Proposing a metaphor perspective as a way forward for sustainable supply chain scholarship

Abstract :

Thirty years since the Brundtland Report put sustainable development firmly on the global political agenda, three of the nine planetary boundaries which represent a safe operating space for humanity have been transgressed through anthropogenic activity (Rockstrom, 2009). While today’s global supply chains represent key arenas for environmental degradation, they also represent a field of opportunity for the achievement of sustainability. Thus, it is encouraging to see that a field of ‘sustainable supply chain’ (SSC) scholarship is experiencing geometric growth (Fahimnia et al, 2015). However some have recently suggested that dominant assumptions within SSC scholarship have led to the prioritisation of economic goals over environmental or social protection, leading to a focus on managing supply chains to do ‘less bad’, rather than do ‘more good’ (Markman and Krause, 2016). Considering the reality of ecological transgressions and its social implications, this is no longer sufficient. Calls are therefore being heard for the need to ‘think differently’ about supply chains so that they may effectively contribute to the pressing goals of sustainable development. This working paper responds to those calls. It aims to propose the value of the metaphor perspective for: 1) helping to further explicate the problem, and 2) addressing the problem.