oa Journal of Contemporary Management - The role of buyer-supplier relationships in enhancing sustainable supply chain management in a logistics services context

Volume 17 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1815-7440



Environmental, social and economic concerns experienced over the past few decades have raised the need to address sustainability in supply chains, hence the concept of sustainable supply chain management (SSCM). Supply chains play a crucial role in contributing to sustainability. Focal firms face mounting pressures to ensure that their supply chains are managed for sustainability. The need to manage buyer-supplier relationships with the goal of transforming the supply chain to a more sustainable one is ever more evident. Grounded in social capital theory, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the role of buyer-supplier relationships in navigating a sustainable supply chain. Fourteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with buyers and suppliers of logistics services in the Gauteng province, operating throughout South Africa. The interviews took place in Gauteng but covered the nationwide operations of the firms. Data was analysed using a thematic analysis revealing prominent themes and sub-themes. The main findings indicate that aligning sustainability goals and values should occur prior to or very early on in a relationship. Structural capital in the form of interactions, information sharing and supplier evaluations regarding SSCM were found to be lacking in participant firms. Theoretically, this study extends the application of social capital theory to SSCM. For managers, insights are provided into how goals and objectives regarding sustainability should be aligned with supply chain partners, methods of communication regarding SSCM are explored and potential direction is given on how supply chain relationships can be geared towards SSCM.

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