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An action research approach for measurement of sustainability in a multi-echelon supply chain: Evidences from Indian sea food supply chains

Tiwari, Kamlesh, Khan, Mohammad Shadab
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.235 pp. 225-244
accounting, business enterprises, compliance, data collection, descriptive statistics, employment, fish industry, food supply chain, interviews, models, monitoring, regression analysis, seafoods, supervisors, supply chain, India
Lack of sustainability may be affecting the supply chain operations of businesses. This study has tested this concept in Indian seafood industry by examining an action research approach for measuring and accounting variables affected by sustainability in three seafood-manufacturing companies in India. Through action research, sampled tasks in five locations were monitored and accounted for eight sustainability variables taken from the triple bottom-line model. The accounting data of the tasks was converted into multi-level interval scales for all the transactions observed during the data collection period and analysed using descriptive statistics, ANOVA, and regression analysis. In addition, the supervisors in the five locations were field-interviewed to explore the relevant barriers. It was found lack of safety measures, green standards, and environment hazards prevention were increasing the operations time and costs, and unfair employment practices were found to be causing loss of materials significantly and increasing the operations time moderately. This reflects an operations overhead caused by lack of sustainability. The descriptive statistical analysis reflected inconsistencies in sustainability activities as they are inadequately controlled by the supervisors and vary by actor. From the interviews, regulatory compliance was found as the highest organisational priority resulting in decentralised sustainability monitoring with abstract observations only. It is concluded that measuring and accounting sustainability in the operations activities through action research can help in discovering hidden impacts on the performance variables and plan for their improvements. In this way, (a) sustainability measurements and accounting through action research can be considered as a way to improve operations performance, (b) sustainability can be measured and improved using action research without implementing sophisticated measurement technologies in the short-term, and (c) performance improvements can help in establishing feasibility for investing in advanced technologies in the long-run.