Based on the research paper
STEKELORUM, R., I. LAGUIR, J. EL BAZ, “Can you hear the Eco? From SME environmental responsibility to social requirements in the supply chain“, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, vol. 158, pp. 120-169
Research on sustainable supply chain management in SMEs has to date mainly dealt with environmental activities. This may be because corporate environmental responsibility is easily linked to a basic view of supply chain management, involving visible output and easier assessment. SMEs’ activities point to a connection between corporate environmental responsibility and supply chain social requirements, since environmental and social activities are increasingly part of SMEs’ sustainability projects. This study therefore investigates (i) how SME environmental activities can be translated into social requirements in the supply chain through responsible purchasing, and (ii) how cooperation with environmental NGOs impacts this relationship.
Implementing social requirements in the supply chain is a step-by-step process
SMEs are likely to lack the necessary resources to implement social requirements in their supply chains in parallel with developing environmental activities. This is an important issue for SME managers when they consider their budgets. Yet they may well find that it is possible to redeploy the resources and capabilities developed through environmental practices and use them to build social requirements. For example, the process improvements that occur through environmental activities can generate knowledge that can then be used to introduce social requirements to suppliers. SME managers could create multi-skilled teams of employees from various departments (e.g., production, supply chain, etc.) to identify the capabilities developed through environmental practices. They could also encourage employees to report back on information from meetings about day-to-day activities that might then be redeployed.
“…create multi-skilled teams of employees from various departments to identify the capabilities developed through environmental practices…”
SMEs need responsible purchasing to ensure the effectiveness of translating environmental activities into social requirements
SME managers need to be aware that selecting responsible suppliers is today a necessary condition to avoid being excluded from customer contracts if their own suppliers behave unsustainably. SME managers in charge of procurement must select the right suppliers by clearly communicating their requirements and making them subject to verification. Top management should perceive responsible purchasing as a strategic resource to meet customers’ expectations and access new markets.
SME managers could use the expertise of environmental NGOs to create value in their supply chain
Collaboration with environmental NGOs helps SMEs to develop their resources and capabilities, which in turn can lead to social requirements in the supply chain. The collaboration will be successful if SMEs and environmental NGOs align themselves, given their different organizational characteristics. NGOs are based more on principles, while SMEs are focused on profits. Thus, SMEs should align their activities with NGOs’ environmental objectives. SME managers should encourage environmental NGOs to implement routines that support collaborative relationships through visits, technical assistance, or monitoring. By doing so, SME managers could identify the processes that benefit the most from NGOs’ knowledge and expertise.
“… perceive responsible purchasing as a strategic resource to meet customers’ expectations and access new markets…”
Rebecca Stekelorum holds a PhD in Management Science from the University of Montpellier and is Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at ICN Business School. Her research focuses on sustainable supply chain management, corporate social responsibility, small-to medium-sized enterprises, and financial and environmental performances in the banking industry.
She has published in recognized academic journals, such as Applied Economics, Economics Bulletin, Management Decision, Supply Chain Forum: An International Journal, International Journal of Logistics Management, International Journal of Logistics: Research and Applications, Industrial Marketing Management, Production Planning & Control, and Technological Forecasting and Social Change.