Sustainability risks in multi-tier supply chains. : A dynamic capabilities perspective on integrating remote sensing technology into sustainable sourcing to manage sustainability risks in upstream supply chains.
Summary, in English
The raw material tier in companies’ supply chains can be a hotspot for sustainability issues like deforestation and resulting legal, reputational, financial and operational risks – yet companies’ supply chain management efforts as well as research on sustainable supply chain management still focus on direct suppliers due to poor upstream transparency. With technical progress, remote sensing and satellite technology now allow companies to gain systematic, direct oversight of deforestation and related environmental change on the ground. This thesis addresses the research gap surrounding this largely practical phenomenon to synthesize lessons learned from current practice and contribute to better informed, data-driven supply chain sustainability risk management. This work draws on dynamic capabilities theory and multi-tier sustainable supply chain management theory to understand how a novel technical resource – remote sensing – connects to existing sustainable sourcing practices and governance mechanisms for managing sustainability across tiers. Empirical data is collected from 13 semi-structured expert interviews and 67 practitioner documents (reports, articles, websites, podcasts, webinars) and analyzed with a qualitative content analysis in NVivo. The results are synthesized into a conceptual framework and show that remote sensing requires integration into a mature sustainable sourcing approach that structures buyers’ internal resources and skills to fulfill traceability, monitoring, follow-up and stakeholder accountability functions. The thesis further differentiates three governance mechanisms (working along the supply chain, across supply chains and across sectors) that buyers employ to compensate for internal weaknesses by gaining access to complementary external resources and skills. The conceptual framework highlights that remote sensing is no stand-alone or one-size-fits-all solution and specifies elements for companies to consider when adopting remote sensing or rethinking their sustainable sourcing. For research, it highlights the need for further insights into managing sustainability in opaque upstream supply chains.