The progression of the triple bottom line in supply chains: Investigating barriers and blockchain technology solutions in the luxury fashion sector

Davies, Jennifer ORCID: 0000-0003-1683-220X
(2022) The progression of the triple bottom line in supply chains: Investigating barriers and blockchain technology solutions in the luxury fashion sector. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The triple bottom line (TBL) is a central concept to the sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) agenda. It proposes firms should strive to balance their economic, environmental, and social performance. Despite the wide acceptance of the TBL concept by researchers, practitioners, policymakers and broader society, a myriad of global TBL supply chain problems exist in practice. There is a general global consensus that rapid change is needed. The barriers to TBL progression are numerous and complex. Developing a clear business case (BC) for TBL adoption can be a major barrier. The BC, as a key underlying concept of managerial decision-making, is the juncture at which theory is evaluated and either rejected or adopted and acted upon in a practical setting. A lack of supply chain transparency is a perennial problem at the core of many of the SSCM business case development issues. Technologies associated with the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) such as blockchain technology (BCT) have the potential to enable unprecedented levels of transparency that can help support TBL objectives. However, BCT and many other Industry 4.0 technologies are still in an emergent state and there is a need for a deeper understanding of how they can be effectively deployed to increase the diffusion of TBL in global supply chains. This research sheds light on the matter through several stages of pragmatic inquiry. A pre-cursory systematic literature review was conducted to examine the use of mid-range organisational theory in TBL- focused SSCM research. This was undertaken to provide a theoretical foundation for the inquiry. It aimed to deepen the understanding of how the research problem has been explained from a theoretical perspective and to see whether the theoretical toolkit for SSCM research could be strengthened. It sought to understand the reported SSCM ‘theory-practice gap’ by first understanding the theoretical perspectives. Building on this, an empirical exploration of the business case for SSCM in the luxury fashion sector was undertaken, providing in-depth practitioner and policymaker insights on the barriers to SSCM and TBL progression (paper 1). This paper explored the practice side of the theory-practice gap. The findings highlight that firms face difficulties when trying to develop value-driven business cases for SSCM and the TBL. Although there was an interest in transparency-enhancing information communication technologies like BCT to solve transparency and subsequently SSCM issues, there is currently a large degree of uncertainty regarding how the BCT could be employed and whether there is a business case for its adoption. This reluctancy stems from uncertainty regarding consumer demand for sustainable products and services. The first paper emphasised that a lack of supply chain transparency coupled with uncertain demand was the root cause of several barriers to TBL progression. However, as highlighted above there was a lack of enthusiasm for ICTs such as BCT that promised to offer remedies to such issues. The quest for solutions to these barriers motivated the second paper: a conceptual exploration of BCT tokenisation, specifically the potential of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), as a means of improving transparency, incentivising good SSCM performance and helping to deliver the value proposition of this to customers. The analysis of the existing concepts offers a series of in-depth insights on the role and impact of emerging BCT innovations. The paper makes the case that the invention of NFTs changes the value proposition of BCT in a way which is understood by customers. Hence, they can be used to overcome the present challenges. The third and final paper compliments the second by exploring another avenue in which the barrier to BCT for SSCM adoption can be overcome. The existing literature posits that BCT in isolation can be seen as a solution looking for a problem, it is depended on linkages with other technologies for its value to be realised. Existing research has looked at the pairing of BCT with established supply chain technologies such as RFID. However, RFID still leaves the supply chain vulnerable to corruption and counterfeiting. Hence, the third paper explores the adoption of BCT clusters, specifically the pairing of BCT and novel ‘tracer technologies’, as means of overcoming existing barriers to supply chain transparency. It empirically examines the creation of sustainability-based value in the luxury textiles sector through a collaborative action research project with a heritage UK-based woollen manufacturer which led to the successful implementation of a BCT-based traceability system (FibreTrace®). The research outcomes from the different stages help to provide new ways of viewing and explaining the research problem and contribute deep insights into the technology solutions that aim to achieve the more rapid diffusion of substantive TBL adoption in supply chains. The research makes several contributions to both theory and practice. These include 1) an in-depth review of the theoretical underpinnings of TBL-focused SSCM research; 2) empirical evidence that provides deep practitioner insight into the drivers and barriers for SSCM business case development; 3) a conceptual exploration of how emerging BCT innovation, NFTs, can be used to create sustainability-based value and overcome the barriers of BCT for SSCM; 4) an empirical exploration of how BCT clusters (BCT and tracer technologies) can support SSCM BCs; 5) a theoretical framework for technology-focused SSCM research; 6) an expanded diffusion of innovation (DoI) theory view of TBL adoption, including the introduction of the ‘sustainable innovation cluster’ concept.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Management
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2022 11:10
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 20:56
DOI: 10.17638/03157330