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Building bridges: towards an alternative theory of sustainable supply chain management

Matthews, Lee; Touboulic, Anne; Power, Damien; Marques, Leonardo


Damien Power

Leonardo Marques


We contend that the development of sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) theory has been impaired by a lack of paradigmatic diversity in the field. The contested nature of the concept of sustainability has been repressed in SSCM theory, which has led to SSCM cutting itself off from debates that could be the source of inspiration for the development of interesting theory. We adopt the problematization approach proposed by Alvesson and Sandberg (2011) in order to unveil some of SSCM's unquestioned assumptions, propose an alternative assumption ground, and in this way move toward stronger theory in SSCM. We use paradoxical framing to make sense of the inherent tensions between the different levels of sustainability and between the different types of theory being produced in response to the challenges of sustainability. We articulate a number of foundational assumptions for an alternative theory of SSCM that emerge from the various tensions identified between the different paradigms of sustainability. Finally, we identify a number of ideas for future research that would enable researchers to empirically explore the alternative assumptions.


Matthews, L., Touboulic, A., Power, D., & Marques, L. (2016). Building bridges: towards an alternative theory of sustainable supply chain management. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 52(1), 82-94.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 9, 2015
Online Publication Date Dec 28, 2015
Publication Date Jan 11, 2016
Deposit Date May 21, 2018
Journal Journal of Supply Chain Management
Print ISSN 1523-2409
Electronic ISSN 1745-493X
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 52
Issue 1
Pages 82-94
Public URL
Publisher URL