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Spotlight: Inside the buying firm: Exploring responses to paradoxical tensions in sustainable Supply Chain Management

In this weeks Spotlight we sit down with Dr. Chengyong Xiao, Lecturer in the Faculty of Economics and Business,  University of Groningen. Dr. Xiao's paper which he authored with Professor Dirk Pieter van Donk,  Associate Professor Miriam Wilhelm and Professor Taco van der Vaart is titled "Inside the buying firm: Exploring responses to paradoxical tensions in sustainable Supply Chain Management"

Dirk Pieter van Donk, Chengyong Xiao, Miriam Wilhelm, Taco van der Vaart.
Photo: Ms. Nienke van den Berg

"An instrumental perspective still dominates research on sustainable supply chain management (SSCM). As an alternative, this paper presents a paradox perspective and argues that sustainability and other business aims are not always compatible, particularly in an emerging market context. Often, paradoxical tensions originate in conflicts between the socio‐economic environment of emerging‐market suppliers and their Western customers’ demands for both cost competitiveness and sustainability. We argue that Western buying firms can play a key role in moderating such tensions, as experienced by emerging‐market suppliers. Specifically we explore how purchasing and sustainability managers within buying firms make sense of and respond to paradoxical tensions in SSCM. We conduct an in‐depth case study of a Western multinational company that sources substantially from Chinese suppliers. While we found strong evidence for a persisting instrumental perspective in the sensemaking and practices of purchasing and sustainability managers, we also observed an alternative response, primarily by sustainability managers, that we labelled as “contextualizing”. Contextualizing can alleviate the tensions otherwise present in SSCM by making sustainability standards more workable in an emerging‐market context, and it can help individual managers to move toward paradoxical sensemaking. We outline the value of paradoxical sensemaking in bringing about changes toward “true sustainability” in SSCM."

The full article can be found here: