Stakeholder Management as a Tool for the Implementation of Sustainable Supply Chains in SMEs in the German Food Industry
Abstract: The food industry represents one of the most promising business sectors for sustainable development comprising numerous environmental, social and economic challenges. The industry is fragmented into a multitude of organizations with particular supply chains based within a complex multi-stakeholder environment. Therefore, the organizational goal of creating a sustainable supply chain is experiencing increased attention within research. Even though previous literature has assessed the diverse drivers and barriers impacting sustainable supply chain management (SSCM), the theory of stakeholder management for SSCM has so far barely been recognized. This paper aims to fill this research gap and establishes the connection between the concepts of stakeholder management and SSCM taking into consideration the implicated drivers and barriers. The assessment of prominent drivers and barriers as well as crucial stakeholder groups functions as a basis for the evaluation of possible stakeholder strategies suitable for SSCM. This research study is situated in the context of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the German food industry. By conducting 13 semi-structured interviews with supply chain representatives this study follows a qualitative research approach. The data analysis reveals that SMEs in the German food industry face numerous obstacles in their attempt to implement sustainability within the supply chain. Moreover, it is apparent that current stakeholder strategies are insufficient in the context of supply chain sustainability. A closer network beyond business is considered the most effective strategic objective for the engagement with crucial stakeholder groups in order to enhance the drivers and reduce the impact of existing barriers. Consequently, this thesis provides a theoretical contribution by developing a deeper understanding of stakeholder management as a tool for increasing supply chain sustainability and further advances existing theory with the formation of a new analytical framework as well as the recognition of a novel stakeholder strategy.
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