Conceptualising sustainable supply
Lutz Preuss, Royal Holloway College, University of London, United Kingdom
Supply chain management is becoming an increasingly important function, particularly in manufacturing companies and the public sector. The function acts as gate keeper, who determines the quality of incoming goods – including their environmental and social impact. As sustainability entails both organisational production and consumption processes, moving to sustainable organisations is impossible without the active involvement of an organisation’s supply management function.

Despite this need for attention to sustainability, the actual requirements to be made of organisations remain rather hazy. This is not surprising as the concept of sustainability itself has led to a whole array of competing interpretations. To support both organisations in adopting and academics in researching sustainability, this article develops a comprehensive framework that combines economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainable supply and that is equally applicable to manufacturing, service sector and public sector organisations. This framework is based on the seven E’s model of sustainability presented by Welford, Young and Ytterhus (1998) and applies the criteria of economics, environment, employment, empowerment, ethics, equity and education to organisational buying processes.

The framework is then compared to best practice supply management in both the private and public sectors, where the paper draws out factors that enable and hamper a move towards sustainable organisations and sustainable supply. Finally, it counters the argument that sustainability can be meaningfully addressed only at the level of a national economy; rather both the organisational and functional levels require attention if sustainability is to be achieved.

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