A Meta-Analysis of Environmentally Sustainable Supply Chain Management Practices and Firm Performance

By Golicic, Susan L.; Smith, Carlo D. | Journal of Supply Chain Management, April 2013 | Go to article overview

A Meta-Analysis of Environmentally Sustainable Supply Chain Management Practices and Firm Performance


Golicic, Susan L., Smith, Carlo D., Journal of Supply Chain Management


INTRODUCTION

Sustainability is playing an increasingly significant role in planning and management within organizations and across supply chains (Kleindorfer, Singhal & Van Wassenhove, 2005; Linton, Klassen & Jayaraman, 2007; Srivastava, 2007). In its broadest conceptualization, sustainability has been defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (UN Documents, 1987). (1) In management research, it has been incorporated within the context of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and commonly assessed through a range of social, cultural, legal, political, economic and natural environmental dimensions (Wood, 2010).

Research and practitioner interest in sustainability emerged in part due to concern for the potential impact that regulatory compliance and stakeholder pressure may have on planning and management decisions and resulting corporate financial performance (CFP) (Vachon & Klassen, 2009; Porter & van der Linde, 1995). Responses to such pressures have been posited as an impediment to performance on the one hand, while alternative propositions suggest that the adaptation may spur innovation, enhance operations and offer sources of competitive opportunity (Porter & van der Linde, 1995). In an effort to bring clarity to the CSR-CFP relationship, a plethora of studies have been conducted over the past four decades (Wood, 2010). Mixed positive, negative and nonsignificant outcomes, however, have only added to a debate concerned with theoretical support for the sustainability-performance relationship and the value of continued study (Griffin & Mahon, 1997; Orlitzky, Schmidt & Reynes, 2003; Wood, 2010; Wood & Jones, 1995).

Efforts to reconcile prior results have included narrative reviews as well as effect-based analyses as a means to aggregate and interpret the relationship between CSR and UP (Frooman, 1997; Orlitzky, 2001; Orlitzky & Benjamin, 2001; Orlitzky et at., 2003). Meta-analysis has been used to consolidate factors and assess a general CSR to CFP link. The same studies have attempted to gain further insights into the relationship by refining their analyses based on different types of corporate social performance, by considering how the constructs are operationalized and by distinguishing among research methods and the temporal sequence of the CSR--CFP relationship (Frooman, 1997; Margolis, Elfenbein & Walsh, 2009; Orlitzky et al., 2003). While the outcomes of these meta-studies have generally found a positive association between CSR and CFP, individual studies were also criticized as offering few theoretical explanations to support the proposed relationship (Wood 2010). Wood argued that the inconsistent results may be attributed to stakeholder mismatching, citing a lack of evidence in studies connecting those (stakeholders) who establish expectations relevant to the measure of CSR, those who experience the effects of corporate behaviors and those who are evaluating performance. In their review of research in CSR, Wood and Jones (1995) note CSR "... displays a serious mismatch of variables which are mixed and correlated almost indiscriminately with a set of stakeholder-related performance variables that are not theoretically linked" (p. 231).

While the landscape of research addressing the relationship between sustainability and firm performance has addressed multiple CSR dimensions, interest in the environmental dimension of sustainability has become more prominent in operations and supply chain management research as firms understand the impacts supply chains may have on the natural environment as well as society (Carter & Rogers, 2008; Srivastava, 2007; Vachon & Klassen, 2008; Wu & Page11, 2011). A number of recent articles document a growing body of research adopting a broader systems approach, thus connecting stakeholders, toward environmental supply chain management. …

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