The spread of environmental sustainability practices in business networks

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The study investigates how and why environmental sustainability (ES) practices spread between organisations in business networks. The Industrial Marketing and Purchasing (IMP) network approach is adopted as the theoretical foundation to allow for a multi-perspective analysis of the interactions between the numerous organisations influencing an entity’s environmental policies and practices, such as government departments, industry organisations, competitors, environmental advocacy groups, consumers, customers, suppliers, suppliers’ suppliers and so forth. Understanding the spread of ES practices is relevant to lead companies and brand owners, governments and international organisations, among others, who have a need to extend ES practices in supply chains, industries and the world, respectively. An analysis of spread is important in light of the lack thereof in certain supply chain tiers, industries and countries. Three case studies were conducted in the Western Australia (WA) pork and dairy industries. The data consists of 34 in-depth interviews and documentary analysis including a ten year review of the Sustainability Reports of the large Australian supermarkets (Coles and Woolworths), as well as UK and USA comparative supermarkets. An abductive approach to theory building is used where the empirical data is iteratively compared to prior IMP network, (green) supply chain management, diffusion of innovations and complexity science literature, until a theoretical saturation point is reached. An event-based approach to process analysis is used and case comparisons performed. A key process of spread of ES practices in both the pork and dairy industries is the slow, steady momentum of spread arising from decades of enacting and enforcing environmental legislation, regulations and reporting requirements. Fourteen macro-processes of spread are identified. The study highlights that the spread of ES practices arises from multiple, interacting processes of spread occurring in series and in parallel. Each of these processes in turn is seen to arise from further sub-processes of spread in an iterative progression. The findings show that the processes of spread, factors influencing spread and events making up the processes of spread can be analysed at various levels of aggregation, such as the international, national, state, industry, supply chain, dyadic and organisational levels. The study contributes a holistic categorisation of the processes of spread of ES practices in business networks, the factors influencing the spread of ES practices and characteristics of ES practices affecting their spread.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
  • Purchase, Sharon, Supervisor
  • Soutar, Geoff, Supervisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


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