A conceptual framework for analyzing sustainability strategies in industrial supply networks from an innovation perspective

Harrie W.M. van Bommel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


This article proposes a new conceptual framework concerning the implementation of sustainability in supply networks from an innovation perspective. Based upon a recent qualitative literature review in environmental, social/ethical and logistics/operations management journals, this article summarizes and analyses the approaches found. Concluded is that even though innovation, socialization, experimental learning and cultural perspectives have been acknowledged as being relevant to explaining supply network dynamics in general, they are rarely included in the current frameworks concerning sustainability. The question still remains why companies influenced by the same external factors and similar in size and power develop a different strategy towards sustainability aspects in their supply network. The article demonstrates with the first results of a survey held in the fashion/clothing sector the relevance of this question. The proposed conceptual framework states that the capability to develop a strategy is influenced by the innovation power of the “focal” company and its supply network. The three implementation strategies presented in the framework are: resign, offensive and defensive. Two propositions are defined to be tested. These propositions focus on the relation between the level of innovation power and the implementation strategy concerning sustainability. Factors used to characterize the innovation power of the “focal” company are: external orientation and transparency, cooperation between departments, learning and adapting, leadership, autonomy and possibility for experimenting, and result driven. Cooperation in the supply networks is characterized by factors like trust, reputation, joint programmes, and cooperative information systems throughout the supply network. In empirical research, strategies found will be related with the level of innovation power. This level will be measured using the factors mentioned. The results might add a new innovation dimension to an improved conceptual framework within the interdisciplinary field of sustainability and supply network research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)895-904
JournalJournal of cleaner production
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Conceptual framework
  • Sustainability
  • Strategies
  • Supply networks
  • Innovation


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