Institutional entrepreneurship capabilities for interorganizational sustainable supply chain strategies

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Sustainability has been increasingly addressed in the supply chain management literature…

arguing that organizations should expand their sustainability strategies into their entire supply chains (e.g. Ciliberti et al. , 2008; Handfield et al. , 2005; Neto et al. , 2008; Vachon and Klassen, 2008; Zhu and Sarkis, 2004). An important reason for this is that customers and other external stakeholders hardly distinguish between the standards of the brand owner and its supply chain partners (Roberts, 2003).

Sustainability strategies are frequently differentiated into compliance and proactive strategies (Matten and Moon, 2008; Arago´n-Correa, 1998). Compliance strategies reactively follow existing rules, norms and standards, which can be implicit or explicit (King and Lenox, 2000). Proactive sustainability strategies go beyond these and are implemented in order to increase competitiveness or broaden legitimacy (Rao and Holt, 2005; Hamprecht, 2006). In the context of supply chain management, the creation and establishment of voluntary sustainability initiatives is one means to implement proactive interorganizational sustainable supply chain strategies (Carmin et al. , 2003; Hamprecht, 2006). Voluntary sustainability initiatives are institutional arrangements in the form of guidelines, policies, codes of conducts, management systems, programs, certification schemes, or roundtables and aim at helping the participating organizations to meet the complex and urgent challenges of sustainability (UNEP, 2000).

The theory of institutional entrepreneurship explains how organizations create or change institutions, such as voluntary sustainability initiatives (DiMaggio, 1988). While resources that are employed by institutional entrepreneurs in general have been discussed, they have not been analyzed in the context of voluntary sustainability initiatives. With this paper we aim to contribute to the understanding of which resources specifically enable the creation and establishment of voluntary sustainability initiatives. This question is relevant from a theoretical point of view as it extends research on institutional entrepreneurship in the field of sustainability. It is also relevant from a practical perspective because current voluntary sustainability initiatives are considered to be time- and resource-inefficient in their development and implementation. Also, they often lack support from strategic stakeholders and supply chain partners (e.g. Fowler and Heap, 1998; Hamprecht, 2006; Reinhardt, 2005; Nick et al. , 2006).