Sustainability in fashion supply chains: Examining the dynamics of small and medium enterprise sustainability in fashion industry multitier supply chains
Croos Moraes, Joseph Tivanka
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Sustainability in supply chain management (SSCM) has become established in both academia and increasingly in practice (Fraser, Müller and Schwarzkopf, 2020). As stakeholders continue to require organisations to take more responsibility for their entire supply chains, this has led to the development of multitier SSCM. Despite small and medium enterprises’ (SMEs’) pivotal impact on the global economy, environmental and social responsibility commitments and SSCM have been largely overlooked (Chow et al., 2017). Little attention has been paid to the convergence of sustainability dimensions in SMEs. This thesis examines how sustainability-inspired SMEs in the fashion industry in Scotland implement sustainability and diffuse sustainability across the diverse supply chain. This leads to an investigation of the factors that influence sustainability practices along the supply chain and practices adopted to verify sustainability in the supply chain, with an overall view to improving multidimensional performance. This research adopts an exploratory multiple case study approach that combines multiple data sources: semi-structured interviews, observation, and secondary data analysis. The empirical study includes two SME fashion retailers registered in Scotland and their respective supply chain partners. This thesis contributes to SSCM research in SMEs by exploring from both the conceptual and empirical points of view, investigating fashion SMEs’ sustainability and SSCM and developing a conceptual sustainability performance rating model. This conceptual model uses multidimensional sustainability measurement criteria derived from the literature to determine sustainability performance levels from the farm to the retailer. Evaluation of the supply chain is likely to aid supplier selection, sustainability comparison and transparency. The investigated fashion SMEs and their supply chains are used to exemplify the usefulness of the proposed conceptual sustainability performance model. Based on the supply chains investigated, both retailers’ sustainability performances are similar, while one supply chain outperformed the other. In addition, the research findings show that SME retailers face the greatest challenge in managing supply chain sustainability, while the most influential suppliers can develop creative approaches to diffuse sustainability within the supply chain. This thesis suggests that there is considerable need for further qualitative research and the proposed model perhaps needs to be implemented in various business models to evaluate its validity.