2015



The purpose of this paper is to identify the metrics used in the literature to measure social issues in sustainable supply chains.


A systematic literature review was conducted to identify peer-reviewed articles containing metrics pertaining to social issues in the supply chain. A structured content analysis of each identified article was conducted to extract the metrics. This analysis provided a basis for a frequency analysis to determine how often the various metrics appeared in the literature. The metrics were also analyzed to determine whether they: simultaneously addressed the other areas of the triple bottom line, namely, environmental and/or economic issues; were quantitative or qualitative metrics; and could be classified as absolute, relative or context-based metrics.


A total of 53 unique metrics were identified. The analysis of the results showed that a limited number of environmental (3 metrics) and economic (11 metrics) issues were addressed by the metrics as well. A combination of quantitative (39.6 per cent) and qualitative (60.4 per cent) measurements were used. The vast majority of the metrics (90.6 per cent) were further classified as absolute metrics.


This paper presents one of the first in-depth analyses of metrics used to measure social issues in supply chains. This is important because social issues are often overlooked in research focused on performance measurement in sustainable supply chains.



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the PMA 2014 Conference in Aarhus, Denmark. The authors would like to thank the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada for its financial support.


Ahi, P. and Searcy, C. (2015), "Measuring social issues in sustainable supply chains", Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 33-45.



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