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Social Sustainable Supply Chain Management in the Textile and Apparel Industry—A Literature Review

School of Textiles & Design, Reutlingen University, Alteburgstraße 150, 72762 Reutlingen, Germany
Institute of Sustainable Corporate Management, Ulm University, Helmholtzstraße 18, 89081 Ulm, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2017, 9(1), 100;
Submission received: 11 November 2016 / Revised: 6 December 2016 / Accepted: 16 December 2016 / Published: 12 January 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability Issues in the Textile and Apparel Supply Chains)


So far, a vast amount of studies on sustainability in supply chain management have been conducted by academics over the last decade. Nevertheless, socially related aspects are still neglected in the related discussion. The primary motivation of the present literature review has arisen from this shortcoming, thus the key purpose of this study is to enrich the discussion by providing a state-of-the-art, focusing exclusively on social issues in sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) by considering the textile/apparel sector as the field of application. The authors conduct a literature review, including content analysis which covers 45 articles published in English peer-reviewed journals, and proposes a comprehensive map which integrates the latest findings on socially related practices in the textile/apparel industry with the dominant conceptualization in order to reveal potential research areas in the field. The results show an ongoing lack of investigation regarding the social dimension of the triple bottom line in SSCM. Findings indicate that a company’s internal orientation is the main assisting factor in sustainable supply chain management practices. Further, supplier collaboration and assessment can be interpreted as an offer for suppliers deriving from stakeholders and a focal company’s management of social risk. Nevertheless, suppliers do also face or even create huge barriers in improving their social performance. This calls for more empirical research and qualitative or quantitative survey methods, especially at the supplier level located in developing countries.

1. Introduction

As textile/apparel supply chains are becoming increasingly global [1], the rising level of outsourcing to developing countries has placed increasing focus on sustainability [2,3,4,5,6,7]. Therefore, the need to understand how to integrate sustainability into globally fragmented supply chains is highly important [3].
In fact, there has been rising concern about sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) in general over the last years among both managers and academics. Obviously, this can be seen by the number of papers published but also by the daily news and the increasing corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts of textile/apparel companies. In academic communities, a very popular screening is the concept of the triple bottom line (TBL), which has been developed by Elkington [8]. Many years later, as the sustainability debate began to emerge, Carter and Rogers [9] concisely discussed sustainable supply chain management by building on the TBL concept and its integration of the three dimensions (environmental, social, and economic) into the supply chain. Based on this, when a company aims to achieve at least a minimum level of sustainability, it has been suggested that it extends all three components of the TBL to every link in its supply chain [8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16]. Seuring and Müller [17] expanded the area of sustainable supply chain management research significantly by taking goals from all three dimensions of the TBL into account, which are mainly triggered by pressures and incentives of external demands such as governments, customers, and other stakeholders. In line with the external pressures, the term “risk” has attracted increasing attention and has been summarized in the literature review of Seuring and Müller [17] as a normative strategy, so called supplier management for risk and performance. This, to put it simply, describes an SSCM strategy by focal companies to counteract supply chain disruptions by the implementation of supplier management systems such as environmental and social standards, e.g., ISO14001 and SA8000.
Although the major research stream did not investigate all three dimensions simultaneously in one study [16,18], it is, according to Zorzini et al. [7], generally accepted that the social, environmental, and economic dimensions of the TBL are complementary and connected to each other, and have some common drivers, enablers, and barriers [17,19,20] within a supply chain. Nevertheless, there might be differences on the relevance of one dimension in specific industries. For instance, the textile and apparel sector, which is acknowledged for its labor intensiveness and its outsourcing activities to developing countries with usually high corruption rates [21]. As a consequence, this shows a clear deficit regarding, e.g., transparency of suppliers, and thus directs the focus more importantly on the social dimension. Moreover, despite the growing number of papers, the latest literature reviews reveal that there is still a clear deficit regarding social issues in sustainable supply chain management research and thus there is a call for more specific research in the field [7,17,22,23]. In fact, the recent study of Freise and Seuring [3] identified that the management of social risk within the apparel industry includes practices such as conducting code of conduct and social audits, cooperating with multi-tiers, or offering incentives to suppliers [3]. Common examples of social risks within the textile/apparel supply chain include child labor or extensive working hours and can be mitigated by applying social risk management practices [3,24]. Furthermore, by quickly scanning previous literature reviews, it can easily be observed that research papers tend to focus on environmental issues in sustainable supply chain management (SSCM), spread over various industries [25]. This tendency has also been supported by Zorzini et al. [7] who conducted, to the best of the author’s knowledge, the latest literature review regarding social issues in SSCM so far. For the period 1997–2013, Zorzini et al. [7] reviewed a total of 157 papers, focusing only on the social dimension of responsible sourcing, which has been declared as an important aspect of the broader SSCM agenda. Based on their research applied in multiple industries, one significant finding emerged, and outlines that there is a specific need to consider the supplier perspective in developing countries. Hence, the paper at hand extends the period of review than that of Zorzini et al. [7], but also focuses differently on one specific industry, i.e., the textiles/apparel industry solely, and integrates dominant SSCM knowledge into the debate. This should help gain a more detailed insight into the field, with the purpose to discuss potential expansion areas to trigger socially related research in sustainable supply chain management. More specifically, this paper aims to answer three questions:
  • RQ1: How can socially related research in the textile/apparel industry be integrated to the dominant conceptualizations of SSCM and what are the striking drivers, enablers, and barriers for the implementation of social risk management practices?
  • RQ2: Is there a particular need in the textiles and apparel industry to consider the supplier perspective in developing countries, as Zorzini et al. [7] discussed?
  • RQ3: What are potential areas for future development of socially related research in SSCM?
By conducting a literature review, including content analysis on the social dimension of SSCM within the textiles/apparel sector, the authors subscribe to both academics and professionals. The paper at hand summarizes what is known so far and suggests further research areas in socially related SSCM research for academics. Furthermore, this paper offers managerial guidelines by pointing out the importance of social aspects regarding the CSR practices of an apparel company.
The second section provides a brief summary of recent SSCM-related literature reviews, including a presentation of a conceptual framework and the characteristics of the apparel industry to justify the study at hand. The third section describes the methodology used to identify the papers for the content analysis. In Section 4, the review results are presented. Key research findings are then discussed in Section 5, by adapting the conceptual framework provided in the literature review. Finally, this paper ends with conclusions in Section 6.

2. Summary of Related Literature and Conceptual Framework

2.1. Sustainable Supply Chain Management

So far, research already clearly distinguished SSCM from conventional supply chain management (SCM) [16]. To understand the debate of SSCM, one definition of Seuring and Müller [17] is provided. “Sustainable SCM is the management of material, information and capital flows as well as cooperation among companies along the supply chain while integrating goals from all three dimensions of sustainable development, i.e., economic, environmental and social, which are derived from customer and stakeholder requirements”. Within the sustainable supply chain there are three important actors, which are the focal company, suppliers, and stakeholder groups [16]. While focal companies play a key role in SCM, and cooperation with suppliers to fulfil customer needs is essential, the stakeholders play a more crucial role, according to the above-mentioned definition and in contrast to conventional SCM [16,17].
As already stated in the introduction section, a proliferation of literature reviews regarding SSCM can be found. Generally, it can be observed that many studies investigate SCM issues under the umbrella of the TBL concept [9,17,23] to develop and offer conceptual frameworks for further research, i.e., theory building in the field.
Carter and Rogers [9] conceptualized the discipline of SSCM based on the TBL and four supporting aspects of sustainability: risk management, transparency, strategy, and culture. Seuring & Müller [17] expanded the area of sustainable supply chain management research significantly by taking goals from all three dimensions of the TBL into account, but integrating pressures and incentives of external demands, such as governments, customers, and other stakeholders, into their framework. The conceptual model of Seuring and Müller [17] suggests that the focal company usually passes pressures, deriving from external demands such as NGOs (non-governmental organizations), on to suppliers, in order to counteract the problematic issues by implementing strategies, i.e., supplier management for risk and performance and supply chain management for sustainable products. Furthermore, with their review of 191 papers on SSCM, they address the limitation of the studies and revealed that social aspects are often neglected in sustainable development [17]. Due to its accessibility, the model of Seuring and Müller [17] emerges as an appropriate conceptualization, which serves as the fundament for the framework of this study and its related purpose. In order to draw a straightforward and comprehensive framework for the paper at hand, it turns out to be the most appropriate and applicable model. It depicts clearly all three actors of the supply chain and integrates pressures and incentives, rather than other conceptualizations in the field of SSCM, which are more specific, modelling only a part of the supply chain or not integrating pressures and incentives, e.g., [4,12,19,22,23,25,26].
During the debate on the operationalization of TBL in the supply chain, the term supply chain risk management has gained increased attention [3,9]. As risk can be understood as an effect that prevents companies from achieving their targets [27], it can be transferred to the sustainability debate. These risks include environmental, social, and economic dimensions, unlike the traditional supply chain risks. As defined by Carter and Rogers [9], sustainable supply chain risk management is “the ability of a firm to understand and manage its economic, environmental, and social risks in the supply chain”. In this regard, risk management practices include standards, e.g., corporate codes of conduct, certifications, e.g., ISO 14001 or SA8000, individual monitoring, e.g., audits, to track and trace suppliers, and pressure group management, which deals with the effort to present a positive image to stakeholders, e.g., collaboration with NGOs or implementation of visible and transparent CSR efforts [3,12,28,29]. Corporate social and environmental strategies can be described as the responsibility to take action in order to maintain ethical and environmental norms of a society in which a company is active [30]. Accordingly, and in line with other studies, conducting CSR reports provides the opportunity to signal and communicate positive social and environmental contributions to stakeholders in a transparent way [29,31]. But still, it seems difficult to argue that such CSR reports of apparel companies are generally providing stakeholders with detailed and comprehensive information about the supply chain. Additionally, in this context, it is interesting to note the prior paper of Seuring [16], who reviewed existing modelling approaches for SSCM. He found that papers including CSR in their title are more likely to model environmental issues and ignore social impacts, and thus are misused by researchers. Furthermore, he calls for more detailed evaluation of social impacts before being integrated into the present multi-objective modelling approaches [16]. Based on the abovementioned studies, the authors are able to draft the conceptual framework for the study at hand (see Figure 1), which is further extended with the findings and ideas of other relevant papers discussed in the following.
Walker and Jones [20] developed a typology that is beneficial in understanding and classifying internal and external enablers and barriers to SSCM. On the basis of the literature review in their paper, the researchers identified varieties of barriers and enablers to SSCM. Internal enablers can include, e.g., top management commitment to sustainability. On the other hand, external enablers can derive from stakeholders. With regard to internal barriers to SSCM, it has been highlighted that cost reduction strategies and obstacles such as the lack of training and monitoring, are evident. External barriers include, e.g., consumers’ demand for low product prices or a competitive environment [20]. Gimenez and Tachizawa [19] recommend distinguishing between enablers and drivers. Hence, drivers are initiating and motivating factors in implementing SSCM practices. By contrast, enablers are factors that assist companies in the realization and achievement of SSCM practices [19]. This view has been considered in Figure 1. According to the offered model by Gimenez and Tachizawa [19], the classification of sustainability practices can be explained by two approaches, assessment and collaboration, which are driven by internal and external enablers [29]. As stated by Tate et al. [29], assessment is any activity related to the evaluation of suppliers, such as audits, whereas collaboration refers to training and supporting suppliers within a supply chain. It seems logical to subordinate the two approaches to sustainable risk management. In line with the findings of Freise and Seuring [3], it has been found that both assessment and collaboration have a positive impact on environmental and social performance [19]. Moreover, other forerunning researchers [9,32,33,34] in socially related research found that increased involvement by purchasing managers in socially responsible activities leads to an enhanced supplier performance [34].
Here, the focus is on the social dimension of the supply chain, and the literature review of Tajbakhsh & Hassini [22] revealed that social sustainability measures have received scant attention so far [22]. This also has been highlighted by Zorzini et al. [7], as they found in their literature review that further research is required for measuring social sustainability. Nevertheless, classifications of socially sustainable measures can be found, and generally speaking, performance measurement is the effort to quantify a company’s task by its efficiency and effectiveness [22,31,35,36]. Giannakis & Papadopoulos [24] identified socially related risks in supply chains and provided definitions and practices on how to respond to the risks, i.e., child/forced labor, discrimination, unhealthy/dangerous working environment, inhuman treatment/harassment, unfair wages, unethical treatment of animals, and excessive working time. Based on these constructs and the suggested indicators, which are depicted later in Table 1, the social performance of a focal company or a supplier can be measured.
Brandenburg and Rebs [23] recently investigated 185 literature reviews and revealed that there is still a need to integrate pressures and incentives of external stakeholders into the debate about SSCM, as well as integrating sustainable supplier management or sustainable risk into SSCM models [23], following the approach of Seuring and Müller [17]. In other words, the integration of pressures and incentives of external stakeholders or the formalization of sustainable supplier management and sustainability risks are identified as future research perspectives [23]. Additionally, consistent with other reviews [16,19,22,25,26,37], their findings support the view that social aspects have been neglected by researchers in the SCM discipline [23].
Nevertheless, there are some notable studies dealing more specifically with the social dimension [38]. Mani et al. [39] recently described major social issues in the manufacturing supply chain in India. Among others, the most striking social issues are child labor, bonded labor, education, and wages [39]. Awaysheh and Klassen [40] explored the integration of social issues in the management of supply chains. They summarized four dimensions of supplier socially responsible practices: supplier human rights, supplier labor practices, supplier codes of conduct, and supplier social audits. Additionally, their findings emphasize that an increasing number of tiers in a supply chain will increase the use of supplier labor practices, codes of conduct, and social audits [40]. While Awaysheh and Klassen [40] treat suppliers as key stakeholders, this study decouples suppliers from that view to make modelling more sufficient (see Figure 1). Respectively, Zorzini et al. [7] determined the state-of-the-art in socially responsible sourcing. One key finding of their literature review suggests that there is a particular need to include the supplier perspective in developing countries in the present discussion [7]. Although few recent reviews on the social dimension of SSCM are currently available, further research in this field is needed, especially in a specific, labor-intensive sector such as the textile and apparel industry.

2.2. The Apparel Industry as the Field of Application

Changes in consumer lifestyle and the demand for trendy products have put pressure on the existing supply chain formats, and as the twenty-first century has arrived, well-known retailers like Zara and H&M have shifted the focus towards fast response to ever permanently changing trends and consumer demand [41]. Today’s apparel consumers expect constant change, so new products have to be available on a frequent basis. These facts automatically lead to increased pressure on apparel retailers to achieve lower costs and shorter lead times, resulting in poor labor standards in the supply chain [4,42]. As a consequence, apparel supply chains are becoming increasingly global [1,43], and the rising level of outsourcing to developing countries [44] has emphasized the focus on sustainability [3,4,5,6,13,45].
As already mentioned above, apparel trends change frequently, and to the contrary, sustainability is connected to a long-term perspective [46]. This discrepancy appears to have huge negative environmental and social impacts on the apparel supply chain. Typically, the apparel supply chain involves a large number of partners and is relatively long [47]. The use of water, energy, and chemicals in the manufacturing process, as well as the generation of waste and pollution in the production and transport processes of textiles and apparel, are major contributors to environmental damage. On the other side, unacceptable working conditions in developing countries, i.e., child labor the use of harmful chemicals, safety issues in factories, forced labor, and low wages are a few of the social concerns [4,21,46,48,49] which are bridging the link to social risks an apparel company may face in its supply chain.
According to Beard [50], “the difficulty [within the fashion industry] is to see how all the suppliers of the individual components can be ethically secured and accounted for, together with the labour used to manufacture the garment, its transport from factory to retail outlet, and ultimately the garment’s aftercare and disposal” [50]. In simplified terms, with its global reach, apparel supply chains appear to be is increasingly complex, globally dispersed and highly dynamic [3,4,17,21,51]. Hence, lack of transparency within the apparel supply chain is a consequence [41,52,53]. Therefore, being aware and implementing sustainable practices to their supply chains become inevitable practices for apparel companies, especially when considering the unfavorable publicity and lasting damage to the apparel brand [5,54,55,56]. Based on this, apparel companies face a huge pressure, deriving from stakeholders, such as NGOs, customers, buyers, media, trade associations, and government [3,17,45] when violating environmental and/or social aspects within their supply chain. Ergo, companies need to adopt environmental and social risk management in their supply chains, simultaneously providing the link to the above-mentioned literature on SSCM. This has also been highlighted by academics and researchers who point out how environmental and social risks management can be extended to suppliers and subsequently be measured [3,19,57]. According to that, the SA8000 standard [58] or code of conduct [59] can be implemented by focal companies in order to ensure work safety and conditions, health, or the right to establish unions. Subsequently, social audits are executed, which can also be conducted by third parties [3]. Again, the apparel sector is problematic as the supply chain is globally fragmented with many suppliers located in different (developing) countries and thus lacks transparency.

3. Methodology

To answer the research questions of this study, the authors conduct content analysis, which is an appropriate tool to assess relevant journal publications in order analyze the verbal and formal content [60]. Furthermore, it has been declared as an effective tool to conduct systematic literature reviews in a transparent way in order to provide insight to the research area [61]. Moreover, the content analysis method has been described by Seuring & Gold [61], with a more specific view on SCM. Based on the idea of Mayring [60] and their analysis, they provide guidelines for conducting content analysis, which is in turn the foundation for the paper at hand. In the following, the authors discuss the four suggested stages in conducting content analysis based on Mayring [60], i.e., material collection, descriptive analysis, category selection, and material evaluation, but extend the process with the suggestions of Seuring & Gold [61]. The proposed stages by Mayring [60] ensure validity as well as reliability and have been conducted successfully by other researchers of the field for similar objectives [12,17,23,61]. Additionally, in terms of validity and reliability, the content analysis research can be enhanced with the involvement of one more researcher during data search and analysis [62].
In the first stage, the aim is to define and delimitate the material according to the topic of the present paper. The paper at hand examines related publications in major electronic databases, namely, Elsevier (, Sage (, Wiley (, Emerald (, and Springer ( by using the library service of Ebsco ( The technique of keyword search has been recommended, especially when encompassing a specific topic that is present in various academic disciplines [61]. The keywords for the search process first arose from frequently used terms of related literature in the field. Subsequently, keywords were chosen by brainstorming of the researchers and were then extended with a snowball effect deriving from further literature. Finally, the following keywords were conducted during search: “clothing/apparel/textile”; “supply chain”; “supplier” “CSR”, “social*”; “social risk”; “social sustainability”; “sustain*”; “supplier collaboration”; “supplier assessment”, “ethic*”; “sweatshop”; “code of conduct”; “SA8000”. One should note that “*” was used at the end of three keywords to cover a broader range of possible papers, because many studies make use of sometimes slightly different keywords for the same concept. Due to the fact that extensive literature reviews in the research area of SSCM grew significantly during the last decade (e.g., [7,17]) and hence give insight to earlier papers, with a clear indication that socially related papers lack, the authors decided to focus on articles published between 2005 and 2016, with the expectation that socially related articles have increased to date. The alternation of the keywords resulted in a total of 1228 articles. Subsequently, duplicated results were deleted and a quick review of irrelevant papers resulted in 124 articles. This was especially the case for papers dealing merely with environmental or economic dimensions. The next validation step was a careful abstract and conclusion analysis, and only publications which matched to the following criteria have been considered for further analysis:
  • The papers are peer-reviewed, written in the English language, and published from 2005 to 2016.
  • The research paper has a clear link to the textile/apparel industry.
  • The paper evaluates sustainability issues, but with a clear link to socially related aspects.
  • The paper focuses on at least one actor within the sustainable supply chain, i.e., stakeholder, focal company, and supplier.
In this regard, sustainable product-bounded research has not been considered. Moreover, papers that appeared with a defining character, such as the study of Dickson and Eckman [63], are excluded from the sample [63]. Based on the above criteria and the inclusion of other papers that were cited in relevant articles, the resulting sample of papers comprised 45 manuscripts. A complete list of all reviewed papers is attached to Appendix A of the paper at hand.
The next stage is descriptive analysis and offers information at a glance about the relevant articles by depicting the distribution over the time period. Furthermore, this stage shows the focus of each research paper by considering the SSCM actors being revealed, the country’s level of development which the paper aimed at, and the related method researchers used to collect data.
In the category selection phase, the researcher needs to consider inductive and deductive category selection methods. Seuring & Gold [61] recommend a two-step process, which seems suitable for the paper at hand. As the paper at hand is conceptual in nature, the SSCM framework offers dimensions and categories which are based on the earlier literature review. This is related to a deductive approach and ensures construct validity. Nevertheless, further unexpected categories can emerge during the analysis of papers and are hence subsequently integrated into the existing analytical framework. More precisely, the authors inductively refined the categories during the coding process to extend and optimize the framework (Table 2, during discussion section). Reliability was ensured by directing a second researcher to the analysis of the papers.
Table 1 summarizes the deductive categories which derived from the conceptual framework (see Figure 1) during the literature review. The structural dimensions in Table 1 portray the three important actors of a sustainable supply chain [16]. The focus has been set on pressures and incentives for SSCM based on the idea of Seuring & Müller [17]. These pressures and incentives have been categorized in enablers, drivers, and barriers, according to Gimenez & Tachizawa [19] and Walker & Jones [20], which first of all derive from stakeholders, and are then being passed on to the suppliers by the affected focal companies. The typical approach to deal with those external risks are being managed by focal companies in their effort to implement social risk management [3]. Each actor of the sustainable supply chain can perceive pressures and incentives differently, and based on this, they assumably differ in their enablers, drivers, and barriers for a successful implementation of social risk management within the whole supply chain. This will be explored by effectively integrating the respective findings of the sample papers into the framework.
The last stage is material evaluation. Here, the combination of descriptive statistics as well as content analysis is expected to provide detailed insight to the research field in order to generate a comprehensive map and to answer the research questions (RQ1, RQ2, RQ3) of the study. The research sample of 45 papers was analyzed and text passages are coded in compliance with the suggested categories of the framework. In that regard, the professional software MAXQDA ( has been conducted for qualitative data analysis. As the deductive categories are theory-based and have been clearly defined, transparency and objectivity of the research process is given and increases coding reliability. During the whole process the results have been discussed with other researchers, which is beneficial in increasing internal validity. If it was appropriate, one paper could fit in multiple categories. The results are presented and discussed in the following section.

4. Results

4.1. Descriptive Analysis

The dispersion of the publications show a vague trend. While it was expected that the sample covers a small amount of papers it can be ascertained that the most papers were published in 2015. One attempt to explain this increase since 2009 is to associate those numbers to the review papers of previous authors dealing with SSCM aspects. As the literature review of this paper reveals, there are a great number of reviews available which highlighted the neglected social dimension of research papers. Moreover, between 2013 and 2015, the textile/apparel industry faced many issues, such as the Rana Plaza accident, which could be comprehended as a trigger for researchers to deal with social issues. Indeed, as this paper is written at the beginning of 2016, only one paper emerged, and thus it remains to be seen whether further papers are following (Figure 2). Regarding the appearance in journals, the leading one is the “Journal of Business Ethics” with six papers. Four papers appeared in the “International Journal of Production Economics”. The rest of the papers are dispersed across other journals with a maximum appearance of two papers per journal.
The following, Figure 3, differentiates the sample papers based on the SSCM actors that are mainly addressed. Moreover, it shows the country’s level of development which the paper primarily addresses, thus stating where the research sample of each study was located during the applied research method (e.g., survey on managers located in developed countries vs. survey on managers located in developing countries), and however, where the initial data for analysis has its origins, e.g., the study of Niklas Egels-Zandén and Lindholm [59]. They analyzed the factory audits conducted by the Fair Wear Foundation; however, the majority of suppliers are located in developing countries. Thus the authors consider this as “research focus on developing countries”. It is important to note, that in some studies, it is not identifiable where, e.g., survey managers are located, hence referred to as “without relation to industry grade”. Notwithstanding, according to RQ1, the main interesting data is whether the paper focuses on developing countries or not and hence is automatically categorized to “research focus on developed countries or without relation to industry grade”, once it fails. Suppliers as SSCM actors have been researched often by scholars (23). Unsurprisingly here, the proportion of developing countries being addressed is strikingly noticeable. Focal companies are another attractive research object across all the papers (24). Also, it is no surprise that here the proportion of developed countries being addressed are mostly evident. This can be referred to the fact that multi-national corporations of the textile/apparel industry are primarily located in western countries and thus the researchers have much easier access to data. Studying focal companies alone (10) and papers evaluating focal companies and suppliers (10) in one paper seems to be an attractive choice.
Lastly, Figure 4 emphasizes the research method used by the authors of each article. It is important to note that the majority of the case studies generally include interviews or questionnaires but need to be distinguished from an explicit survey method. A case study usually entails the detailed and intensive analysis of a single case (organization, location, person, and event) and lacks of generalizability. Differently, survey research consists of collecting data predominantly by questionnaire or by interviews on more than one case [64]. While reviews in the field are scant (3), conducting case studies (23), and surveys (19) are prominent. Case studies paid more attention to developing countries (14). Vice versa, surveys are increasingly conducted by researchers in developed countries (12).

4.2. Content Analysis

This section presents the findings of the content analysis of 45 papers, integrates their content, and outlines the refined framework with the inclusion of the inductive categories and subcategories. It is important to note that each paper of the sample can be relevant to one or more categories. In order to ensure transparency, the authors provide a list of the sample papers with their related categorization in the Appendix A, Appendix B, Appendix C and Appendix D.

4.2.1. Stakeholders

The stakeholder dimension has been mentioned by 34 papers of the sample, regardless of its SCM actor focus. At least each of the papers state pressures that derive from NGOs or other stakeholders. Most of these papers address drivers (27), closely followed by papers which deal with enablers (16), and barriers (16).


Generally, papers deal with the evaluation of stakeholder groups as to their effectiveness regarding socially responsible management. Predominantly, papers evaluated industry peers (14) such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSI), and activist campaigns (e.g., [65]). To sum up, scholars constantly state that NGOs can act as watchdogs and are targeting the focal companies, which motivates them to implement social risk management practices (17) [66].
MSIs include a variety of stakeholders, such as focal companies, NGOs, government, and others, with the aim to identify and improve human rights abuses in the supply chains of the apparel industry [67]. They provide more legitimacy than entirely corporate controlled practices (e.g., codes of conduct) and protect against negative disclosures. Researchers highlight the crucial role of MSIs, as supplier companies can improve their credibility with a membership status [45,68,69,70]. Generally, MSIs impose their own codes of conduct, which are mainly based on the ILO standards (International Labour Organization) [71]. MSIs which enjoyed the attention of scholars are the Clean Cloth Campaign (CCC), the Social Accountability 8000 (SA8000), the Fair Labour Association (FLA), and the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) [59,71,72,73,74]. Although some studies describe the important role of unions in improving labor standards [68,75,76,77,78], no further study has been found that clearly analyzed the unions’ influences on SSCM. Also, public or governmental regulations as drivers have found scant attention since 2005. Only five studies have been identified [3,43,65,70,79]. Regarding media pressures, one study discusses predominantly the powerful impact of the media and its threats on companies’ public image and financial well-being [65]. Hence, negative media exposure drives companies to be socially responsible, as 19 papers of the sample mention [3,4,65,80]. Further, it is striking that only two studies focused on the consumer perspective [65,81]. Both of the studies emphasized the increasing consumer consciousness. Nevertheless, researchers are mainly in accordance with the general view that consumers’ rising concerns and interest in sweatshop issues is what affects a company’s reputation [82,83,84,85].


Articles describe cases where partnerships and the joint collaboration of stakeholders and companies can be beneficial in governing social issues within the supply chain [76,86,87,88]. These collaborations lead to supportive actions and can act as consultants for companies which are, for instance, in financial conflict in implementing social practices in their supply chain or are not familiar with social responsibility practices [67,86]. Milne et al. [67] further discuss how the FLA provides its members with training, tools, and other valuable resources to improve a company’s responsible sustainable supply chain management and hence its CSR efforts. Nonetheless, each MSI has its own focus in its codes and audits and rarely covers all socially related aspects that can occur within a supply chain [59]. In that regard, collaborations between stakeholders can also result in industry-wide codes of conduct which provide uniform guidance and enable companies to implement social responsibility management based on governmental laws and regulations [88]. Auchter [87] recently advocated that industry-wide codes are easier to implement by industry members. Overall, 15 articles investigate assisting factors of stakeholders, although many of them do not have a distinct focus in finding out enablers.


One significant barrier is the consumer himself, as four papers document [82,83,84,85]. Despite the fact that consumers show increasing awareness regarding socially responsible-produced apparel, papers report that price, quality, and style are the dominant motivating factors when purchasing clothes [81,83,84]. Eight papers point at governmental barriers and that legal requirements are only weak drivers of social risk management [3,65,89]. It appears that governmental issues are likely to be present in developing countries, such as China and India, where regulatory systems are not sufficient enough and there is a lack of commitment to ILO standards [79,80,87]. Another major barrier stemming from governments is corruption [45,74]. However, not only governments can be corrupt, and one paper states that NGOs also ask for money, otherwise they threaten suppliers with workforce unrest [45]. With regard to MSIs, a plethora of problems are counted by several researchers. Anner [68] revealed that initiatives such as the FLA are too much corporate driven and thus the audit reports of the FLA fail in detecting the right to form unions, strike, and bargain collectively [68,71]. In this regard, companies that engage NGOs try to switch their function from watchdogs to partners and bypass local laws and unions [71]. Moreover, the MSI-suggested codes of conduct, such as that of the FWF (Fair Wear Foundation), are limited in their improvements and support the general view of the code’s uneven impact [59]. O’Rourke [71] reported on codes and audits of MSIs and stated that they can be counterproductive for workers as they can cause job losses, reduce wages for workers due to the cut of overtime, and even cause punishment of workers who are complaining to auditors. Another criticism is that some MSIs, such as the WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production), have a low level of transparency. Further critics state that audits are inefficient due to the fact that they are pre-announced and not frequently conducted. Corresponding to that, Egels-Zandén & Lindholm [59] summarize the audits of the FWF as “flawed” processes.

4.2.2. Focal Company

It is not surprising that focal companies have been addressed by 42 papers of the sample, again, regardless of each paper’s main research focus, as pointed out in Figure 3. Drivers for the implementation of social risk management found widespread attention by researchers, as 21 papers deal with this category. Another 18 papers mention barriers and 12 papers state enablers.


In order to deal with stakeholder risks, companies strive to mitigate external pressures [3] and to protect the corporate image by implementing social risk management. Thirteen papers mention this and examples include pressures such as negative media exposure, consumer boycotts, and activist campaigns, or, in general, stakeholder scrutiny. For a more detailed insight, one can consider stakeholder drivers in the earlier section. Ergo, focal companies formulate codes of conduct or become members of MSI groups to gain legitimacy and enhance their brand image [69,82,88,90,91]. Another six papers paid attention to a focal company’s opportunity of differentiation and, thus, enhanced competitiveness through the implementation of social risk management practices [74,82,92]. In that regard, McCarthy and Jayarathne [91] indicate the potential of retailers to become more competitive in the market, not only to be a fashion leader but also to consider becoming an ethical leader. One further factor that initiates a focal company to implement social risk management practices throughout its supply chain is to improve its operational performance and productivity, such as quality, cost, labor turnover, and delivery issues, as employees feel more motivated to work for a socially responsible corporation [13].


The greatest factor that assist focal companies in the realization of SSCM practices is the company orientation, and is mentioned by eleven papers [3,67,72,92]. Park-Poaps and Rees [65] summarize the internal orientation as an “organizational culture in which the organizational core values address principles of fair labour management and the values are reflected on the company’s internal alignments and actions”. It is suggested that CSR practices can be much more effective when embedded to a company’s “ethos and practice” and merely implementing codes of conduct is not enough [82,93,94]. One resulting positive effect can be the reconsideration of the sourcing policies of the buying companies in the form of avoiding orders in countries with poor labor records and exaggerated production deadlines and lead times, as the reader will note later in the supplier barrier section of this paper. Svensson [95] further concludes that companies should strive to be proactive rather than reactive in their dedication to ethical concerns, which links again to the internal orientation of a company [95]. With that, it seems that small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) do have an advantage in asserting CSR practices through their supply chain as they usually source from a smaller supplier base, which makes it easier to create, e.g., long-term partnerships [67,90].


Among barriers that hinder focal companies in the achievement of SSCM practices, one prominent factor is the critical implementation of codes of conduct, with seven papers mentioning this [43,59,73]. The paradox is that, as companies in the dynamic clothing industry strive to be competitive in price, quality, and lead times, they simultaneously expect their suppliers to be compliant with codes. This behavior is truly not motivating suppliers to comply with a focal company’s codes and is attributable to the lack of incentives (e.g., increasing orders or financial support) that focal companies should offer their suppliers for ensuring better working conditions [72]. In that regard, it becomes apparent that focal companies perceive financial risks. Another study describes that investing in supervision as well as evaluation of implemented codes of conduct are omitted by the case company due to their high costs, which is, of course, contradictory to the aim of maximizing profits [66]. The impetus to maximize profit leads to unfavorable buying practices, resulting in unfair wages for factory workers [72,80]. Sancha et al. [13] nail it down in their conclusion, “managers may decide which cost is more important to bear: the cost of implementing these practices or the cost of their suppliers acting unethically”. This can also be related to a company’s resources, not only in monetary terms, but also in its capacities to handle complex and time-consuming tasks, such as code implementation, monitoring, certification, or even communication to all its suppliers [90,96]. When it comes to auditing processes only one study was found, criticizing the traditional compliance models as not rigorous enough due to lack of time. In this manner, it seems that ignorance becomes evident. Once a company has already sold the sample, which is provided by the suppliers to its customers, the auditors would not dare to threaten the production by detecting code violations. In sum, although suppliers are not compliant with codes, the focal company is still doing business with them [72]. Six papers of the sample highlight instrumental reasons for the implementation of CSR practices. Companies are using codes as a marketing device [66], and the lack of workers’ participation in code compliance programs advertisements for a company, which may use them as a tool to merely mitigating external risks (e.g., negative media pressures), rather than supporting workers’ interests [73]. Further critics support that codes of conduct are weakening governmental and union intervention and do not improve labor conditions, but rather are used for public relations [69,71,79,97]. Lastly a complex supply chain will hinder a successful SSCM adoption. Once an apparel company is not able to establish its wholly owned supply chain, multilevel contracts with various vendors and subcontractors are signed and, in fact, this is not a rare case, especially in the textile/apparel industry. Thus, it becomes more and more complicated for a focal company to hold control, implement codes to further tiers (T1,T2,T3, etc.), and monitor the entire supply chain [66,89]. This is highly problematic, as one interviewed manager claims that vendors are playing a bad game and prepare their subcontractors for upcoming audits in order to ensure that the focal companies do not stop buying the vendor’s products [89].

Management of Social Risk

So far, scholars report on sustainable risk management practices in various ways. Social risk management, as indicated by Freise & Seuring [3], includes responsible social risk managers, activity with NGOs, use of codes of conduct or similar standards, social audits, offering incentives for compliant suppliers, cooperation with business partners beyond first tier suppliers, and policies in place for taking action if social misconduct is documented. Thus, social risk management, which is a part of the broader concept of sustainable supply chain management [17], has been described under different terms, such as social supplier development [13] or corporate social responsibility [68,75,85,90,93,98]. It is important to note that all these different terms generally imply the same practices a company can conduct to be socially responsible. Furthermore, researchers are generally in accordance that social risk management practices will lead to a positive outcome in stimulating the driving factors of a focal company, discussed in earlier sections, and improve the supplier’s social performance [13]. A total of 40 papers, regardless of their actor focus and use of terminology, describe practices a company can follow in order to be socially responsible and are presented in the following. In general, as Egels-Zanden & Lindholm [59] recently support, the implementation of codes of conduct and other standards is the most common practice and has an overall positive impact on the suppliers’ social performance, but one should note that this still remains limited (as described earlier).
(1) Supplier Collaboration and Assessment
In the supplier collaboration category, the aim is to organize the paper samples which deal with social risk management practices a focal company can follow in order to cope with its driving factors, and a huge sample of 29 papers discuss it. Accordingly, two possibilities of compliance relationships can be distinguished. The first one is a commitment relationship with their suppliers and the second is a compliance relationship, which is obviously the more inadvisable and distrustful type [72,86,93,97]. Table 2 depicts the dominant results of the coding process.
In short, a focal company’s efforts to implement successfully SSCM practices in its supply chain is to support its suppliers with a commitment strategy, which consequently leads to an advantageous relationship and trust between the two actors, and hence to improved compliance performance and competitiveness of the supplier [65,72,96]. Lastly, a focal company may seek stakeholder support by engaging with MSIs. These initiatives and their assisting factors are emphasized earlier, but should be considered also as a practice that a focal company can make use of by building up partnerships which can be beneficial in formulating codes and learning from the NGOs’ expertise in encouraging compliance [67,86].
It becomes evident that supplier collaboration, e.g., use of codes of conduct and assessment are complementary and cohesive practices. Thus, it is not surprising that many papers mentioned during the supplier collaboration topic above are also dealing with, or at least mentioning, supplier evaluation practices, which play a crucial role in ensuring positive labor-oriented outcomes [13,65,66,89]. Once a company introduces codes to its suppliers, the expected positive impact needs to be monitored, evaluated, and, if necessary, corrected by the focal companies, and 20 papers discuss this [94,97] (Table 3).
Locke, Qin, et al. [97] analyzed the corporate audit of Nike and found that variations in working conditions can be the result of country effects, factory characteristics, and the relationship between Nike and its suppliers. Consequently, while some suppliers are compliant with Nike’s code of conduct, others face problems with wages, working hours, and health and safety. The implications of their study are clear and point out that monitoring alone is not sufficient in improving working conditions [69]. Therefore, a very crucial part of the monitoring process is to develop corrective action plans in order to realize improvements of the supplier performance. A practical example of the remediation process is further given by Milne et al. [67]. Third party audits conducted by MSIs are likely to evaluate the internal monitoring systems of the focal company on their effectiveness, and increases negative attention of the NGOs when retailers do not engage with independent audits [69,83,86]. Indeed, the benefits of such external certifications and independent audits, such as the SA8000, are improving the supplier social performance and mitigate stakeholder risks of being linked with human rights violations [74]. Nevertheless, audits also receive plenty of criticism, as researchers point at the different foci an MSI’s code of conduct and monitoring systems may have, and are thus likely to neglect some specific social aspects [59,68]. According to Mamic [94], who provided deep insights into the auditing methodology, supplier audits can be announced or unannounced. This provides another criticism, that suppliers can prepare their facilities for upcoming audits which have been announced prior. Three other studies describe audits in Brazil, China, and Bangladesh, but more from the suppliers perspective [45,70,79].
(2) Reporting
Again, once codes of conduct are implemented and assessed, a focal company should consider reporting the positive outcomes and making them public. Seventeen papers mention the significance of CSR reports, but only a few papers focused exclusively on the evaluation of a textile/apparel company’s reporting efforts (Table 4).
One proposition of Svensson [95] suggests that focal companies should oblige the stakeholders with reality, without stating, in case of violations, unreasonable excuses. He further claims that hiding the truth will provoke stakeholders [95]. By this, Nike is an exemplary case, as they provide a considered marketing platform for suppliers. Thus, suppliers demand to be audited by Nike to get a place on the Nike’s trusted supplier list in order to attract more business [66]. Iwanow et al. [83] state that increased transparency can enable ethically driven consumers to purchase their goods, and even if not, a focal company would be morally questionable when they do not expose their CSR efforts. Another type of informing stakeholders about a company’s CSR efforts is through labelling products to be transparent at the point of purchase. This has been suggested as a quick and easy tool to educate consumers about sweatshop-free products and avoids time consuming information search tasks [84].

4.2.3. Suppliers

A huge number of the 31 papers refer to the supplier dimension, regardless of the papers’ actor focus. Predominantly, they are statements about the social performance of a supplier, with 22 papers. The second most-addressed categories are the barriers (20), followed by a number of enablers (17), and a slightly smaller number of papers which dealt with the drivers category (14). While social performance derived deductively from the literature review, the driving, enabling, and hindering categories derived inductively during the content analysis. Thus, a supplier, whether it is a Tier 1, Tier 2, or lower Tier supplier, also faces motivating, initiating, assisting, and hindering factors in the implementation of social risk management practices, which is usually being required by the focal companies.


As this study revealed earlier, focal companies face huge pressures to be socially responsible. Hence the usual case is that these buyers pass on pressures to their suppliers to be compliant with local, national, and international laws, as well as labor standards and a company’s code of conduct. This has been mentioned by nine papers [67,71,91]. Stigzelius and Mark-Herbert [74] interviewed factory managers in India and found that the implementation of the SA8000 standard is strongly required by western buying firms. Huq et al. [45] supports this by highlighting the dominant buyer pressure and their efforts to make social compliance mandatory for suppliers in Bangladesh. They further report how one supplier failed to secure orders from a big British retailer due to its non-compliance with the retailer’s code of conduct. Perry and Towers [4] state that suppliers in Sri Lanka also face buyers who are demanding CSR implementation more and more, rather than asking for capacities and quality. Consequently, a supplying company can attract important retailers with being socially responsible in order to remain competitive in the market [45]. However, not only retailers are attracted, but also suppliers strive to be attractive for other reasons. In the study of Huq et al. [45], one supplier managing director stated that they “have a tremendous shortage of workers. If we are not socially compliant, the workers won’t come to our factory. Competition to get workers amongst the factories is forcing us to be compliant”. Thus, improved working condition in factories may attract better workers, decreases labor turnover and increases productivity [101]. Other benefits to the operational performance include the time and money savings through the implementation of SA8000, as most of the code of conduct requirements from various buyers are covered [74]. Another five papers support that social sustainability increases competitiveness based on the operational improvements [4,13,45,69,88]. In sum, ten papers are in accordance that a certified supplier can enhance its image, differentiate itself in the market, improve its own operational performance in order to strengthen its competitive situation, and win large orders by important apparel retailers. This can especially be an advantage for suppliers who are in huge price and quality competition with other local suppliers, and, of course, also with a large number of suppliers from countries like China, India, and Bangladesh [101]. Moreover, a supplier which is certified by a recognized stakeholder initiative [71] is also able to improve its bargaining power and can build up long-term relationships with buyers in order to increase orders or bargain higher prices [45].


Of course, in this category, the most crucial assistance a supplier can receive is that of the buyers’ or stakeholders’ collaboration and assessment efforts. In the course of satisfying the motives for social compliance, one dominant assisting factor from the supplier’s point of view is the company’s internal orientation. This is not surprising, as it is also a present and important factor for the focal company. Four papers mention this, and report how ethic responsibility of factory managers is the base for being socially compliant [45,85,90,91]. The study of Perry and Towers [4] shows how Sri Lankan suppliers switched from producing fast fashion to basic garments, which enabled the managers to forecast more accurately (avoiding under/overbuying) and reduce price pressures, since they were able to integrate the buyers to these processes and jointly improve efficiency. Thus, a supplier’s orientation towards CSR commitment is a crucial enabler to close relationships that can allow collaboration efforts of buyers, and has been found to increase the supplier’s operational performance in terms of reduced uncertainty and lead time, which consequently decreases negative impacts of buyers and ensures that a supplier can maintain being socially compliant [4]. To counter the buyer-driven textile/apparel supply chain, suppliers from the same town or country may work together to come to a more powerful position in order to get rid of cannibalistic price competition, which affects, in turn, working conditions and wages [79]. Also, the development of one uniform code of conduct among suppliers, including all requirements of various buyers, can be helpful to increase clarity and ease the compliance process [45]. Furthermore, a supplier who is internally CSR-oriented opens the door to receiving support from MSIs or other initiatives, as learned earlier [45,71].


Fourteen papers clearly emphasize the hindering factors towards code implementation of suppliers. Egels-Zanden and Lindholm [59] discuss the conflicting views on the impact of codes and Perry and Towers [4] point at the difficulties of code implementation in the highly competitive, dispersed, and complex nature of the apparel industry. Merk [75] states criticisms that codes are tending to be managerial instruments and workers are ignored and not included in the development process of codes. Further researchers describe the confusion among suppliers due to the lack of uniformity across codes of conduct. Hence, the suppliers are endeavoring to comply with different codes of different buyers [45,69,97]. Additionally, as this is the same case for focal companies, implementing social responsibility through codes definitely raises costs for factories [13,74,79,80]. According to Stigzelius and Mark-Herbert [74], the implementation of SA8000 includes, among other obstacles, paying higher wages, investments in facilities, and costs for audits. The usual effect is then to increase the product prices to balance these costs. Contradicting the buyer’s sourcing practices remains the same, and, combined with their avoidance of providing financial help, this causes forlorn situations for suppliers, which are in turn forced to violate social aspects such as excessive working times, lower wages, or unhealthy working conditions, even when they are willing to improve [45,69,74,78,79,80,98,101]. Baskaran et al. [98] detected a trend which shows that the more aggressive a factory is towards child labor and working hours, the better the financial performance seems to be. Hoang and Jones [89] support this economic interest of suppliers in Vietnam, and states that they obviously pursue getting as many orders as possible from buyers but in turn force their workers to overtime work. Researchers also emphasize communication and comprehension issues of code implementation, as suppliers’ workers lack education, thus making trainings ineffective [74].
Further, out of the above-mentioned fourteen, six papers stress auditing processes. In the course of pursuing economic benefits, third-party auditors also seem to be disruptive when they monitor suppliers. One supplier claims that third party auditors are seeking to submit an unfavorable report in order to secure a second visit and with it a second fee [45]. Also, the employment of unskilled auditors, such as recent graduates without experience and language skills, seems to be a usual case [97]. Nonetheless, suppliers seem to know how to act on this, and, with their effort to be compliant and avoiding further costs, mock compliance is not a seldom case, especially when audits are preannounced. Researchers report on this by referring to faked documents (faked ID cards to conceal child work), cheating on working hours, preparing workers for interviews, unlocking emergency exits, etc. [45,72,87,89,94].
Another striking factor is that workers of manufacturing companies do not have trust in unions, especially in developing countries, as six papers report. As Anner [68] concludes, “Strong unions that are empowered to organize strikes are perceived to be disruptive to supply chains and thus debilitating to corporate control”. Manufacturing managers react very sensitively when unions get loud or protest, and, as a consequence, threaten their workers with job losses or a cut in salary. This explains the fear of workers to unveil reality during interviews with auditors [72,75,89]. Yu [80], and Hoang and Jones [89] further mention the low power of unions, regardless of whether it is a trade union or a corporate union.
This points at another big obstacle, which is the manufacturing workers’ lack of awareness about labor rights [45,73,74]. There are various indicators for awareness issues, and researchers, such as Auchter [87], refer this back to a country’s society that a supplier is located in. While western countries usually consider child work as wrong, some Asian countries assess child work as normal. In other words, the cultural background of a society as well as the socio-economic and political situation of a country needs to be noted [45,87]. In this regard, it can be observed that a misalignment between code of conducts and the local culture can occur, which in turn may lead to further mock compliance issues [45,87,89]

Social Performance

Several attempts at evaluating the supplier’s social performance can be observed in the paper sample (22), although only a few applied methods to analyze supplier performance with an explicit focus. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches have been conducted. For instance, based on the literature, Baskaran et al. [102] provide social criteria such as discrimination, abuse of human rights, child labor, long working hours, and society/unfair competition for the scientific evaluation of 63 suppliers and categorized them into three groups based on the results. Sancha et al. [13] recently assessed suppliers’ social performance in Spain quantitatively from a broad view. Based on multiple factory audits of 43 garment factories, Egels-Zanden and Lindholm [59] classified social performance according to forced labor, discrimination, child labor, freedom of association, wages, working times, health and safety, and employment relationship criteria. Moreover, Locke et al. [69] conducted the same method and evaluated suppliers of Nike based on their audits [69]. Including the papers of other researchers, some criteria (categories) which derived deductively from the literature could be served. The following paper integration in Table 5 is based on its related core analysis and includes both improved as well as poor detections of the underlying category. It is not satisfactory if one paper merely states in its literature review that poor working conditions are evident. At least 22 papers give insights to one or more indicator, although not every paper has the clear aim to measure supplier social performance.
One of the most investigated categories is human rights/rights to associate with groups or unions, which derived inductively during the analysis [102]. It makes sense to present the inhuman treatment/harassment category, which derived deductively [24] in line, because this includes the violation of human rights. For instance, Hoang and Jones [89] report how code of conduct audits helped a supplier’s workers to go to the toilet freely, rather than applying for a toilet card in advance. From the authors’ point of view, this is a typical violation of human dignity. Therefore, the researcher of this paper combines these two categories into human rights as an umbrella indicator. Nevertheless, this integration seems to be subjectivity driven in nature. The different definitions of the researchers regarding social performance indicators makes the integration very complex.

5. Discussion

5.1. Research Question 1

One critical point is the still prominent call for socially related research in SSCM. While this gap has been determined already in previous literature reviews [7,17] very clearly, it seems that academics struggled in finding socially related SSCM research areas or face other obstacles. Moreover, previous reviews usually have a cross-sectoral point of view, and thus their findings as well as implications suggest broad conclusions. In order to answer the three research questions of this study, the authors reviewed first the literature on SSCM to develop a conceptual framework, which consists of the major actors of the sustainable supply chain and its related barriers, drivers, and enablers for the implementation of social risk management. Therefore, the paper at hand reveals potential research areas in the relevant field in order to make socially related SSCM more comprehensive and hence attractive and accessible.
It is striking that there is a lack of such conceptualizations in textile and apparel-specific journals, although each industry has its own characteristics. The only research found, which conceptualized the supplier’s perspective in the textile/apparel industry and taking the social dimension into account, is that of Perry and Towers [4]. High consistency regarding their identified inhibitors and drivers can be found [4]. However, not only are modelling approaches still rare in textile and apparel-oriented streams, there also is a lack of socially related research in general. An output of only 45 relevant papers which deal with social aspects seems to be very low for the textile/apparel sector, as social issues are constantly emphasized over many years by academics and the media.
The objective of this study was achieved by integrating and organizing strictly the content of socially related papers in leading journals of the field with a clear link to the textile/apparel industry. Figure 5 depicts the revised conceptual framework including its refinements, which inductively emerged during the previous analysis section. A complementing list of all papers and their affiliation to the related categories is provided in Appendix A, Appendix B, Appendix C and Appendix D. As the refined model shows, a supplier’s social performance is not merely dependent on the driving and enabling forces of a focal company, as former models outline (deductive framework), but it is also highly dependent on its own internal orientation and motivating factors. Nevertheless, suppliers also face, or even self-induce, huge barriers in improving their social performance. Further, the authors learned that sustainably oriented managers of supplying factories can be proactive and engage in collaboration and assessment activities directly with stakeholders such as MSIs to obtain certifications such as SA8000, and enhance, e.g., their competitiveness, bargaining power with buyers, and operational performance. Thus, the dominantly discussed category, supplier collaboration and assessment, can be interpreted as an offer for suppliers deriving from stakeholders and a focal company’s management of social risk. The acceptance is then heavily dependent on the enablers, drivers, and barriers from the suppliers’ point of view. This view has been neglected in other conceptual models which consider every three actors of the SSCM, and highly contributes to the comprehensiveness of sustainable supply chain management in the textile/apparel industry.
Generally, a rise in number of articles which deal with supplier management systems, such as codes of conduct or SA8000, can be noted [74,80,89], although one needs to keep in mind the relatively small paper sample. This again points to the rise in number of articles which deal explicitly with MSIs (see also Table 3).

5.1.1. Enablers

A company’s (focal or supplier) internal orientation is one of the main assisting factors for sustainable supply chain management practices. Coherence to previous studies in the field can be found, as Beske et al. [12] applied to the food industry and critically analyzed the literature regarding SSCM. They found also that their paper sample placed high importance on a company’s proactive commitment to SSCM. Further, they highlight similar risk management practices and point at the significance of collaboration efforts [12]. This seems to be reasonable, because both of the industries are dynamic in nature. From the stakeholder’s perspective, MSIs are increasingly analyzed and discussed by researchers. They play a crucial role in assisting companies (focal or supplier) in their collaboration, assessment, and reporting efforts.

5.1.2. Drivers

Generally, papers identified NGOs and media as watchdogs and reported that they are targeting focal companies. Contradictory to the findings of Seuring and Müller [17], governmental pressures seem not to be one of the major stakeholder drivers for the implementation of social risk management practices. At least, not for the textile/apparel industry, as revealed during the analysis. Focal companies strive to mitigate these external risks and formulate codes of conduct, or become members of MSI groups to gain legitimacy and enhance their brand image. Consequently, focal companies put pressure on their suppliers to be compliant with their codes. However, not only aforementioned factors drive companies (focal and supplier) to implement social risk practices, but also they can be extrinsically motivated to be more competitive, e.g., through differentiation strategies.

5.1.3. Barriers

Predominantly and paradoxically, MSIs initiate many barriers. Moreover, governments hinder social responsibility through corruption and lack of commitment to ILO standards, especially in developing countries. Consumer demands still focus on price, quality, and style. Code implementation and monitoring are perceived as a financial risk for both the focal company and supplier. To fulfil consumer needs and maximize profits, focal companies typically engage with a long and dispersed supply chain, making use of unfavorable buying practices and avoiding investments to support suppliers. While requiring their suppliers to be compliant, they readily ignore code violence. At the same time, suppliers also seek profit maximization and strive to ensure the lowest prices and on-time delivery. To avoid further costs, mock compliance is not a rare practice. Further barriers from the suppliers view, i.e., lack of awareness of workers, no trust in unions, communication and comprehension issues, and misalignment between codes and local culture are identified. Studies summarize that the implementation of CSR practices are merely instrumental.
Lastly, it is important to emphasize that a specific category of one SSCM actor can be interrelated to the category of another SSCM actor. For instance, motivating factors for a focal company can trigger barriers for suppliers.

5.2. Research Question 2

Considering the findings of the descriptive analysis, it becomes evident that, generally, in the textile and apparel sector, the suppliers’ perspective from developing countries is not neglected, as postulated. According to Figure 3, almost half of the paper sample (23) covering developing countries and, except for two papers, almost every paper gives insights into the suppliers’ perspective regarding social issues. Many papers indicate that, just by their paper title [45,74,79,98,102]. Hence, this study reveals that a broad perspective, i.e., analyzing multiple industries in one paper [7], can hardly make rigorous suggestions about one specific industry. However, this study reveals, in Figure 4, that survey-based papers in developing countries are neglected, with only seven papers. This partly supports the findings of Zorzini et al. [7], as case studies found high attention in developing countries, with 14 papers. Although the paper sample was not rich, regarding one further suggestion of Zorzini et al. [7], this study also organized societal views on code implementation into the framework, as well as multi-stakeholder perspectives.

5.3. Research Question 3

Overall, it is clear that the low volume of paper samples (45) points at the lack of socially related studies in the field. This definitely calls for more empirical studies, whether employing qualitative or quantitative surveys methods. However, by having a close look on the main categories (enablers, drivers, and barriers) it is striking that every actor has been served by a great amount of papers. Thirty papers were integrated to supplier categories (30), thirty-four papers of the sample were implemented to stakeholder categories (34), and forty-two papers served focal company categories (42). This result stems from the method used by the researchers during analysis and coding of the paper at hand. In general, regardless of the methodological and primary research focus, the authors analyzed the entire paper (not only the result section) to find factors that fit into the categories. By digging deeper and taking the subcategories into account, the following research propositions for future development of socially related research in SSCM emerge.
The clothing and textile industry is very complex in nature. Future research should concentrate more on the current state of suppliers in developing countries, especially on lower tiers, as only one study is identified [102].
  • Investigate lower tiers of the supply chain, but also there is a specific need in considering sourcing agencies and vendors for analysis. In-depth exploratory research can help to find out more drivers, enablers, and barriers [45].
Social performance classifications received less attention. This supports the findings of Tajbakhsh & Hassini [22] and refers back to the fact that there is a specific need in measuring the impacts of social risk management at the supplier level [7,22]. In that regard, one trend can be observed as researchers conduct case study methods and analyze audits of MSIs or focal companies, which is an opportunity to measure social performance in the supply chain [68,69,76].
  • Clarifying indicators for social performance measures. There are many different attempts but equal terminology includes sometimes different definitions. Subsequently conducting quantitative studies in developing countries will provide a more representative picture.
There is a need in considering cultural and socio-economic aspects, especially in developing countries. While some studies detect such barriers for code implementation at the supplier level, they still neglect to find out solutions to overcome these obstacles.
  • Consistent with the findings of Zorzini et al. [7], it appears that due to cultural differences misalignments between Western codes and their implementation in developing countries can be present [45,87]. This still needs to be investigated further.
  • Best practice case studies can be conducted to learn from commendable companies (e.g., Goworek [93]).
Further, while social risk management practices are mentioned often by academics, it seems that reporting still offers empirical research opportunities.
  • One method is to analyze CSR reports of well-known apparel retailers [95,99]. Another interesting direction is to consider social media publications. Moreover, studies should analyze their impact on stakeholders.
Another salient research gap is the narrow findings of a focal company’s enablers. Proactivity due to internal orientation seems to be the only concise assisting factor which emerges internally at focal companies. Researchers may find further assisting factors by going more into detail and specifically focusing on enablers at each SSCM actor. Externally, there is much effort on MSIs, but governmental (e.g., offering incentives) and consumers receive less attention.
  • Gimenez and Tachizawa [19] suggest, among others, senior or top management support, availability of resources, strategic role of purchasing function, and appropriate measurement systems. Further, exploratory studies should be undertaken at governments to understand their drivers, enablers, and barriers, as only a few studies have been found explicitly focusing on this actor.
To sum up, as it can be extracted in Figure 4, the adoption of case study methods is prominent, but lacks representativeness for the whole industry. Therefore, existing measurement constructs can be extended or enhanced by conducting in-depth interviews with factory managers in order to gain new insights. Consequently, quantitative questionnaires can be developed and distributed to suppliers to generate more representative outcomes. Lastly, in SSCM, suppliers (T1, T2, T3, etc.) are the last actors of the upstream supply chain and whenever social issues are discussed it is about a manufacturing company’s improved or deteriorated social performance which determines the effectiveness of social risk management. Thus, it is suggested that the main concentration of future research should be at the supplier level in order to outline more sophisticated managerial and academic implications.

6. Conclusions

The major contribution of this paper is highlighted in the discussion section and, to the best of the researcher’s knowledge, no other paper offers a conceptual framework which is specifically developed for the textile/apparel industry, covering all three actors of SSCM and the related drivers, enablers, and barriers in the implementation of social risk management. So far, many literature reviews have been found, but different researchers use different terms and terminology in SSCM, which may lead to confusion, even though the underlying practices implicate the same activities. Moreover, just a few academics cover all three actors in one study. Bringing the ideas of previous researchers together and categorizing pressures and incentives as well as hindering factors into enablers, drivers, and barriers, the offered framework provides comprehensibility and helps to develop the field further. Academics are now able to enrich this framework with their findings and can make use of the presented dimensions and categories. Future researchers should also consider that this framework can easily be conducted for environmental issues, such as the extension with environmental risk management. This framework proposes a base frame and, the more researchers integrate environmental or social papers into the model, the more sufficient and informative it will be in future. Furthermore, product-specific aspects are neglected. This is another enriching direction to complement the framework, and one researcher could apply Seuring and Müller’s [17] second strategy “SCM for sustainable products”, which is, besides reporting, another way to satisfy ethical customers or even other stakeholders. The revised framework of the study not only serves academics, as the findings can give direction to an enhanced realization of social risk management. This can be extracted by the barriers, enablers, and drivers outlined in the framework. For instance, the study points at the significance of cooperation with suppliers. A long-term relationship between the focal company and the supplier will be beneficial for both. This can be ensured with investments, training, and cost-sharing activities. Moreover, it seems that apparel companies are not aware that suppliers need support, rather than merely insisting on compliance. It can be concluded that managers should be proactively engaged in SSCM, rather than solely reacting to stakeholder pressure after violations and by using social risk management practices instrumentally. Nonetheless, this paper has its limitations. It is obvious that the sample papers found during the material collection may not be sufficient. The outcome of the material collection is limited through applying keyword search and the confined access to journals and library services. Therefore, in order to enrich the quality of the framework, other research streams and journals should be considered. With regard to the coding process, another limitation to the research arises, as Seuring and Müller [17] outline that in conceptual research “the knowledge, experience and mindset of the researcher or research group have a strong impact on the results”.
Based on the outcome of this study, the authors can conclude and confirm that the textile/apparel sector is problematic, as the supply chain is globally fragmented, with many suppliers located in different (likely in developing) countries and thus lacks transparency, especially when lower tiers are involved. This, presumably, derives from the consumers at first, who act as barriers when seeking low prices and a flooded wardrobe of frequently changing styles. Second, it turns out that governmental pressures seem not to be the main drivers of reaching social goals in the textile/apparel industry. Indeed, specific social risk management practices, such as the SA8000 or code of conduct, have become imperative and common, but it seems that they are misused instrumentally, rather than being really helpful for workers. Paradoxically, these specific practices can even cause pressure, as suppliers are forced to comply, while simultaneously trying to reduce costs in order to stay competitive and gain orders. It seems that, as long as focal companies in the supply chain are not sustainability oriented and companies providing the ultimate value focus merely on profit maximization, sustainable risk management practices come to nothing and move in a vicious circle. Still, research in this very specific area is needed, as this study shows that especially representative survey-based papers are still lacking in the social dimension. This seems to be key too shedding light on the non-transparent textile/apparel supply chain and to making more representative propositions.


The Authors would like to thank the editors and the three anonymous referees for their constructive and eye-opening suggestions on earlier versions of the paper. This research has been supported by the School of Textiles & Design of the Reutlingen University, Germany.

Author Contributions

Deniz Köksal drafted and wrote the entire manuscript and was responsible for data analysis. Jochen Strähle supervised the overall research and assisted during coding process. Martin Müller critically revised the final manuscript. Matthias Freise contributed with suggestions. All authors read and approved the final manuscript for submission.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


It is important to note that each paper is counted only once according to the presented category!

Appendix A

Table A1. Forty-five relevant papers with general coding appearing as SSCM actor (does not determine the primary research focus of each paper).
Table A1. Forty-five relevant papers with general coding appearing as SSCM actor (does not determine the primary research focus of each paper).
Paper Focus on Countries’ Level of DevelopmentAuthorsSuppliersStakeholdersFocal CompanyTOTAL
Developed or no relationFreise und Seuring [3]0xx2
Developed or no relationTowers et al. [85]xxx3
Developed or no relationHale und Wills [77]xx02
Developed or no relationO’Rourke [71]xxx3
Developed or no relationLueg et al. [66]xxx3
Developed or no relationShaw et al. [84]0xx2
Developed or no relationPark-Poaps und Rees [65]0xx2
Developed or no relationKozlowski et al. [99]00x1
Developed or no relationMilne et al. [67]xxx3
Developed or no relationSancha et al. [13]x0x2
Developed or no relationBhaduri & Ha-Brookshire [100]0xx2
Developed or no relationEgels-Zandén und Hyllman [76]0xx2
Developed or no relationDargusch und Ward [90]x0x2
Developed or no relationCurwen et al. [92]00x1
Developed or no relationCarrigan et al. [82]0xx2
Developed or no relationBurchielli et al. [75]xxx3
Developed or no relationAnsett [86]0xx2
Developed or no relationGoworek [93]00x1
Developed or no relationSvensson [95]0xx2
Developed or no relationIwanow et al. [83]xxx3
Developed or no relationBörjeson et al. [96]00x1
Developed or no relationGiannakis & Papadpoulos [24]x0x2
Developed or no relationde Brito et al. [43]0xx2
DevelopingPerry et al. [101]x001
DevelopingLocke, Qin et al. [97]xxx3
DevelopingEgels-Zanden & Lindholm [59]xxx3
DevelopingLocke, Kochan et al. [69]xxx3
DevelopingMerk [73]xxx3
DevelopingMacCarthy & Jayarathne [91]x0x2
DevelopingBaskaran et al. [98]x0x2
DevelopingAnner [68]xxx3
DevelopingMiller & Williams [78]xxx3
DevelopingLocke et al. [72]xxx3
DevelopingYu [80]xxx3
DevelopingHoang & Jones [89]xxx3
DevelopingMamic [94]xxx3
DevelopingPerry & Towers [4]xxx3
DevelopingHuq et al. [45]xxx3
DevelopingAuchter [87]xx02
DevelopingKrueger [88]xxx3
DevelopingGupta & Hodges [81]0xx2
DevelopingPosthuma & Bignami [70]0xx2
DevelopingStigzelius & Mark-Herbert [74]xxx3
DevelopingBaskaran et al. [102]x0x2
DevelopingJiang et al. [79]xxx3

Appendix B

Table B1. Forty-five relevant papers appearing in stakeholder categories.
Table B1. Forty-five relevant papers appearing in stakeholder categories.
Freise und Seuring [3]x0x
Towers et al. [85]xx0
Hale und Wills [77]xx0
O’Rourke [71]0xx
Lueg et al. [66]xx0
Shaw et al. [84]x0x
Park-Poaps und Rees [65]x0x
Kozlowski et al. [99]000
Milne et al. [67]xx0
Sancha et al. [13]000
Bhaduri & Ha-Brookshire [100]x00
Egels-Zandén und Hyllman [76]xx0
Dargusch und Ward [90]000
Curwen et al. [92]000
Carrigan et al. [82]x0x
Burchielli et al. [75]xx0
Ansett [86]0x0
Goworek [93]000
Svensson [95]x00
Iwanow et al. [83]x0x
Börjeson et al. [96]000
Giannakis & Papadpoulos [24]000
de Brito et al. [43]xx0
Perry et al. [101]000
Locke, Qin et al. [97]0x0
Egels-Zanden & Lindholm [59]0xx
Locke, Kochan et al. [69]0x0
Merk [73]x0x
MacCarthy & Jayarathne [91]000
Baskaran et al. [98]000
Anner [68]xxx
Miller & Williams [78]x00
Locke et al. [72]x00
Yu [80]x0x
Hoang & Jones [89]00x
Mamic [94]0x0
Perry & Towers [4]x00
Huq et al. [45]x0x
Auchter [87]xxx
Krueger [88]xx0
Gupta & Hodges [81]x0x
Posthuma & Bignami [70]x00
Stigzelius & Mark-Herbert [74]x0x
Baskaran et al. [102]000
Jiang et al. [79]x0x

Appendix C

Table C1. Forty-five relevant papers appearing in focal company categories.
Table C1. Forty-five relevant papers appearing in focal company categories.
AuthorsFocal Company
BarriersEnablers Drivers Supplier CollaborationSupplier AssessmentReporting
Freise und Seuring [3]0xx00x
Towers et al. [85]00x000
Hale und Wills [77]000000
O’Rourke [71]x0x0xx
Lueg et al. [66]x0xxxx
Shaw et al. [84]00x00x
Park-Poaps und Rees [65]0x0x00
Kozlowski et al. [99]00000x
Milne et al. [67]0x0xxx
Sancha et al. [13]00xxx0
Bhaduri & Ha-Brookshire [100]00000x
Egels-Zandén und Hyllman [76]00x000
Dargusch und Ward [90]xxxx00
Curwen et al. [92]xxxx00
Carrigan et al. [82]xxxx00
Burchielli et al. [75]00xx0x
Ansett [86]000xxx
Goworek [93]0xxx0x
Svensson [95]0x0xxx
Iwanow et al. [83]000xxx
Börjeson et al. [96]xx0x00
Giannakis & Papadpoulos [24]xxxxxx
de Brito et al. [43]x0xx00
Perry et al. [101]000000
Locke, Qin et al. [97]x0xxxx
Egels-Zanden & Lindholm [59]x00xx0
Locke, Kochan et al. [69]x0xx0x
Merk [73]x0xx00
MacCarthy & Jayarathne [91]00xxx0
Baskaran et al. [98]0000x0
Anner [68]000xx0
Miller & Williams [78]000x00
Locke et al. [72]xxxxx0
Yu [80]x00x00
Hoang & Jones [89]x00x00
Mamic [94]xx0xxx
Perry & Towers [4]000xx0
Huq et al. [45]x00xx0
Auchter [87]
Krueger [88]
Gupta & Hodges [81]00x00x
Posthuma & Bignami [70]0000x0
Stigzelius & Mark-Herbert [74]0000x0
Baskaran et al. [102]0000x0
Jiang et al. [79]x00000

Appendix D

Table D1. Forty-five relevant papers appearing in supplier categories.
Table D1. Forty-five relevant papers appearing in supplier categories.
BarriersEnablersDriversSocial Performance
Freise und Seuring [3]0000
Towers et al. [85]0xx0
Hale und Wills [77]0x00
O’Rourke [71]00x0
Lueg et al. [66]00x0
Shaw et al. [84]0000
Park-Poaps und Rees [65]0000
Kozlowski et al. [99]0000
Milne et al. [67]0xx0
Sancha et al. [13]x0xx
Bhaduri & Ha-Brookshire [100]0000
Egels-Zandén und Hyllman [76]0000
Dargusch und Ward [90]0x00
Curwen et al. [92]0000
Carrigan et al. [82]0000
Burchielli et al. [75]x00x
Ansett [86]0000
Goworek [93]0000
Svensson [95]0000
Iwanow et al. [83]x00x
Börjeson et al. [96]0000
Giannakis & Papadpoulos [24]000x
de Brito et al. [43]0000
Perry et al. [101]x0xx
Locke, Qin et al. [97]xx0x
Egels-Zanden & Lindholm [59]xx0x
Locke, Kochan et al. [69]xxxx
Merk [73]xx0x
MacCarthy & Jayarathne [91]0xxx
Baskaran et al. [98]x00x
Anner [68]x00x
Miller & Williams [78]xx0x
Locke et al. [72]xxxx
Yu [80]x00x
Hoang & Jones [89]xxxx
Mamic [94]xx00
Perry & Towers [4]xxxx
Huq et al. [45]xxxx
Auchter [87]x00x
Krueger [88]00x0
Gupta & Hodges [81]0000
Posthuma & Bignami [70]0000
Stigzelius & Mark-Herbert [74]xxxx
Baskaran et al. [102]000x
Jiang et al. [79]xx0x


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Figure 1. Conceptual framework of social risk management-related drivers, enablers, and barriers based on literature review.
Figure 1. Conceptual framework of social risk management-related drivers, enablers, and barriers based on literature review.
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Figure 2. Time distribution of analyzed papers. Columns: Distribution of papers over time. Solid line: Number of papers (N = 45).
Figure 2. Time distribution of analyzed papers. Columns: Distribution of papers over time. Solid line: Number of papers (N = 45).
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Figure 3. SSCM (sustainable supply chain management) actors mainly researched in the papers and related proportion of the focus on the country’s level of development. Columns: SSCM actor focus of research. Solid line: Number of papers (N = 45).
Figure 3. SSCM (sustainable supply chain management) actors mainly researched in the papers and related proportion of the focus on the country’s level of development. Columns: SSCM actor focus of research. Solid line: Number of papers (N = 45).
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Figure 4. Research methods conducted by researchers and related proportion of the focus on the country’s level of development. Columns: Research method used by paper. Solid line: Number of papers (N = 45).
Figure 4. Research methods conducted by researchers and related proportion of the focus on the country’s level of development. Columns: Research method used by paper. Solid line: Number of papers (N = 45).
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Figure 5. Refined conceptual framework for social risk management in the textile/apparel supply chain after findings of the study.
Figure 5. Refined conceptual framework for social risk management in the textile/apparel supply chain after findings of the study.
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Table 1. Categories and their description based on literature review.
Table 1. Categories and their description based on literature review.
Stakeholders (external)
Enablersexternal factors that assist the focal companies in the realisation and achievement of SSCM practices.
Driversexternal factors that initiate and motivate focal companies in implementing SSCM practices.
Barriersexternal factors that hinder focal companies in the implementation, realisation and achievement of SSCM practices.
Focal company (internal)
Enablersinternal factors that assist the focal companies in the realisation and achievement of SSCM practices.
Driversinternal factors that initiate and motivate focal companies in implementing SSCM practices.
Barriersinternal factors that hinder focal companies in the implementation, realisation and achievement of SSCM practices.
Management of Social Risk
  • supplier assessment
any activity by the focal company related to the evaluation of suppliers such as audits.
  • supplier collaboration
any activity by the focal company which refers to train and support suppliers.
  • reporting
efforts of the focal company which signal and communicate positive sustainability contributions to stakeholders in a transparent and visible way in order to mitigate reputation loss.
Suppliers (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, etc.)
Social performanceactivities or indicators that affect positively or negatively diversity, excessive working time, unethical treatment of animals, child/forced labour, discrimination, unhealthy/dangerous working environment and right to associate
Note: Main actors of the sustainable supply chain are indicated in italics. The underlying categories (i.e., enablers, drivers, barriers and Management of Social Risk) are presented below each actor.
Table 2. Supplier collaboration practices and related (sample) references.
Table 2. Supplier collaboration practices and related (sample) references.
Supplier Collaboration PracticesExampleKey Sample Paper(s)
compliance relationship
cooperative: analyzing and correcting root causes of social issues, joint problem solving, mentoring, coaching, learning, capacity building, positive incentives.
compliance: rules or standards focus, policing, inspections, "us vs them“, repeated audits, pressures from above, negative incentives.
Locke et al. [72]
building up relationship, collaboration, and trainingdevelopment of trust, commitment and collaboration relationships improve CSR performance. E.g., training can be beneficial in preventing and mitigating child labour and unhealthy working conditions.Perry & Towers [4]; Locke et al. [72]; Locke, Qin, et al. [97]; Goworek [93]; Giannakis & Papadopoulos [24]; Milne et al. [67]
cost sharinge.g., financial support for training programs or to take over costs for infrastructure improvements, e.g., fire extinguishers.Mamic [94]; Yu [80]
decrease profit margins and lead timese.g., to finance worker wages of supplier and thus reduce necessity of overtime work.Hoang & Jones [89]; Miller & Williams [78]
offer incentivese.g., offer larger orders or long-term contracts for compliant suppliers.Huq et al. [45]
invest in corporate compliance teamse.g., establish educated field personnel who are in close contact with suppliers in order to enhance communication, provide training, and transfer of know-how.Mamic [94]; Locke et al. [72]; Milne et al. [67]; Ansett, [86]; Cristina Sancha et al. [13]; Huq et al. [45]; Locke, Qin, et al. [97]; Lueg et al. [66]
Table 3. Supplier assessment practices and related (sample) references.
Table 3. Supplier assessment practices and related (sample) references.
Supplier Assessment PracticesExampleKey Sample Paper(s)
auditsGenerally, include a physical inspection, i.e., a walk through, a documentation inspection, and interviews with workers.Mamic [94]; Milne et al. [67]; Locke, Qin, et al. [97]; Locke, Kochan, et al. [69]
external monitoring and certificationconducted by MSIs (e.g. SAI, WRAP, FLA, ETI, FWF). They have their own codes of conduct, which are largely driven by ILO core standards.O’Rourke [71]; Stigzelius & Mark-Herbert [74]; Anner [68]; Ansett [86]; Egels-Zanden & Lindholm [59]; Svensson [95]; Iwanow et al. [83]; Locke et al. [72]; Milne et al. [67]; Locke, Qin, et al. [97]
third party monitoring/independent monitoringaccredited external organizations, including large accounting firms, professional service firms, quality testing firms, and small non-profit organizations to monitor compliance with codes.Ansett [86]; O’Rourke [71]; Locke, Kochan, et al. [69]; Milne et al. [67]; MacCarthy and Jayarathne [91]
corrective action plans (CAP) and remediationagreement between the supplier and the auditor on the results of an audit and includes recommendations that should be changed within a specific time frame.Mamic [94]; Milne et al. [67]; Anner [68]
Table 4. Reporting and related (sample) references.
Table 4. Reporting and related (sample) references.
ReportingExampleKey Sample Paper(s)
CSR/Sustainability ReportsInclude the use of codes of conduct and their content, memberships in external initiatives, (unannounced) audits, corrective action plans in case of non-compliance, and supplier ranking systems. In addition, financial and product information.Kozlowski et al. [99]; Mamic [94]
internal use of reportsReport aims at suppliers. Can include supplier rankings assessed by focal companies based on the social compliance performance in order to trigger and incentivize suppliers with, e.g., increased orders or long-term contracts for compliant suppliers.Mamic [94]; Kozlowski et al. [99]; O’Rourke [71]; Huq et al. [45]
external use of reportsReport aims and accomplishments to stakeholders. Focal companies can publish names of suppliers and related audit results.Mamic [94]; Kozlowski et al. [99]; O’Rourke [71]; Lueg et al. [66]; Bhaduri & Ha-Brookshire [100]; Iwanow et al. [83]
transparencyTo present a positive image and enhance credibility in order to mitigate external (stakeholders) pressures. Also, to be proactive in their efforts to ensure a socially responsible supply chain.Mamic [94]; Kozlowski et al. [99]; Svensson [95]; O’Rourke [71]; Lueg et al. [66]; Bhaduri & Ha-Brookshire [100]; Ansett [86]; Iwanow et al. [83];
educate and increase awarenessThrough reporting, a company may educate and increase awareness of consumers to gain trust, not only about social issues, but also that ethical responsible clothing can be stylish.Gupta & Hodges [81]; Goworek [93]; Bhaduri & Ha-Brookshire [100]
Table 5. Supplier’s social performance indicators and related articles.
Table 5. Supplier’s social performance indicators and related articles.
Suppliers’ Social Performance IndicatorFrequency of PapersKey Sample Paper(s)
Human Rights/Rights to associate with groups or unions10Anner [68]; Baskaran et al. [102]; Egels-Zanden & Lindholm [59]; Merk [73]; Hoang & Jones [89]; Huq et al. [45]; Locke, Kochan, et al. [69], Burchielli et al. [75], Giannakis & Papadopoulos [24], MacCarthy & Jayarathne [91]
Unfair wages10Yu [80]; Miller & Williams [78]; Huq et al. [45]; Auchter [87]; Burchielli et al. [75]; Perry et al. [101]; MacCarthy & Jayarathne [91]; Jiang et al. [79], Locke, Qin, et al. [97], Anner [68]
Excessive working time8Baskaran et al. [102]; Locke et al. [72]; Hoang & Jones [89]; Locke, Kochan, et al. [69]; MacCarthy & Jayarathne [91]; Jiang et al. [79]; Locke, Qin, et al. [97], Anner [68]
Child/forced labour7Auchter [87]; Iwanow et al. [83]; Huq et al. [45]; Baskaran et al. [98,102], MacCarthy & Jayarathne [91], Yu [80]
Unhealthy/dangerous working environment4Locke et al. [72]; Huq et al. [45]; Anner [68]; MacCarthy & Jayarathne [91]
Discrimination3Egels-Zanden & Lindholm [59]; Baskaran et al. [98,102]
Unethical treatment of animals0-

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Köksal, D.; Strähle, J.; Müller, M.; Freise, M. Social Sustainable Supply Chain Management in the Textile and Apparel Industry—A Literature Review. Sustainability 2017, 9, 100.

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Köksal D, Strähle J, Müller M, Freise M. Social Sustainable Supply Chain Management in the Textile and Apparel Industry—A Literature Review. Sustainability. 2017; 9(1):100.

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Köksal, Deniz, Jochen Strähle, Martin Müller, and Matthias Freise. 2017. "Social Sustainable Supply Chain Management in the Textile and Apparel Industry—A Literature Review" Sustainability 9, no. 1: 100.

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