Green Supply Chain Integration


How partner firms coordinate their environmental management practices: Green supply chain integration and its performance implications

This ESRC funded research project aims to identify effective practices of Green Supply Chain Integration (GSCI) that can simultaneously improve operational, environmental and financial performance of firms from developing and developed countries (eg China, Thailand and the UK).

Project members: Professor Chee Yew Wong.

Funded by: ESRC/RGC Bilateral (Hong Kong) small grant


In recent years many firms from developed and developing countries have seriously started to initiate green supply chain management to achieve greater efficiency and reduce environmental impacts of their supply chains. To become greener, many firms have now realized the need to collaborate or integrate with their supply chain partners to implement environmental management. Such efforts are noted from the participation of more than 120 companies, including British Telecom Group, Vospre Thornycroft Group Plc, Kraft Foods, IKEA, Levi Strauss and Co., and others, in the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative, where firms measure carbon emissions of their product life cycle and supply chains.

In the management literature, there is a paucity of knowledge about how firms may effectively coordinate environmental management across their supply chains, and most importantly, how firms can achieve desirable environmental performance throughout a supply chain without compromising their operational performance. Even though some recent studies indicate that environmental collaboration (collaboration with suppliers and customers in environmental management) could lead to both better operational and environmental performance, the effectiveness of such a concept is yet to be thoroughly proven and understood.

This research elevates the concept of environmental collaboration to a novel concept called Green Supply Chain Integration (GSCI), which is a more strategic and integrative approach to achieving green supply chain performance. The research plans to identify the effective practices of Green Supply Chain Integration that can simultaneously improve operational and environmental performance of firms from developing and developed countries (Hong Kong, China, Thailand and UK). It will reveal the complementary effects of various Green Supply Chain Integration practices and factors such as regulation, competitive priority, supply chain structure which may support or inhibit such efforts.

This research is important because most supply chains are globally fragmented and yet every firm needs to simultaneously achieve superior operational and environmental performance. It is a timely research because the needs to effectively coordinate environmental practices in a global supply chain have now been recognised but there is a lack of insight into how breakthroughs in operational and environmental performance can be achieved.

Publications and outputs

The research shows that some companies in developed and developing countries have implemented integrated green supply chain management practices called green supply chain integration (GSCI). It shows that companies have started to created an integrated management system that guides the implementation of company strategy and top management behaviour towards a better balance between financial and environmental goals (green internal integration). This is a very crucial first step before companies can effectively communicate and collaborate with suppliers, customers and community stakeholders. It shows that some companies have started to work with community stakeholders such as local governments, NGOs and even competitors to coordinate their efforts in greening the global supply chains (green stakeholder integration). Such multi-stakeholder initiatives become effective especially when they are supported by major buyers and United Nations. We also found out that, collaboration with suppliers, customers and other stakeholders rely not only on creating new trust and better relationship. It depends on the exchange information and integration of environmental management processes across the supply chains (green supplier, customer and stakeholder integration).

More importantly, this research shows that it is possible to achieve better competitive performance in environment, cost and finance by implementing all the green supply chain integration (GSCI) practices. This finding is encouraging because it means it is possible to be lean, green and profitable. However, the research shows that companies cannot focus on just one of the four GSCI practices - such companies will not achieve cost and financial benefits. Some GSCI practices are more effective in improving environmental performance (green internal and supplier integration) other are more effective in improving cost and financial performance (green supplier and customer integration). The research shows that companies that have successfully implemented all four GSCI practices (green internal, supplier, customer and stakeholder integration) also performed well in environmental, cost and financial performance over their competitors.

The empirically validated measurement of GSCI provides managerial insights to practitioners on how they may develop GSCI by adopting the various practices to establish green internal integration, green supplier integration, green customer integration, and green stakeholder integration to improve performance. The validated measurement of GSCI also lays ground for future research GSCI by providing a measure for future studies to examine issues such as the antecedents of GSCI, the organizational structure and business environmental conditions under which GSCI is effective in improving performance.

Exploitation routes

The findings can be taken forward or put to use by other researchers - they can apply the theoretical conceptualization of the green supply chain integration and its empirical evidence to further advance theories related to environmental supply chain management in a complex supply chain. Other researchers should consider adopting a multiple dimensional measure of each type of green supply chain integration in order to examine the real extent of the novel green supply chain management concepts.

The findings can be taken forward or put to use by practitioners (supply chain managers) - especially for those firms that have responded to the survey, they can use the list of green supply chain management practices to first diagnose their practices and benchmark their practices with other survey respondents. The research shows supply chain managers the combinations of green supply chain integration practices that help to achieve lean, green and profitability. They can then learn from the findings of this research to identify effectives ways to improve both operations and environmental performance through applying the green supply chain integration approaches identified by this research.


The research helps firms in the UK, HK/China and Thailand to create and improve action plans for coordinating environmental management to achieve sustainable environmental and operational performance, leading to less pollution and adverse environmental impact and therefore improving the quality of life of the involved communities.

To achieve this impact, the project website will continuously inform and update interested parties, including business managers and policy makers, with key findings of the research via Electronic news (e-news). Wider audiences will be reached via regional and national newspapers. Next, several practitioner-friendly papers and industry benchmarking reports will be made available for downloading. These publications and benchmarking reports provide key findings of the research including best practices, lessons learnt, operating models, implementation key success factors and implementation frameworks. The research will publish a practitioner article at the CIPS's Supply Management Magazine. E-news will alert the availability of such publications. The website is open to any interested businesses to download the various papers and reports. Downloading frequency will be traced and reported to measure the extent of the dissemination.

The proposed interview, survey and case study will be used to engage with businesses. Each survey respondent will receive a personalized industrial benchmarking report. Two case studies are planned to further explain the survey findings as well as allowing the investigators and case companies to co-develop practical frameworks and action plans to coordinate environmental management.

Selected case companies will be asked to share the success and experience with other by giving keynote speeches at the industrial seminar. Relevant businesses, industrial associations, regulatory bodies, academic researchers and management consultants will be invited to participate in the one-day industrial seminars. Copies of policy and industrial benchmarking reports will be distributed to the relevant participants. The industrial seminar allows the investigators and invited case companies to explain the key findings and recommendations to the participants. A break-out discussion session during industrial seminar will allow participants to engage with each other, share best practices, and create opportunity for future collaboration. Management consultants will be able to translate the findings of this research into consultancy frameworks to benefit wider business communities.

This research informs policy makers the effects of current environmental policies in encouraging firms from developed and developing countries to jointly reduce environmental impacts of their supply chain. Policy-focus papers based on the survey and case study findings produced by the PIs will be made available for downloading. The policy report provides scientifically rigour analyses to prove its effectiveness of the various ways environmental policies affecting buying firms in communicating, monitoring and collaborating with their suppliers. Relevant policy makers will be invited to participate in the industrial seminar. The purpose of such is to spur further debates and policy improvement. A break-out discussion session during industrial seminar will allow policy makers to discuss policy implications with the related industries. Policy makers from developed and developing countries may take the findings of the research as a basis for harmonizing relevant policies.

The business and management research community will benefit from the novel theory of green supply chain integration (GSCI) developed by this research. The research will disseminate the findings of this research mainly through three major conferences - EurOMA, POMS, AOM and three journals - JOM, DSJ/IJOPM and AMJ.