Sustainability and the False Sense of Legitimacy: How Institutional Distance Augments Risk in Global Supply Chains
Journal of Business Logistics
43 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2015 Last revised: 21 Jul 2016
Date Written: June 10, 2016
Supply chain scholars have begun to recognize the institutional influences on supply chains, yet scarce attention has been directed towards the fact that global supply chains often comprise different institutions. This omission represents a severe shortcoming because the understanding of what constitutes legitimate behavior may vary substantially between contexts. This conceptual study employs the institutional distance concept to the case of supply chain sustainability risks. It focuses initially on paradoxical situations in which both the buyer and the supplier fully comply with stakeholder expectations within their own legitimacy contexts, yet the buyer’s stakeholders still withdraw legitimacy from and harm the buyer. The study analyzes the causal microfoundations of how and why such paradoxical risks manifest, drawing on stakeholder theory and institutional theory. The analysis shows that accounting for the differing legitimacy contexts is necessary for explaining these risks, thereby substantiating our initial claim that institutional distance matters to global supply chains. The study yields important implications for corporate practice in that it highlights an inherent trade-off in many global supply chains.
Keywords: institutional distance, legitimacy context, stakeholder, supply chain risk, sustainability
JEL Classification: M10, M11, M14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation