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Addressing sustainability information needs along supply chains

Roya Manuela Akhavan (Corporate Sustainability Management, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Nuremberg, Germany)
Dimitar Zvezdov (Corporate Sustainability Management, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Nuremberg, Germany)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 1 November 2019

Issue publication date: 3 August 2021




Gaining a better understanding of various actors’ information demands and developing suitable approaches to fulfilling them is key in managing sustainability performance in supply chains. Sustainability thereby creates different levels of uncertainty and equivocality. This paper investigates the challenges in managing sustainability information flows along several nodes in the supply chain.


A multiple case study approach explores the various sustainability information needs along different nodes of supply chains. For this, three automotive triads are investigated, each comprising an original equipment manufacturer, a first-tier supplier and a second-tier supplier.


The results reveal that fulfilling information demands presents a substantial challenge to each of the three actors, albeit a different one in each case: whereas focal companies seek to figure out what information may be relevant to sustainability performance, their direct suppliers struggle to develop suitable approaches for enabling second-tier suppliers to generate and provide such information.

Practical implications

Depending on the level of uncertainty and equivocality, companies are supported in approaching sustainability information needs by applying individual or collective processing mechanisms. Decisions on such mechanisms and organisational structure can help to allocate resources according to the degree of challenges to achieve a fit between information needs and mechanisms.

Social implications

Reducing uncertainty and equivocality related to sustainability information provides a powerful approach to improving the sustainability performance along supply chains.


Having identified sustainability information challenges, the paper analyses and develops a typology of potentially useful approaches.



This paper forms part of a special section “Responsible Supply Chain and Social Sustainability: Sustainability Accounting and Management Research and Practice”, guest edited by Ki-Hoon Lee and Stephan Vachon.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the valuable feedback from Markus Beckmann on earlier versions of this article. The authors would also like to thank Alicia Butula for proof reading. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Roya Manuela Akhavan and Dimitar Zvezdov contributed equally to this manuscript.


Akhavan, R.M. and Zvezdov, D. (2021), "Addressing sustainability information needs along supply chains", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 643-666.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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