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Blurring boundaries : the role of sustainability reporting as a boundary object in FMCG supply chains

Igartua, Eneko LU (2014) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM01 20141
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
Purpose: The sustainability impacts of supply chain practices have become a topic of
contention, and customers are demanding more information on the sustainable performance
of corporate entities. Sustainability reporting has emerged in response to these concerns as a
method to showcase the sustainability performance a company’s supply chain to relevant
stakeholders. However, research on the topic is still limited in scope, with most studies carried
out from a business standpoint, and not from a holistic perspective. This thesis aims to fill this
knowledge gap by assessing the potential role of sustainability reports as boundary objects
between supply chain stakeholders. The study reviewed the sustainability reports of a set of
fast... (More)
Purpose: The sustainability impacts of supply chain practices have become a topic of
contention, and customers are demanding more information on the sustainable performance
of corporate entities. Sustainability reporting has emerged in response to these concerns as a
method to showcase the sustainability performance a company’s supply chain to relevant
stakeholders. However, research on the topic is still limited in scope, with most studies carried
out from a business standpoint, and not from a holistic perspective. This thesis aims to fill this
knowledge gap by assessing the potential role of sustainability reports as boundary objects
between supply chain stakeholders. The study reviewed the sustainability reports of a set of
fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies.

Methodology: The methodology for this thesis consisted of three different sections. A
quantitative review of past literature was used to identify gaps in previous research. The
content of the reports was assessed using a directed content analysis, which was based on
previous theory on sustainable supply chains. Finally, a database search was used to determine
the level of disclosure of each company, focusing on adherence to reporting standards and
external assurance of the reports.

Results: The results showed that there is a gap in theoretical knowledge regarding supply
chains and sustainability reporting, with little research existing on the role of sustainability
reports as boundary objects. The content of all reports consistently emphasized the
environmental dimension of sustainability, but results varied in regards to the economic and
social dimensions as well as in the use of performance indicators to address sustainability; with
the economic dimension being the least considered by a large margin. The level of disclosure
of the reports also varied, as some companies ensured the validity of their reports by seeking
external assurance on their adherence to the reporting guidelines, while others presented a
less rigorous approach.

Discussion/Contribution: It was concluded that there is a demand for these reports, and thus
potential gain for the business, but for them to serve as effective boundary objects they must
offer a transparent and comprehensive view of the companies’ sustainability performance that
reflects the needs of all stakeholders. A framework was proposed to improve the reporting
process, which emphasizes integration of stakeholders into the reporting process and external
assurance. Sustainability reporting presents great potential in blurring boundaries between the
stakeholders of the supply chains of FMCG companies. However, that potential is yet to be
fully developed. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Igartua, Eneko LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM01 20141
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
Sustainability Science, sustainable supply chains, sustainability reporting, boundary objects, fast moving consumer goods
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2014:028
language
English
id
4461816
date added to LUP
2014-06-16 10:32:47
date last changed
2014-06-16 10:32:47
@misc{4461816,
  abstract     = {Purpose: The sustainability impacts of supply chain practices have become a topic of
contention, and customers are demanding more information on the sustainable performance
of corporate entities. Sustainability reporting has emerged in response to these concerns as a
method to showcase the sustainability performance a company’s supply chain to relevant
stakeholders. However, research on the topic is still limited in scope, with most studies carried
out from a business standpoint, and not from a holistic perspective. This thesis aims to fill this
knowledge gap by assessing the potential role of sustainability reports as boundary objects
between supply chain stakeholders. The study reviewed the sustainability reports of a set of
fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies.

Methodology: The methodology for this thesis consisted of three different sections. A
quantitative review of past literature was used to identify gaps in previous research. The
content of the reports was assessed using a directed content analysis, which was based on
previous theory on sustainable supply chains. Finally, a database search was used to determine
the level of disclosure of each company, focusing on adherence to reporting standards and
external assurance of the reports.

Results: The results showed that there is a gap in theoretical knowledge regarding supply
chains and sustainability reporting, with little research existing on the role of sustainability
reports as boundary objects. The content of all reports consistently emphasized the
environmental dimension of sustainability, but results varied in regards to the economic and
social dimensions as well as in the use of performance indicators to address sustainability; with
the economic dimension being the least considered by a large margin. The level of disclosure
of the reports also varied, as some companies ensured the validity of their reports by seeking
external assurance on their adherence to the reporting guidelines, while others presented a
less rigorous approach.

Discussion/Contribution: It was concluded that there is a demand for these reports, and thus
potential gain for the business, but for them to serve as effective boundary objects they must
offer a transparent and comprehensive view of the companies’ sustainability performance that
reflects the needs of all stakeholders. A framework was proposed to improve the reporting
process, which emphasizes integration of stakeholders into the reporting process and external
assurance. Sustainability reporting presents great potential in blurring boundaries between the
stakeholders of the supply chains of FMCG companies. However, that potential is yet to be
fully developed.},
  author       = {Igartua, Eneko},
  keyword      = {Sustainability Science,sustainable supply chains,sustainability reporting,boundary objects,fast moving consumer goods},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {Blurring boundaries : the role of sustainability reporting as a boundary object in FMCG supply chains},
  year         = {2014},
}