Purchasing and Social Responsibility: A Replication and Extension

By Carter, Craig R. | Journal of Supply Chain Management, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

Purchasing and Social Responsibility: A Replication and Extension


Carter, Craig R., Journal of Supply Chain Management


INTRODUCTION

The popular press offers evidence of a diverse range of business improprieties, including questionable financial behavior and violations of safety and human rights responsibilities. These actions underscore the significance of socially irresponsible behavior by organizations, including negative ramifications for the bottomline. Conversely, socially responsible behavior can lead to greater customer loyalty and increased revenues. A survey by the Reputation Institute of over 21,000 consumers suggests that "almost unanimously, the public says it wants information about a company's record on social and environmental responsibility to help decide which companies to buy from, invest in, and work for" (Alsop 2002, p. B1). Further, socially responsible behavior can also contribute to the bottomline through lower costs. For example, 3M's environmental initiatives from 2000 to 2002 resulted in a 10 percent "improvement in energy efficiency" (3M Environmental, Social, and Economic Sustainability 2004), and Johnson and Johnson's safety program and goals resulted in a 67 percent, 14 percent and 71 percent reduction in fires, serious injuries and lost workdays, respectively, between 1991 and 2002 (Johnson & Johnson Social Responsibility 2004).

The issue of social responsibility at the corporate level extends to the purchasing and supply management function. This is evidenced by the grounded theory development of Carter and Jennings (2002) and the current efforts by the Institute for Supply Management[TM] (ISM) to study and operationalize social responsibility issues into principles for its organization (ISM Principles of Social Responsibility 2004). Additionally, recent work by Carter and Jennings (2004) has placed such formerly stand-alone issues as environmental purchasing, sourcing from minority business enterprise (MBE) suppliers, and other supply management issues such as human rights and safety within a broader conceptual and empirical framework of purchasing social responsibility (PSR). However, the results of the Carter and Jennings study were limited to organizations within consumer products industries. Additional research is needed to extend these findings to a broader range of industries.

As the field of supply management begins to mature into distinct streams of research (Carter and Ellram 2003), replication becomes an important component of maturation of the discipline. Researchers can only have strong confidence in theory when multiple attempts are made to falsify that theory:

     Only when certain events recur ... can our observations be tested.
     We do not take even our own observations quite seriously, or accept
     them as scientific observations, until we have repeated and tested
     them. Only by such repetitions can we convince ourselves that we
     are not dealing with a mere isolated "coincidence," but with events
     which, on account of their regularity and reproducibility, are in
     principle intersubjectively testable (Popper 1959, p. 45).

There seems to be a growing interest in replication research in the behavioral sciences including management in general (Eden 2002), and more specifically the fields of operations and supply management (Frohlich and Dixon 2003). The stance of this article is that replication is needed in supply management research, in order to advance as an academic discipline. In light of the rapidly growing interest of the supply management community in the area of social responsibility, and the need to begin to replicate research in our field, the specific purpose of this article is to replicate the findings of Carter and Jenning's (2004) empirical test of a conceptualization of PSR, by extending their study to a significantly broader group of industries. Such a replication and extension will provide greater assurance that PSR is indeed a higher-order construct that ties together past, stand-alone supply management research. …

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