Expect the unexpected: toward a theory of the unintended consequences of sustainable supply chain management

Craig R. Carter, Lutz Kaufmann, David J. Ketchen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to develop a theorization of the unintended consequences of sustainable supply chain management (SSCM). Design/methodology/approach: The authors integrate extant theory of unintended consequences, sustainable supply chain management and paradox theory to develop a typology of the unintended consequences of SSCM initiatives and a conceptual model of the antecedents of these unintended consequences. Findings: The authors advance a mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive typology of the unintended consequences of SSCM initiatives. These unintended consequences include trade-offs as well as synergies in the form of positive spillover. The authors’ conceptual model identifies multiple levels of stakeholders, multiple performance dimensions, multiple time horizons and the interplay with social construction as antecedents to the unintended consequences of SSCM initiatives. Practical implications: The authors’ typology suggests that managers must move beyond simply assessing whether the intended consequences of an SSCM initiative have been achieved. Managers must also, to the extent they can, assess the potential for unintended consequences to arise. The authors’ typology provides an initial roadmap for managers to continue, discontinue or further consider an SSCM initiative, based on the resulting unintended consequences. The authors’ theorization also provides guidance about how managers can more successfully bring SSCM initiatives to fruition and start cycles of learning. Originality/value: There largely has been a focus in the operations and supply chain management literature on trade-offs between economic performance on the one hand and social or environmental performance on the other. The authors advocate that this focus needs to shift to interactions within and between social and environmental performance. Further, trade-offs are only one type of unintended consequence. By developing a mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive typology, the authors introduce a much clearer conceptualization of the unintended consequences of an SSCM initiative and a much better understanding of how to manage SSCM initiatives, both prior to and postimplementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • Conceptual theory development
  • Paradox theory
  • Sustainable supply chain management
  • Typology
  • Unintended consequences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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