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Sustainability Tensions in Supply Chains: A Case Study of Paradoxes and Their Management

Carolin Brix-Asala (), Anne-Kristin Geisbüsch (), Philipp Christopher Sauer (), Patrick Schöpflin () and Axel Zehendner ()
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Carolin Brix-Asala: Supply Chain Management, University of Kassel, Kleine Rosenstraße 1-3, 34109 Kassel, Germany
Anne-Kristin Geisbüsch: Supply Chain Management, University of Kassel, Kleine Rosenstraße 1-3, 34109 Kassel, Germany
Philipp Christopher Sauer: Supply Chain Management, University of Kassel, Kleine Rosenstraße 1-3, 34109 Kassel, Germany
Patrick Schöpflin: Supply Chain Management, University of Kassel, Kleine Rosenstraße 1-3, 34109 Kassel, Germany
Axel Zehendner: Supply Chain Management, University of Kassel, Kleine Rosenstraße 1-3, 34109 Kassel, Germany

Sustainability, 2018, vol. 10, issue 2, 1-20

Abstract: The comprehensive coverage of sustainability issues in a supply chain incurs goal conflicts—i.e., sustainability tensions—and is often limited by market characteristics, such as the availability of sustainable materials and services. While the mainstream business is prioritizing economic goals, a number of entrepreneurs are trying to move forward to more sustainable business practices for their own company and their supply chain. Fairphone represents such a case in the electronics industry, which is openly communicating its sustainability efforts and shortcomings. This communication is content-analyzed in this study by applying the theoretical lenses of paradox sustainability tensions and sustainable supply chain management. Findings of this analysis reveal the limitation of sustainability efforts by supply side characteristics, while Fairphone is innovatively using the demand side of its supply chain to drive sustainability. The resulting tensions among both sides are addressed via pro-active and direct supplier and stakeholder engagement by Fairphone at their suppliers’ mines and factories. The systematic identification of tensions and practices by which they are addressed is adding to our understanding of sustainability practices and goal conflicts in supply chains.

Keywords: sustainability tensions; paradox theory; sustainable supply chain management; Fairphone; mineral resources (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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