Squaring the circle: Management, measurement and performance of sustainability in supply chains

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123 Citations (SciVal)


Purpose – The purpose of this study is to evaluate the relationships between management, measurement and performance of sustainability in supply chains. The authors develop a framework which explores these links through decoupling as articulated by the institutional theory. They draw on a conceptual continuum of reactive-proactive sustainable supply chain practices and identify clusters of companies along these dimensions and evaluate the theoretical and managerial implications of this for sustainability performance.
Design/methodology/approach – This study uses primary and secondary datasets from 12 inductive, multiple case studies across different industries. This method ensures that we are better able to encapsulate a broader and more diverse set of practices and settings which in turn adds robustness to the theory we induced from our findings.
Findings – The authors find varying degrees of alignment between management practices and measurement systems of sustainable supply chains. Some firms better align their sustainable supply chain management and measurement practices than others, resulting in tighter coupling and ultimately improved sustainability performance in the supply chain.
Research limitations/implications – Further research may explore the conditions under which firms decouple their practices and the contextual settings that are associated with decoupling, loosely and tightly coupled alignment. Additionally, the conceptual framework should be tested across countries, industries and different relationships between public and private organisations.
Originality/value – This is one of the first empirical explorations of the decoupling theory and the reactive-proactive continuum in sustainable supply chain management.
Keywords Performance, Measurement, Case studies, Sustainable supply chains Paper type Research paper
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-305
Number of pages14
JournalSupply Chain Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Sustainability
  • Performance
  • Measurement
  • Case studies
  • Sustainable supply chains


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