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Green Supply Chain Management Research Proposal

Introduction

At a certain point in time, an organization might start considering the environmental impact it makes along with it suppliers. The starting point for such consideration can be seen when such factors are important to the strategy of the company. In the last decade, the strategy of the company regarding environmental awareness is influenced more and more with the pressure of the society on adopting green practices, which significantly increased over the last decade (Vachon, 2007). Nevertheless, the costs of the adoption of such practices and the needed resources can be seen as an important factor to consider by organizations (Thun and Müller, 2010).

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One area of such environmental management is concerned with supply chain, i.e. green supply chain management (Gr SCM). Such area is gaining an increasing interest among researchers and practitioners, mainly due to the deterioration of the environment, e.g. diminishing raw material resources, overflowing waste, sites and increasing levels of pollution” (Srivastava, 2007). Considering the need for resources to implement such practices, the identification of the priority of such practices in the way they are implemented along with their importance might be required. With the majority of literature is management and suppliers driven in terms of green supply-chain, it is proposed to investigate the perception of consumers of the green initiatives of a company. The focus of the proposed research will be based on cosmetics companies and cosmetics products, considering the recent trend in focusing on natural products

Statement of the Problem

In terms of cosmetics the emphasis on the use of natural products can be seen related only to a single element of the supply chain, which is the purchase of raw materials and the way they are manufactured. Accordingly, translated into information for consumers such element does not mean that the programs on controlling and improving environmental practices are implemented across the whole supply chain. Supply chain consists of other processes as well, each of which can be redesigned to reduce the environmental impact (Lu et al., 2007). The latter include such areas as inbound and outbound logistics, waste management, and others. In that regard, not all corporations can implement environmental policies in their supply chains, due to the economic risks with such implementation. At the same time, changes in consumers’ perceptions and behaviour regarding the green processes are yet to be understood, especially those changes that might not be directly related to the quality of the product. The selection of consumers as a driving force for evaluation is supported in Thun and Müller (2010), which study of ecological initiatives outlined consumers as the main drivers for adopting such initiatives (Thun and Müller, 2010). It can be stated that the study is atheoretical, where the theoretical propositions in sustainable supply chain management emphasize that the connection between customers and companies is investigated through hypotheses focusing on benchmarks (Seuring, 2010). A review of literature did not identify frameworks dealing with such problem, although in in Solér, Bergström, and Shanahan (2010), the study focused similarly on information exchanged between retail customers and suppliers. Information and perceptions regarding the need for and use of environmental information was only a part of the study, in which customers where large purchasers, rather than individual users. The study outlined the use of individual interviews as a suitable method for data collection. Accoridngly, there is

The Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to explore the perceptions of consumers regarding different green initiatives in the supply chain, and the way they might influence the purchasing behaviour in the consumer industry. The philosophical paradigm taken in the present research is that of constructivist-interpretive paradigm (Belk, 2006), for which a qualitative research method will be chosen. In that regard, the following objectives are established for the research:

  • To explain consumers’ view of green in cosmetics products.
  • To identify the elements of supply chain that might change the behaviour of consumers, e.g. change brand preference, switch product, etc.
  • To identify the green innovations in the supply chain which will not change the behaviour of consumers.
  • To describe information on the supply chain that creates an environmental awareness.

Achieving the aforementioned objectives will be helpful in setting the priority for companies on the elements of the supply chain to which green practices should be extended in the first place, in order to reduce economic risks. With the main domain s in the objective being related to comprehension and knowledge, the main objective is to gain an understanding, which will be achieved through a qualitative research design. The specific research design and the data collection method for the study is focus group. A detailed explanation of such design and the rationale for its selection is explained in details in the methodology section of this proposal.

Literature Review

One of the aspects that can be used to guide the proposed research is related to the way the environmental awareness of the company can be linked to the satisfaction of customers and in turn to profits for the company. In that regard, the commitment of the company to greening initiatives in their operations is merely represented through information about such initiatives. In Solér, Bergström, and Shanahan (2010), the use of environmental information was investigated, along with its perception along the various supply chain actors. The findings of such investigation indicate that the implementation of environmental information is performed purely on financial ground. Such findings might indicate the emphasis on profit maximization as a driving force in implementing environmental practices in the supply chain.

A summary of such practices can be found in literature. In that regard, such practices are stated to include internal and external activities (Vachon and Klassen, 2006). Additionally, such practices are comprised of two sets of environmental activities, which are environmental collaboration and environmental monitoring (Vachon, 2007). Connecting such sets to internalization and externalization of supply chain activities, it is stated that internalization, i.e. integrating environment managing activities, is related to environmental collaboration, while externalization, i.e. employing market-based mechanism, is related to monitoring activities (Vachon, 2007). Specifying such activities, they might include suppliers’ voluntary compliance with a code of practice, imposing environmental specifications, certification, conducting questionnaires and audits on the compliance of suppliers to environmental standards (Vachon, 2007). Other more specific practices can be extracted from literature, from which one of the research questions can be derived, what is the environmental innovations in the supply chain that might change/form the perception of a company as green.

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The connection of the environmental protection initiatives of a company with their customers are argued to be linked mainly through reputation. The latter can b translated into an environmental pressure which the consumers’ exercise on manufacturers, so that they minimize their emissions, produce environmentally friendly products, and/or sound recycling network systems (Cruz and Matsypura, 2009). Thus, poor environmental performance damages the reputation of the company. Thus, aside from corporate scandals and explicit violations, the way the environmental performance of the company can be evaluated as good or bad from the perspective of the consumer, the party responsible for environmental pressure, might need evaluation. Accordingly, the research question that can be derived will state: what consumers perceive as a green/environmentally friendly company?

The answer to such question can be important in that the evaluation of environmental performance might be based on criteria, which are not known or easily known by consumers. An example of the latter can be seen through the environmental criteria developed in Lu, Wu, and Kuo (2007), which include the percentage of components, for which suppliers has incorporated environmental management system, the percentage of those suppliers published in the environmental report, if existed, the use of recycled material in manufacturing, the type of packaging used, waste management, etc (Lu et al., 2007). Accordingly, exploring the effect of changes in such criteria on the perception of consumers on the company, and accordingly, on purchasing decision might be important. In that regard, the questions that might be derived in such aspects might state: what information on supply chain operations that might change the perception about a company, and subsequent consumer behaviour? What information will not affect such perception or decision?

The role of information can be seen important as well, where it was found in Solér, Bergström, and Shanahan (2010) that moving downstream in the supply chain and getting closer to the end consumers, lead to that the trade-off between economic and environmental goals is “a matter of consumers’ understanding of environmental problems” (Solér et al., 2010). The acknowledgement of such information and the way consumers use them, is an important aspect to identify, in that matter. The question that can be derived in that matter is: What information consumers use to identify the environmental performance of a company? Which elements of a supply chain are contained in such information?

The research designs implemented in studying supply chains can be divided between case studies, actions researches, and literature reviews (Seuring, 2010). The contribution of such research design can be seen focused on outlining the practices of green supply chains and their impact on the performance of organization. In that regard, such efforts emphasize positivistic perception of theory, which might show the lack of constructivist perspectives, which the proposed research is trying to achieve.

Research Questions

The research questions that the study will attempt to answer can be summarized as follows:

  1. What consumers perceive as a green/environmentally friendly company?
  2. What information consumers use to identify the environmental performance of a company?
    • What information consumers use to identify the environmental performance of a company?
    • Which elements of a supply chain are contained in such information?
  3. What is the environmental innovation in the supply chain that might change/form the perception of a company as green?
    • What information on supply chain operations that might change the perception about a company, and subsequent consumer behaviour?
    • What information will not affect such perception or decision?

Methodology

Design

The main focus of the research is to acknowledge the perception of the consumers of green supply chain, its practices, and priorities for purchase behaviour. Thus, with such aim being revolved around acquiring a better understanding of the way consumer construct their preferences and perceptions of the green initiatives, qualitative research methods are proposed to be used. The appropriateness of such method can be seen through its main characteristics such as the emphasis on understanding, the focus on understanding from the respondents’ point of view, interpretation, and explorative orientation (Ghauri and Grinhaug, 2005). The qualitative method that will be used, which is at the same time the method of data collection, will be focus group interview.

The use of such method can be justified by its simplicity and flexibility, the small number of participants required, and the dynamic quality of the interactions that might occur within the group (Smith, 2008, Kitzinger, 1995). The researcher will act as a moderator for the group, where the research questions will act as guidelines for initiating discussions. Accordingly, the dynamic nature of focus groups will allow capturing the differences in the perceptions of participants allowing a better understanding. The data will be audio taped through during the discussion, for further transcription and analysis. The number of the participants will be established in accordance to the common practices in such interviews, taking the minimum amount for convenience. The common practices imply six to ten participants per group, and three to five group s per project. Taking the minimal number will result in three groups with six participants each (Morgan, 1997).

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Sampling

The method of sampling used is convenience sampling, where the participants will be recruited near local cosmetics store among those willing to participate. It can be assumed that the composition of the group will be composed mostly of women with specific characteristics related to cosmetics consumer. Nevertheless, considering that the main criteria for the participants, according to the objectives of the research, are being a consumer of cosmetics products, such composition will be appropriate in the present context.

Analysis

The data will be transcribed and analysed for common themes and patterns. The data will be analysed through content analysis, where small chunks of data will be created and coded from the discussion transcripts. Each chunk of data will be coded and provided with a rich description, so that not only the frequency of such code is accounted for in the analysis. The Ethnograph application will be used as a tool that will aid in processing the qualitative data in the analysis (Qualis Research, 2010).

Time Schedule

Task No Activity Pessimistic Most likely Optimistic Estimated Duration (days) Predecessors
1 Introduction
2 Background 21 14 10 15
3 Problem Statement 21 14 10 15 2
4 Purpose of Paper 21 14 10 15 3
5 Literature Review
6 Selecting Resources 45 28 21 30 4
7 Synthesis 21 14 10 15 6
8 Report 60 45 30 45 7
9 Methodology
10 Participant recruitment 49 42 35 42 8
11 First focus group discussion 10 7 5 7 10
12 Second focus group discussion 10 7 5 7 11
13 Third focus group discussion 10 7 5 7 12
14 Data Analysis and Findings
15 Transcription 21 14 10 15 13
16 Data analysis 42 35 28 35 15
17 Results 10 7 5 7 16
18 Findings 10 7 5 7 17
19 Report 21 14 10 15 18
20 Conclusion and Implications
21 Summary 21 14 10 15 19
22 Limitations 21 14 10 15 21
23 Implications 21 14 10 15 22
24 Editing and Proofreading 49 42 35 42 23

Time Schedule

Significance of Study

The significance of the study can be seen through the addition to the knowledge on green supply chain management from the perspective of consumers. Such knowledge can be beneficial for small to medium companies, for which the priorities of the green practices can be essential in terms of resources. The exploratory nature of the research implies for the need for empirical support, in which the identified patterns should be studied in a quantitative or mixed design study in the future. The emphasis on environmental awareness continues to increase with more and more pressure in the society. Nevertheless, extending green practices throughout the whole supply chain can be a difficult matter, which requires cooperation on many levels of the supply chain.

References

BELK, R. W. 2006. Handbook of qualitative research methods in marketing, Cheltenham, UK ; Northampton, MA, Edward Elgar.

CRUZ, J. M. & MATSYPURA, D. 2009. Supply chain networks with corporate social responsibility through integrated environmental decision-making. International Journal of Production Research, 47, 621-648.

GHAURI, P. N. & GRINHAUG, K. 2005. Research methods in business studies : a practical guide, Harlow, England ; New York, Financial Times Prentice Hall.

KITZINGER, J. 1995. Introducing Focus Groups. British Medical Journal, 311, 299-302.

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LU, L. Y. Y., WU, C. H. & KUO, T. C. 2007. Environmental principles applicable to green supplier evaluation by using multi-objective decision analysis. International Journal of Production Research, 45, 4317-4331.

MORGAN, D. L. 1997. Focus groups as qualitative research / David L. Morgan, Thousand Oaks, Calif., Sage Publications.

QUALIS RESEARCH. 2010. Ethnograph 6.0. Web.

SEURING, S. 2010. Supply chain management for sustainable products – insights from research applying mixed methodologies. Business Strategy and the Environment, n/a-n/a.

SMITH, J. A. 2008. Qualitative psychology : a practical guide to research methods, Los Angeles, Calif., SAGE Publications.

SOLÉR, C., BERGSTRÖM, K. & SHANAHAN, H. 2010. Green supply chains and the missing link between environmental information and practice. Business Strategy and the Environment, 19, 14-25.

SRIVASTAVA, S. K. 2007. Green supply-chain management: A state-of-the-art literature review. International Journal of Management Reviews, 9, 53-80.

THUN, J.-H. & MÜLLER, A. 2010. An empirical analysis of green supply chain management in the German automotive industry. Business Strategy and the Environment, 19, 119-132.

VACHON, S. 2007. Green supply chain practices and the selection of environmental technologies. International Journal of Production Research, 45, 4357-4379.

VACHON, S. & KLASSEN, R. D. 2006. Extending green practices across the supply chain. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 26, 795-821.

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