Embedding sustainability into global supply chains : evidence from Bangladeshi multi-tier apparel suppliers : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management at Massey University, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand

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Sustainability and supply management in global supply chains (GSCs) have received much attention over the recent years from industry leaders, academics, and policy makers worldwide. However, scant attention has been paid to investigating the implementation of sustainable supply management (SSM) practices from the perspective of multi-tier suppliers located in a developing country context. To address this knowledge gap, this study examines why and how Bangladeshi multi-tier apparel suppliers implement SSM practices in GSCs. This study is positioned within an interpretivist paradigm and employs qualitative research methodology, drawing on data from interviews with 7 owners and 39 managers of Bangladeshi multi-tier apparel suppliers and their 15 key stakeholders. This thesis contains three empirical findings chapters. The first chapter investigates the factors that drive or hinder multi-tier suppliers’ implementation of SSM practices, drawing on integrative stakeholder theory, institutional theory and contingency theory. The findings suggest that buyers’ requirements, increased factory productivity and external stakeholder expectations are key drivers for multi-tier suppliers to embed SSM practices. Conversely, cost and resource concerns, and gaps in the regulatory framework are dominant barriers encountered by multi-tier suppliers in the effective implementation of SSM practices. The second chapter examines how institutional pressures and mechanisms affect the implementation of SSM practices across multi-tier suppliers, and why these suppliers decouple implementation practices. Drawing on institutional theory, the findings indicate that institutional pressures and mechanisms – coercive, mimetic and normative – vary across multi-tier suppliers, thereby affecting their divergent implementation of SSM practices. However, managers and owners of multi-tier suppliers apply three key decoupling approaches – avoidance, defiance and manipulation – in response to institutional pressures. Specifically, the findings suggest a multiplicity of logics across multi-tier suppliers, which conflict with or complement each other during the SSM implementation process. The third chapter investigates how multi-tier apparel suppliers integrate social and environmental issues to improve SSM outcomes. The findings suggest that multi-tier apparel suppliers are implementing various social and environmental practices to improve SSM outcomes. Although the level of implementation of sustainability practices is high within first-tier suppliers, second-tier and third-tier suppliers either adopt specific social practices on an ad hoc basis or symbolically implement environmental practices. Reflecting on the overall findings, this study contributes to theory by offering a series of research propositions and expounding a holistic SSM implementation framework for multi-tier suppliers. In addition, this study provides significant implications for practitioners including factory owners, managers, and policy makers who seek to implement SSM practices in GSCs. The key limitation of this study concerns generalisability due to context-specific challenges. Future research should therefore focus on a cross-country data set to understand any differences in the emerging framework for multi-tier suppliers’ SSM implementation.
Business logistics, Social aspects, Environmental aspects, Ready-to-wear clothing industry, Clothing trade, Bangladesh