Knowledge Challenges for Responsible Supply Chain Management of Chemicals in Textiles

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Natasja BORJESON , School of natural sciences, technology and environmental studies, Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden
Michael GILEK , Södertörn University, Sweden
Mikael KARLSSON , Södertörn University, Sweden
A great number of chemicals are used along the complex supply chains of textiles. Since many of these substances are hazardous to human health and the environment, dealing with knowledge-related challenges plays a central role for achieving a responsible governance of textile supply chains. Although previous research enables identification of general organisational commitments and capabilities facilitating aspirations of responsible supply chain management (RSCM), the challenges in various contextual settings need more detailed scrutiny. In this study, we investigate which knowledge requirements and knowledge strategies textile procuring organisations experience and apply when striving to satisfy expectations from external stakeholders as well as from internal pressure. We describe these challenges regarding chemical risks in the supply chain and analyse how the efforts potentially relate to expressed commitments as well as perceived capabilities for responsible supply chain management (RSCM). We lean on literature on Supply Chain Management and Sustainable Supply Chain Management in order to analyse the knowledge process. Empirically, the paper builds on a qualitative study of medium-sized Swedish textile procuring organizations. Participatory observations and a series of semi- structured interviews were conducted with staff responsible for environment, procurement, and CSR, as well as with other actors that in various ways engage in developing policies, instruments, and knowledge of relevance for RSCG. The empirical results show that several textile procuring organisations express serious commitments towards achieving RSCM. However, most organisations feel they lack capabilities in rising to the challenge. There seems to be a poor state of knowledge on many substances and inherent difficulties in both gaining knowledge on chemical risks as well as facilitating a responsible management upstream complex supply chains.