Corporate sustainability in the supply chain must not be an all-or-nothing strategy, according to a new study from John Bell, Niedert Professor of Supply Chain and head of the supply chain management department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business.
“The all-or-nothing mindset causes business leaders to pit profit and sustainability against each other, opening the door to even bigger disconnects between values and culture,” Bell says in an article on the school’s site. He says it’s a process rather than a single destination.
The research paper, “Journeys, Not Destinations: Theorizing a Process View of Supply Chain Integrity,” translates researcher Thomas Maak’s “7 C's” of corporate integrity into a supply chain context:
- Commitment means resolving to meet relevant customer needs and addressing customer challenges through products and services. For SCI, a firm’s commitment expands to include engaging all stakeholders and suppliers to ensure environmental and social responsibility.
- Content involves specifying guiding principles for ethical and responsible behavior and applying those to supply chain partners.
- Coherence is shown by sticking to principles – or taking on proactive upfront costs to support them – even in times of adversity or after experiencing external shocks. (Firms’ responses to COVID-19 were a key way of evaluating coherence.)
- Context is drawn from actively seeking out like-minded supply chain partners to become bound to common standards of ethics.
- Conduct requires specific practices to carry out guiding principles. These practices may be preventive or corrective.
- Consistency is demonstrated by doing what you say you’re going to do and effectively achieving expected outcomes.
- Continuity is expressing an enduring dedication to ethical and responsible behavior, reflected in efforts that require years of steady progress to achieve goals.