University of Tasmania
Rezaei_Vandchali_whole_thesis.pdf (7.35 MB)

Managing relationships to improve sustainability in the supply chain network for Australian food retailers

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posted on 2023-05-28, 08:51 authored by Hadi Rezaei VandchaliHadi Rezaei Vandchali
Incorporating sustainability practices into supply chain management (SCM) has attracted increasing attention from both academics and practitioners. This mainly emanated from increasing pressure imposed by various stakeholders such as government regulators, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and customers, who expect firms to have more commitment to sustainability. This means that supply chains are actually part of extended networks that require interdependent relationship building and fostering by firms to achieve sustainability objectives. Developing effective relationships is a key factor in sustainable supply chain management (SSCM), and are crucial for firms as the valuable resources and capabilities rarely exist within one firm. Since firms interact within a large network, the focal firm maintains different types of relationship management strategies (RMS) with various supply chain network (SCN) actors, such as suppliers, manufacturers, and customers. However, finding an appropriate type of RMS relevant to sustainability practices is a challenging task. In addition, analysing SSCM from a network perspective emphasises the necessity of understanding the embeddedness of focal firms within a wider stakeholder network. Therefore, this thesis brings the topic to prominence by firstly identifying factors that conceptualise the SCN structure, secondly, categorising various types of RMS, and finally analysing the significant role of the SCN structure in deciding appropriate types of RMS when managing sustainability issues within the SCN. Since this thesis investigates the pattern of the relationship among various SCN actors from a focal firm perspective, the main unit of analysis is a complete SCN within the Australian food retail industry. Focal firms play a key role and tend to have three unique characteristics: governing the supply chain, having direct contact to the customer and designing the product or service. Based on these three characteristics of focal firms, this thesis involves two large retailers, Wesfarmers (currently trading as Coles) and Woolworths, the two largest focal firms in the Australian food retail industry. A quantitative approach via a web-based survey was adopted to collect empirical data. A total of 278 suppliers of food products to Coles and Woolworth were randomly selected for the survey. Sixty-six completed questionnaires were returned, equating to a response rate of 24%. The constructs developed to test the research hypotheses were validated via exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and hierarchical multiple regression analysis. Five factors conceptualising the SCN structure (transparency, power, supplier dependency, buyer dependency, and distance) are identified and validated. In addition, four RMS (non-compliance, transactional, dictatorial, and collaborative) relevant to implementing sustainability practices are identified and validated by empirical data, which have not been thoroughly examined by prior studies. Results also suggest that distance between focal firms and their suppliers has a significant effect on non-compliance RMS; transparency, supplier dependency, buyer dependency and distance have an effect on transactional RMS; transparency and supplier dependency have an effect on dictatorial RMS; and transparency and distance have an effect on collaborative RMS. Since few prior studies have applied the network perspective in retail SCM, this thesis makes a useful contribution by empirically analysing SCM in two different complex supply chains. As it can be challenging for focal firms to extend their efforts to numerous SCN actors in terms of sustainability issues due to the costs associated with sustainability practices, the findings of this thesis provide recommendations to managers on how to create a balance when devoting resources to managing sustainability issues between various SCN actors. In addition, suggestions are provided for managers in relation to replacing existing RMS with an alternative by controlling the related factors of the SCN structure. The findings further suggest that managers in focal firms can benefit from a network perspective by paying more attention to the peripheral SCN actors. Thus, managers in focal firms can prioritise these actors by assigning a more proactive approach (collaborative or dictatorial) to not only reduce the negative impact of public scrutiny, but also distinguish themselves in the business network by, for example, adopting green supplier championing.


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Copyright 2019 the author Appendix K appears to be the equivalent of an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of business to business marketing on 12 May 2020, available online:

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