How environmentally sustainable are Sustainable Supply Chain Management strategies? A critical evaluation of the theory and practice of Sustainable Supply Chain Management

  • Lee Matthews

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis is a critical evaluation of the theory and practice of Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SSCM). It seeks to understand why SSCM theory has so little to say about environmental sustainability and to explore how SSCM practice is contributing towards the transition towards sustainable development. I conjecture that SSCM scholars have not engaged sufficiently with the broader sustainability literature and other constructions of sustainability, which has led to a lack of theory development within SSCM. The sustainability paradigms framework that forms the core of the thesis was developed in order to broaden the discussion around sustainability within SSCM. Specifically, it embraces the contested nature of the concept of sustainability and uses multiple sustainability paradigms to construct future directions for theory development. In order to put the concept of environmental sustainability at the centre of SSCM theory, the concept of 'environmental effectiveness' was developed which seeks to differentiate between environmentally sustainable strategies and those that merely seek to achieve reductions in unsustainability. In order to evaluate the practice of SSCM, a case study was conducted. The concept of 'environmental effectiveness' is operationalized through the use of non-perceptual measures related to carbon emissions and evaluates the extent to which SSCM practices contribute towards climate stabilization, a key sustainability objective. It is found that those SSCM practices that have been shown to improve 'environmental performance' within the extant SSCM literature did not deliver 'environmentally effective performance' within the case study. This raises the possibility that the literature has mistaken reductions in unsustainability for sustainability proper and that we may need to go back to basics. The findings are discussed with reference to the sustainability paradigms framework and multiple opportunities for theory development within SSCM are explored.
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPaul Jackson (Supervisor) & Peter Kawalek (Supervisor)


  • Climate Change Mitigation
  • Sustainable Supply Chain Management
  • Corporate Sustainability

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