The evolution from corporate social responsibility to supply chain responsibility: the case of Waitrose

Topics: Supply chain management, Supply chain, Corporate social responsibility Pages: 30 (9776 words) Published: November 17, 2013
The evolution from corporate social responsibility to supply chain responsibility: the case of Waitrose

The Authors
Laura Spence, Centre for Research into Sustainability, School of Management, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, UK Michael Bourlakis, Business School, Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK Acknowledgements

The research on which this paper is in part based was funded by the Institute for Business Ethics. The authors would like to thank seminar participants at Cardiff Business School and the School of Management at Bath University for feedback on earlier versions of this work. Abstract

Purpose – This paper aims to investigate the evolution from corporate social responsibility to supply chain responsibility via the examination of Waitrose, a leading UK food retailer. These two concepts differ substantially and illustrate contrasting approaches in terms of social responsibility development and application.

Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative case study methodology is used where managers from Waitrose and its suppliers, industry experts and representatives from professional bodies are interviewed. An observation of an ethical audit with a Waitrose supplier was also conducted.

Findings – Findings show an example of good practice in the area of corporate social responsibility in the supply chain and illustrate the substantive progress that can be made in achieving supply chain responsibility. At the same time, the paper provides the specific challenges in developing from a corporate social watchdog approach to one in which the power in the chain is more balanced and where a holistic approach requires to be taken to achieve social responsibility.

Originality/value – Considering the scarcity of work examining empirically the issue of corporate social responsibility in food supply chains, this study demonstrates an evolutionary process and its stages based on an examination of Waitrose's supply chain and the corporate social responsibility approach it has taken with its suppliers. The authors also illustrate a range of key implications that need to be considered by both managers and policy makers and it provides a range of areas where further research is required. Article Type:

Research paper
Corporate social responsibility; Supply chain management; Food industry; United Kingdom. Journal:
Supply Chain Management: An International Journal
Copyright ©
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
1. Introduction
To date, any corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues relating to supply chains have tended to be focused on labour standards in factory suppliers based in developing countries (see for example Fabian and Hill, 2005) as experienced to their cost by firms such as Gap and Nike (Zadek, 2004). In fact, supply chain CSR challenges are closer to home than might at first be acknowledged and warrant more detailed scrutiny than thus far received (Spence, 2006). Here, we are also concerned with a perspective on supply chain CSR which takes the view from the dominant company in the chain, the retailer, particularly in relation to small suppliers. In this paper we advance the theoretical understanding of CSR and the supply chain. We use the empirical example of the UK food retailer Waitrose to illustrate this conceptual development. We argue that CSR, defined as the “consideration of, and response to, issues beyond the narrow economic, technical and legal requirements of the firm to accomplish social (and environmental) benefits along with the traditional economic gains which the firm seeks” (Aguilera et al., 2007, pp. 836-837), is an inadequate concept for capturing the necessary level of social responsibility for the whole supply chain critical in today's complex and integrated economic context. We develop a new approach called supply chain responsibility (SCR). Supply chain responsibility is the chain-wide...

References: Aguilera, R., Rupp, D., Williams, C., Ganapathi, J. (2007), "Putting the S back in corporate social responsibility: a multi-level theory of social change in organizations", Academy of Management Review, Vol. 32 No.3, pp.836-63.
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