Definition into Action: Implementing Environmental Sustainability in Global Supply Chains

By Alison Louise Ashby, Melanie Hudson Smith and Mike Leat.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

There is growing recognition by consumers and stakeholders that a firm’s impact extends beyond any single, core process to the complete product life cycle and brings increased expectation that firms should be responsible for their products from ‘cradle to grave’. Reverse Logistics (RL), where a manufacturer accepts waste products or parts for possible recycling, remanufacturing or disposal is increasingly included in the field of Supply Chain Management (SCM), and extends this responsibility from ‘cradle to cradle’.
A ‘cradle to cradle’ responsibility which acknowledges the end of a product lifecycle is increasingly considered a competitive necessity and has strong relevance to addressing the environment in supply chains. By improving efficiencies, minimising the environmental impacts of production processes and reducing/reusing waste, this approach offers substantial potential for preservation of limited resources. The clothing industry is especially subject to strong external pressure with regard to sustainable behaviour, as its products can have serious environmental impacts at all stages. The increased outsourcing of manufacturing has also created long, globally fragmented supply chains which represent a highly pertinent research focus.
This paper explores how sustainability is defined and implemented in global supply chains with specific emphasis on environmental sustainability and end of life stages/processes. Current literature is reviewed to understand the different dimensions, ‘strengths’ and interpretations of sustainability, and the role that RL can play in achieving sustainability in supply chains. This framework is then used to examine recycling and remanufacturing practices in clothing supply chains, an area that has been underexplored to date, but offers substantial potential for successfully ‘closing the loop’.

Keywords: Environmental Sustainability, Closed Loop Supply Chains, Clothing Industry

The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.13-27. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 267.329KB).

Alison Louise Ashby

University of Plymouth, UK

Dr. Melanie Hudson Smith

University of Plymouth, UK

Dr. Mike Leat

University of Plymouth, UK