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Gonçalves, H.; Magalhães, V.S.M.; Ferreira, L.M.D.F.; Arantes, A. Sustainable Supply Chain Management Barriers. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/56176 (accessed on 23 April 2024).
Gonçalves H, Magalhães VSM, Ferreira LMDF, Arantes A. Sustainable Supply Chain Management Barriers. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/56176. Accessed April 23, 2024.
Gonçalves, Hugo, Vanessa S. M. Magalhães, Luís M. D. F. Ferreira, Amílcar Arantes. "Sustainable Supply Chain Management Barriers" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/56176 (accessed April 23, 2024).
Gonçalves, H., Magalhães, V.S.M., Ferreira, L.M.D.F., & Arantes, A. (2024, March 12). Sustainable Supply Chain Management Barriers. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/56176
Gonçalves, Hugo, et al. "Sustainable Supply Chain Management Barriers." Encyclopedia. Web. 12 March, 2024.
Sustainable Supply Chain Management Barriers
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Sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) integrates economic, social, and environmental goals within the supply chain to enhance long-term performance. It assists organizations in monitoring their performance concerning social, environmental, and economic factors to bolster sustainability.

sustainable supply chain management sustainability best–worst method multi-criteria decision-making barriers

1. Introduction

Traditional supply chain management (SCM) primarily focuses on the efficiency and flexibility of a supply chain in the process of transforming raw materials and production procedures into products for delivery to consumers [1]. However, in recent years, the environment has emerged as a global concern, driven mainly by the increasing human population and industrial activities that contribute to global warming, natural resource depletion, and biodiversity loss [2][3][4]. This shift in the environmental landscape makes it increasingly imperative for SCM to consider the sustainability of the supply chain.
With a strong emphasis on closed-loop production and consumption, as well as a growing awareness of the environmental impacts of supply chains and the depletion of resources and raw materials, the concept of sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) has come to the forefront [1]. Factors driving this transition include the rapid pace of production and consumption enabled by cutting-edge technologies, rising pollution levels, and the increased exploitation of natural resources for the sake of economic growth. Moreover, implementing stricter environmental regulations, which mandate binding environmental legislation, and the pressure exerted by consumers on regulators and organizations operating within the industry have further fueled the shift toward SSCM [5].
Sustainability is generally defined as using resources to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs [6]. This concept has evolved over time to include a comprehensive approach known as the Triple-Bottom-Line (TBL) approach [7]. The TBL approach considers a broad range of indicators and criteria for measuring organizational success, encompassing not only environmental factors but also social and economic aspects [8]. SSCM integrates the TBL approach to improve long-term performance and allow organizations to distinguish themselves from their competitors, gain a greater competitive advantage in the market, and achieve long-term benefits [7][9]. Furthermore, there is strong evidence that businesses can increase revenue by implementing and promoting socially and environmentally responsible business practices, as these activities impact consumer attitudes and behavior [10]. Many organizations have already committed to transforming their supply chains into sustainable ones [11]. With increased environmental impact, developing and implementing sustainability practices in supply chains has become critical. To achieve this transformation, most organizations must adapt their supply chains by implementing various strategies, such as sourcing or producing products with recyclable, reusable, or recycled materials [11][12]. However, when transitioning from traditional supply chain management (SCM) to SSCM, some obstacles or barriers are to be expected [12][13].
SSCM practices can be enabled or hindered by various contingent factors like the organization’s size, culture, location, and supply chain partners [14]. As Sarkis et al. [15] point out, it is crucial to identify the barriers to the implementation of SSCM to ensure sustainable production and development practices. Therefore, organizations must identify and prioritize the most significant barriers while understanding their links to help decision-makers formulate strategies to eliminate these challenges during SSCM implementation [13][16], particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)—context that has received scarce attention [17][18].

2. Sustainable Supply Chain Management

There are various definitions of SSCM in the literature. According to Ahi and Searcy [7], SSCM can be defined as the establishment of coordinated supply chains through the voluntary integration of economic, environmental, and social considerations, with key inter-organizational business systems designed to efficiently and effectively manage the flows of materials, information, and capital associated with the acquisition, production, and distribution of products/services. The aim is to satisfy stakeholder requirements while increasing the organization’s profit, competitiveness, and resilience in the short and long term.
SSCM has garnered increased attention worldwide, primarily due to government regulations, consumer pressure for sustainable products, market dynamics, growing public concern and awareness, and the competitive opportunities it offers [19][20][21]. Consequently, there has been a surge in the popularity of SSCM, compelling organizations to adapt their supply chain activities accordingly [1]. This adaptation allows organizations to enhance their sustainable development while reaping social, environmental, and economic benefits [4].
Many industrial activities have resulted in global environmental impacts and harm to human life and the environment [19]. This negative increase in environmental impacts has prompted various groups to intervene, including politicians and environmental activists, to tighten government regulations [22][23][24]. Considering this, governments have implemented stricter standards and regulations, compelling organizations to adhere to more sustainable practices [25]. This, in turn, has led organizations to better understand the influence of environmental, economic, and social factors in their activities, fostering a growing interest in pursuing sustainability [26].
The pursuit of sustainability has started to reshape the competitive landscape, driving organizations and supply chains to re-evaluate their processes, technologies, and products. Despite understanding current market needs, many organizations still engage in unsustainable operations. However, there is an increasing trend in their efforts to integrate sustainability into their operations and supply chains [27][28]. Implementing sustainable innovation practices is the key for organizations and supply chains to achieve sustainability [29][30]. Sustainable innovation can be defined as introducing innovative practices into production processes to reduce environmental damage [29]. These practices assist organizations in addressing sustainability issues [31][32] while considering the TBL approach [33][34]. SSCM can be linked to practices such as green design, production planning and control for remanufacturing, reverse logistics, energy use, stock management, product recovery, waste management, and emission reduction [35].

3. Sustainable Supply Chain Management Adoption

The high cost associated with adopting SSCM practices often leads professionals to hesitate, even in the face of substantial market pressure [36][37]. Many organizations now outsource most of their production activities to companies in developing economies to maintain profit margins [38]. However, this profit-focused approach can sometimes lead to the neglect of social and environmental issues [39]. Multinational organizations and companies based in developed countries extend and share their sustainability initiatives and experiences with organizations in developing countries and emerging economies. This collaboration can lead to forming partnerships within various supply chains, furthering the goal of achieving sustainability [12].
In conclusion, given the adverse environmental effects, top priority should be given to implementing and maintaining sustainable supply chains to ensure proper and sustainable development for future generations [4]. Silvestre [40] argues that sustainable supply chains should be viewed as a continuous journey rather than a fixed destination. As supply chains progress toward sustainable practices, they undergo a complex, dynamic, and evolving learning process. Therefore, the transformation to SSCM is an ongoing journey where multifaceted efforts guide the transition from traditional supply chains to sustainable ones [41].

4. Sustainable Supply Chain Management Benefits

Managing operations, resources, and information within supply chains enables the maximization of profits and social welfare while minimizing environmental concerns and operating costs [29][42]. SSCM plays a pivotal role in reducing the negative impacts of supply chain operations and improving organizations’ efficiency from a TBL perspective [43][44]. SSCM initiatives serve as a means for companies to achieve sustainability [45][46]. Consequently, companies have increasingly integrated sustainability into their supply chains to enhance their brand and image, manage supply chain risks such as environmental damage and labor disputes, ensure business continuity, and minimize potential disruptions and costs [25][47][48]. Therefore, sustainable management in a supply chain contributes to long-term environmental, social, and economic benefits for companies and customers. Additionally, SSCM practices enable the integration of techniques to prevent or minimize environmental degradation, including harmful gas emissions, water pollution, and soil pollution. These efforts aim to improve economic performance, maximize profit, build a reputation, and gain a competitive advantage [4][49].
SSCM ensures best production practices throughout a product’s life cycle [50] and connects development with environmental concerns, thereby driving political and economic change at local, national, and global levels [51]. To create a sustainable product for end-users, sustainable practices must be embraced by producers, sellers, and suppliers [7]. Organizations aspiring to achieve sustainability within their supply chains must foster innovation to address the negative impacts [52][53]. According to Aguado et al. [54], sustainable innovation offers numerous benefits to organizations, including an enhanced social image, increased profits, and reduced operational costs. For Kusi-Sarpong et al. [29], it also leads to stock and income improvements, cost reductions, and an expanded market share.

5. Sustainable Supply Chain Management Barriers

Companies typically encounter a multitude of barriers when attempting to integrate sustainable innovations. Some of these challenges arise from the absence of strong institutions that provide systematic guidance for organizations seeking to implement innovative processes [55]. Successful innovation depends on a diverse range of resources, including financial capacity, access to funding, the recruitment of highly qualified teams, market knowledge, research, and development, as well as effective collaboration and cooperation among supply chain partners [56].
To navigate these challenges, it is essential to equip employees within supply chain companies with a better understanding of the nature of these barriers and strategies to overcome them. This empowers them to address barriers positively and drive changes toward sustainability [12]. However, the consolidation and simultaneous implementation of all these strategies can be a complex undertaking. Therefore, companies must identify and prioritize the barriers hindering them from achieving their goals and develop strategies to overcome them [12]. Nevertheless, implementing SSCM in traditional supply chains is consistently a complex task.
According to Seuring [57], major SSCM initiatives often face challenges during implementation, whether in a production or service context, primarily due to insufficient attention given to barriers. As Ageron et al. [58] noted, 35% of organizations fail to adopt SSCM because they lack awareness of critical barriers. Consequently, it is essential for professionals to not only explore these barriers based on their organization’s nature but also assess the importance of each one to determine its priority. This approach allows organizations to identify strategies for overcoming existing barriers to implementing sustainability in supply chains. These strategies involve specific action plans aimed at helping organizations, and their supply chains confront the challenges of implementing sustainability. However, the number of comprehensive studies identifying both barriers and the strategies to overcome them is still limited [12].
The 94 articles selected for an in-depth literature analysis revealed that some authors present barrier compilations without specifying their categories [59][60][61][62]. However, the in-depth analysis made it possible to compile an exhaustive list of 80 barriers to SSCM adoption and classify them into nine categories (see Table 1).
Table 1. Categories of barriers to SSCM implementation.
Code Categories of Barriers Source
T Technological [3][12][13]
EF Economic and financial [3][12][16]
S Supplier-related [3][16]
I Information-related [16]
MN Market and networking [12]
HR Human resources [16]
SC Social and cultural [3][12]
RI Regulatory and institutional [3][16][51]
O Organizational [12][16][51]

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