Horses for courses: Explaining the gap between the theory and practice of green supply

Frances Bowen, Paul Cousins, Richard Lamming, Adam Faruk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

49 Citations (Scopus)


Researchers and policy-makers have become increasingly enthusiastic about greening purchasing and supply management activities. In theory, greening supply should both limit environmental damage from industrial activities, and deliver bottom line benefits to implementing firms. However, compared with other environmental initiatives, few firms have implemented extensive green supply programmes. This chapter seeks to resolve the apparent paradox between the desirability of green supply in theory, and the slow implementation of green supply in practice. Using data from a recent series of interviews and a questionnaire in the UK, we examine the green supply practices adopted by particular types of firms, and their performance implications. We cluster the operating units in our sample into four archetypal groups of green supply adopters, and examine the characteristics of each group. We conclude that explaining the gap between the theory and practice of green supply requires looking beyond the aggregate pattern across firms. Firms are not ignoring the potential private benefits from green supply. On the contrary, they are rational actors playing to their own strengths, and designing appropriate packages of green supply activities within their own corporate environmental, procurement and performance contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGreening the Supply Chain
EditorsJoseph Sarkis
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-84628-299-7
ISBN (Print)1846282985, 9781846282980
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2006

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