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Though transparency is increasingly central to corporate sustainability and sustainable supply chains, the scholarly conversation about supply chain transparency is limited, as it defines supply chain transparency inconsistently and lacks an empirical basis. We address these shortcomings by developing a multidimensional definition of supply chain transparency and studying the Swedish garment retailer Nudie Jeans' attempt to become “the most transparent company in the world.” We extend the scholarly conversation by analyzing how a company, in practice, attempts to work with supply chain transparency and how to explain the transparency outcomes of such attempts. We argue that three underlying tradeoffs, i.e., threat vs. collaboration, standardization vs. differentiation, and means vs. ends, shape a firm's transparency outcomes. We question whether more supply chain transparency is always desirable, and argue that managers must choose between a compliance or cooperation approach to supply chain transparency.
Trade-offs in supply chain transparency:
the case of Nudie Jeans Co
Niklas Egels-Zandén, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Business Administration
School of Business, Economics and Law
University of Gothenburg
Box 600
SE – 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden
Kajsa Hulthén, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Technology Management and Economics
Division of Industrial Marketing
Chalmers University of Technology
SE-412 96 Gothenburg, Sweden
Gabriella Wulff
PhD Student
Department of Business Administration
School of Business, Economics and Law
University of Gothenburg
Box 600
SE – 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden
Forthcoming: Journal of Cleaner Production
The original publication is available at
Though transparency is increasingly central to corporate sustainability and sustainable supply
chains, the scholarly conversation about supply chain transparency is limited, as it defines
supply chain transparency inconsistently and lacks an empirical basis. We address these
shortcomings by developing a multidimensional definition of supply chain transparency and
studying the Swedish garment retailer Nudie Jeans’ attempt to become “the most transparent
company in the world.” We extend the scholarly conversation by analyzing how a company,
in practice, attempts to work with supply chain transparency and how to explain the
transparency outcomes of such attempts. We argue that three underlying tradeoffs, i.e., threat
vs. collaboration, standardization vs. differentiation, and means vs. ends, shape a firm’s
transparency outcomes. We question whether more supply chain transparency is always
desirable, and argue that managers must choose between a compliance or cooperation
approach to supply chain transparency.
Keywords: supply chain; supply networks; supplier relationships; sustainability; trade-offs;
Word count: 10277
1. Introduction
Transparency, which is becoming increasingly central to corporate sustainability, can roughly
be defined as disclosure of information (Doorey, 2011; Mol, 2013) and “means that the
external impact of the actions of the organisation can be ascertained from that organisation’s
reporting” (Martinez and Crowther, 2008, p. 19). Corporate transparency can take the form of,
for example, sustainability reports (Hahn and Kühnen, 2013), environmental product
declarations (Schau and Fet, 2008), and sustainability certifications (Bartley, 2007). With
purchased materials and components accounting for a growing share of firms’ total
expenditure and sustainability impact (Leppelt et al., 2013; Seuring and Gold, 2013),
transparency requirements have increasingly extended beyond corporate boundaries into
supply chains (Mol, 2013). This has given rise to the notion of “supply chain transparency”
which can be defined as disclosure of information about supplier names, sustainability
conditions at suppliers, and buyers’ purchasing practices (see Section 2).
Supply chain transparency can be a way to make voluntary corporate supply chain
commitments (e.g., codes of conduct and ethical sourcing standards) more meaningful
(Doorey, 2011; Laudal, 2010). It is claimed to be important because companies are often
unwilling to voluntarily assume responsibility for supply chain sustainability (Doorey, 2011;
Egels-Zandén, 2014). Activists and other stakeholders accordingly use “name and shame”
campaigns to force companies to make supply chain commitments (Bartley, 2007) and to
counteract corporate greenwashing (Dubbink, 2007). As “transparency can empower
information users to exert influence on the disclosers” and become a tool for holding
powerful actors accountable” (Dingwerth and Eichinger, 2010, p. 74), it can facilitate “name
and shame” campaigns and help counter a “race to the bottom” among suppliers in developing
countries (Chan and Ross, 2003). This positive belief in the potential of supply chain
transparency resonates with an increased societal emphasis on transparency both in general
(e.g., Augustine, 2012) and in relation to sustainability (e.g., Gallo and Christensen, 2011;
Mol, 2013).
The scholarly conversation about supply chain transparency is limited in two important ways.
First, supply chain transparency is inconsistently defined and individual scholars tend to focus
solely on just one of the many dimensions of transparency. This leads to limited and often
dualistic framings of supply chain transparency, with companies being claimed to be either
transparent or nontransparent. This framing is problematic because it ignores the fact that
most companies, in both the same and different transparency dimensions, simultaneously
display various “transparency outcomes”1. By recognizing this simple fact, it is possible to
extend the scholarly conversation beyond the question of why companies become transparent
to encompass the question of how to explain the transparency outcomes of companies’
transparency attempts. Second, while several conceptual studies have analyzed supply chain
transparency (e.g., Mol, 2013), few empirical studies have examined companies’ attempts to
1 In this paper, we differentiate between transparency “attempts”, “outcomes” and “impacts”. Transparency
attempts refer to corporate transparency focused initiatives. Transparency outcomes refer to the degree of
transparency that results from these attempts, and transparency impacts refer to the effects of transparency
attempts on suppliers’ sustainability performance.
be transparent in practice (see Doorey, 2011, for an exception). More empirically grounded
studies of supply chain transparency are clearly needed.
We address these two limitations by asking how a company, in practice, attempts to work
with supply chain transparency and how to explain the transparency outcomes of such
attempts. We do so based on a study the Swedish garment retailer Nudie Jeans Co’s (Nudie)
attempt to become “the most transparent company in the world”, and the development of a
multidimensional definition of supply chain transparency that allow for a more exhaustive
understanding of transparency outcomes. We also illustrate how the supply network of which
a firm is part plays a key role in explaining supply chain transparency outcomes. We
conceptualize the supply network as interconnected buyer-seller relationships, each having a
certain “relationship atmosphere” that can be described in the dimensions: power, control, and
conflict (Gadde, 2004). We conclude the paper by arguing that three underlying tradeoffs
shape a firm’s transparency outcomes, questioning whether more supply chain transparency is
always desirable, and arguing that managers must take a stand in how to work with supply
chain transparency. In doing this, we contribute to the sustainability and supply chain
literature and provide a starting point for future empirical studies of supply chain
2. Three dimensions of supply chain transparency
Transparency is particularly important to external stakeholders, as they generally lack the
background details and knowledge available to internal users of information (Tapscott and
Ticoll, 2003). Transparency thus represents a way to transfer power from the firm to its
stakeholders (Martinez and Crowther, 2008) by reducing the information asymmetry between
these actors and allowing stakeholders to make informed evaluations of the firms’ products
(Chapman, 1995). As Fung (2013, p. 184) puts it, transparency is envisioned to enable
“individuals to protect their interests and, collectively, to control the organizations that affect
their lives.” Such straightforward consequences are far from certain in practice, however (e.g.,
Dingwerth and Eichinger, 2010).
Transparency is currently in vogue and is presented as the solution to numerous problems
facing both public and private organizations (e.g., Garsten and Montoya, 2008). This general
emphasis on transparency is mirrored in the sustainability literature (e.g., Doorey, 2011;
Dubbink et al., 2008), which presents transparency as desirable in itself (e.g., Augustine,
2012) and as connected to desirable characteristics such as accountability (Dubbink et al.,
2008), legitimacy (Kell, 2013), and trust (Augustine, 2012). Given this positive view of
transparency, it is unsurprising that the transparency found in today’s market is presented as
insufficient and that increased transparency is frequently advocated (Doorey, 2011; Dubbink
et. al., 2008; Martinez and Crowther, 2008).
In relation to supply chains, consumers and other stakeholders, such as nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) and governments, are increasingly demanding transparency from
companies (Carter and Rogers, 2008; Doorey, 2011; Dubbink, 2007). This is so because
supply chain transparency is seen as allowing independent organizations to monitor
sustainability conditions at the point of production and verify firms’ sustainability claims
(Laudal, 2010). Stakeholders are unwilling to rely solely on corporate disclosed information
because firms are assumed to “focus on the more successful examples while not being
transparent on some of [their] CSR ‘hot spots’” (Toppinen and Korhonen-Kurki, 2013, p.
209). The underlying assumption is that supply chain transparency can make firms’
sustainability attempts more effective and help overcome some of the problems identified in
previous research into voluntary corporate supply chain commitments in developing countries
(Egels-Zandén, 2007). In other words, supply chain transparency is presented as a central
characteristic on which judgments of firms’ supply chain activities can be based (O’Rourke,
From a corporate perspective, embracing supply chain transparency has become a way to
improve firm legitimacy (Carter and Rogers, 2008; Dubbink et al., 2008). As MacLean and
Rebernak (2007, p. 4) put it, “there is no better way to build trust among stakeholders than
through transparency.” Studies have also demonstrated that customers are more willing to
purchase products from transparent companies (Bhaduri and Ha-Brookshire, 2011). Despite
this, corporate managers have been hesitant to embrace supply chain transparency, claiming
that information about factories is of great proprietary, economic, and competitive value
(Doorey, 2011).
Scholars interested in “supply chain transparency” are unclear about how to define the term.
Carter and Rogers (2008, p. 370), for example, speak of supply chain transparency as
allowing “stakeholders to see further along an organization’s supply chain” without
specifying what this entails in practice. Other authors equate transparency to the ability to
track a product’s flow throughout the production process and supply chain (Doorey, 2011;
Laudal, 2010); in other words, they equate transparency to traceability. Still other authors
stress that transparency involves being transparent about sustainability conditions at suppliers
(Cramer, 2008). Rather than disclosing supplier names (as is the focus in traceability), these
authors stress the disclosure of trustworthy information about social and environmental
conditions at the point of production. Finally, some authors stress transparency in terms of
financial transactions between buyers and suppliers. This is usually stressed in relation to
extractive industries and anti-corruption efforts (e.g., Schouten and Remme, 2006) but, given
that buyers’ purchasing practices have been demonstrated to shape sustainability conditions at
suppliers’ factories, it is a dimension relevant to most industries. Barrientos (2013, p. 44), for
example, argues that buyers “subject suppliers to commercial pressures—through downward
price pressures and flexible ordering systems—which underpin many poor working
conditions, such as low wages, long overtime and casualised contracts.”
By recognizing the three dimensions hidden under the umbrella term “supply chain
transparency” in previous research, it is possible to develop a more holistic definition. We
propose that supply chain transparency comprises corporate disclosure of: i) the names of the
suppliers involved in producing the firm’s products (i.e., traceability), ii) information about
the sustainability conditions at these suppliers, and iii) the buying firms’ purchasing practices.
It is possible to imagine firms performing well on any of these three dimensions. In terms of
disclosure of supplier names, H&M, for example, recently published its supplier list without
publishing information about sustainability conditions at the disclosed factories. Furthermore,
H&M published the names of only its first-tier garment factories, making it only partly
transparent with regard to supplier names. A company that is fully transparent about supplier
names would allow stakeholders to trace the product all the way from the raw materials to end
consumers. All American Clothing Co, one such company, includes a “traceability number”
with each pair of jeans sold, allowing customers to trace the names of suppliers all the way
back to the cotton farmers.
In terms of disclosure of sustainability conditions, the multi-stakeholder initiative Fair Labor
Association (FLA), for example, publishes factory auditing reports, evaluating suppliers’
social and environmental performance, for specific suppliers without disclosing their names.
FLA provides full disclosure of sustainability conditions but does not connect this information
to supplier names. FLA is thus transparent in terms of sustainability conditions but not in
terms of traceability.
In terms of disclosure of purchasing practices, the Belgium-based fashion company Honest
By provides one of the most interesting examples. For each product, Honest By provides a
cost breakdown specifying the cost of the product (from fabrics, zippers, and cotton thread to
wholesale and retail markups). Although such information does not provide a complete
picture of Honest By’s purchasing practices, it does provide valuable information about
pricing that, in turn, likely affects sustainability conditions at the point of production.
A transparent company would need to combine the traceability, sustainability, and purchasing
dimensions and thus publish the names of specific suppliers, the sustainability conditions at
each supplier, and relevant purchasing practices related to each supplier. One company
moving in this direction is Patagonia, which publishes both supplier names and sustainability
conditions for a handful of selected suppliers. Still, Patagonia does not publish the names and
sustainability conditions of all its suppliers. Furthermore, Patagonia does not publish
information about its purchasing practices in relation to its suppliers. In other words,
Patagonia, like most if not all companies, simultaneously displays different transparency
outcomes for different suppliers and supply chain transparency dimensions.
Finally, it is important to distinguish between internal supply chain transparency, i.e., the
degree to which the firm can be transparent to itself, and external supply chain transparency,
i.e., the degree to which the firm is transparent to external stakeholders. It is possible,
arguably even likely, that firms are unwilling to externally disclose all their internally
available information to minimize the risk of “name and shame” campaigns (Bartley, 2007)
and disclosure of sensitive material (Doorey, 2011).
3. Supply network and transparency
There are numerous potential explanations of the transparency outcomes of corporate supply
chain transparency attempts. In this paper, we explore one such explanation – the focal firm’s
supply network. Relationships with suppliers and how the interfaces with suppliers are
organized have proven important both in general (e.g., Gadde, 2004) and in relation to supply
chain sustainability (e.g., Locke et al., 2009). It is reasonable to assume that these factors will
also be influential in shaping a firm’s supply chain transparency outcomes.
As pointed out in the Introduction, firms today increasing rely on purchased material and
outsourcing of production to third parties, i.e., they rely more on “buy” than “make”. This
means that transparency no longer is a firm internal affair but extends across firm boundaries
into the supply network. The implication of this is that inter-organizational issues need to be
taken into consideration when analyzing supply chain transparency.
Outsourcing means relying on the resources of others, which leads to interdependencies
among the firms in the supply network. For example, outsourcing firms are often afraid of
losing control over the outsourced activities (e.g., Selviaridis and Spring, 2007). According to
Gadde et al. (2010), a common problem is that outsourcing firms try to specify everything in
detail in a contract. This means that they hamper the suppliers’ ability to organize their
operations in a way that is most efficient from their perspective. In line with this, Tomkins et
al. (2006, p. 52) suggest that “outsourcing requires giving up control of a business function
and trusting the others to handle that function for you.”
Supplier relationships can be said to be characterized by what Gadde (2004) refers to as the
“relationship atmosphere,” which in turn comprises three interrelated dimensions, i.e., control,
power, and conflict, central to understanding how firms can induce others to act in their
interests (Gadde, 2004; Stern, 1969). Regarding control, Frazier (1999, p. 229) claims that a
control system is “the set of agreements, programs and interactions used by a firm in
attempting to shape strategies and actions of associated members in the value chain.” Control
concerns influencing others (Gadde, 2004), and Weitz and Jaap (1995) distinguish three forms
of control mechanisms used to exert influence, namely, authoritative, normative, and
contractual control mechanisms. Authoritative control is gained through ownership, position,
or power. Normative control is achieved via shared norms, values, and trust among the parties
involved in a relationship. Contractual control is regulated by contracts that determine various
levels of compensation.
Power is “usually defined as the ability to influence others to do what they would not
otherwise have done” (Gadde et al., 2010, p. 115). Furthermore, power is deeply rooted in
interdependence (Gadde, 2004), so the more dependent one actor is on another, the more
power the latter has over the former. It is important to note, however, that the possession of
power should be distinguished from its exploitation (Gadde, 2004). Power can be exerted in
either a threatening or an influencing way. It has been demonstrated that many successful
firms, even though they possess power, do not exert it in a threatening way but instead use it
to influence other parties. For example, exploiting relative bargaining power over business
partners might reduce the possibility of gaining long-term relational advantages (e.g., Rokkan
and Haugland, 2002).
Conflict is a built-in characteristic of business relationships due to the interdependencies
between the involved actors. Conflict “exists when one partner perceives the other partner as
impeding the attainment of goals or some other function of concern” (Weitz and Jaap, 1995,
p. 315). How and to what degree conflict arises is closely related to how power is exploited
(Gadde, 2004). Furthermore, conflict can be either dysfunctional or constructive. Close
relationships are often full of conflict potential, but this can often be handled in a constructive
way (Gadde, 2004).
In sum, given that supply chain transparency extends across firm boundaries into the supply
network, we believe that the relationship atmosphere framework of power, control, and
conflict is useful for analyzing the transparency outcomes of corporate transparency attempts.
4. Methodology
To examine how a company, in practice, attempts to work with supply chain transparency and
how to explain the transparency outcomes of such attempts, we use material from a qualitative
study of the medium-sized Swedish garment retailer Nudie Jeans Co’s attempt to become “the
most transparent company in the world.” Given the dearth of empirical studies of corporate
attempts to become transparent, reliance on a qualitative single-case study is in line with
previously proposed methods (Marshall and Rossman, 1995). The focus on Nudie is merited
because the company both is proactively attempting to be a transparency and sustainability
leader, and allowed unusual research access (Eisenhardt and Graebner, 2007). Nudie is a
medium-sized company with deliberately few suppliers, long-term supplier relationships, a
mainly European supply network, high-quality and high-priced products, and a strong
sustainability profile. While these features are not unique in the garment industry (see, for
example, the Swiss company Switcher for similar features), they are rare and have likely
influenced Nudie’s transparency outcomes. The Nudie case should, thus, to some extent be
treated as a “unique case” (Yin, 2003, pp. 40–41).
In other words, our findings should be viewed as a starting point for further empirical research
in other contexts rather than as straightforward generalizable conclusions. This holds for
generalizations within the garment industry, where the vast majority of firms use strategies
different than that of Nudie in relation to their supply networks (such as a larger number of
suppliers, more globally dispersed suppliers and more short term relations). It also holds for
generalizations to other industries where, for example, sustainability demands are less forceful
than in the garment industry (cf. Bartley, 2007), and focal firms are even less aware of the
names of their suppliers and sub-suppliers.
The study of Nudie’s transparency attempt is part of a larger study of Nudie’s sustainability
practices, including its free repair service for its products and its use of organic cotton.
Material for the study was gathered from interviews, written documentation, and
observations. In 2012-2014, over 80 interviews were conducted with Nudie and with its
suppliers and stakeholder representatives. Over 30 Nudie representatives were interviewed
(several representatives on multiple occasions, with some interviews not being relevant to the
transparency study), including all owners, all members of top management teams, CSR
managers, representatives of all corporate departments, and all those involved in the
transparency attempt. This allowed for interviews with “numerous and highly knowledgeable
informants who view the focal phenomenon from diverse perspectives” (Eisenhardt and
Graebner, 2007, p. 28). All interviews were conducted at Nudie’s Swedish headquarters. The
interviews focused both broadly on Nudie’s supply chain, sourcing strategies, sustainability
activities, corporate strategy, and motives for becoming transparent, and specifically on the
concrete details, challenges, and opportunities of Nudie’s attempt to become the most
transparent company in the world.
Over 30 interviews were also conducted at Nudie’s suppliers in India and Portugal. Such
supplier interviews are important, since Seuring and Gold’s (2013, p. 4) first recommendation
for supply chain sustainability research is to collect more data “along supply chains” to
develop “in-depth knowledge in the field of SCM” and “dramatically improve our
understanding of inter-organizational issues.” They are also important to further capture
diverse perspectives in the case (Eisenhardt and Graebner, 2007). The supplier interviews
explored suppliers’ views of and involvement in Nudie’s transparency attempt. In addition, 10
interviews were held with Scandinavian and international stakeholders involved in the studied
transparency attempt and/or the international sustainability debate. These included NGO
representatives (e.g., Amnesty, Fair Wear Foundation, and Clean Clothes Campaign) as well
as labor union representatives and factory auditors.
The interviews lasted on average one hour each and were semi-structured, audio recorded, and
transcribed. Written documentation (e.g., factory audit reports, emails, PowerPoint
presentations, Excel spreadsheets, and internal documents) was used to complement the
information provided in interviews. Observations of project meetings related to the
transparency attempt were also used to obtain complementary information. The fact that data
was collected in multiple ways and largely longitudinally in real-time improve the credibility
of the study (Eisenhardt and Graebner, 2007).
The transcribed interviews, written documentation, and observations were coded using the
computer software NVivo to create a chronological account of the transparency attempt and to
identify key challenges facing it. The codes included general codes (such as transparency,
traceability and auditing), specific empirically derived codes (such as a code for each
supplier’s name), and conceptually derived codes (such as relationship atmosphere, power and
control).There were few inconsistencies between the information obtained from the verbal
and written sources. Any inconsistencies identified, either between interviews or between
written and verbal sources, were discussed with the involved actors and, if still unresolved,
were included in the case description to transparently present divergences of opinion. Finally,
analytical themes related to definitions of transparency and supply network were developed.
5. Supply chain transparency in the case of Nudie Jeans Co
5.1. Background to Nudie Jeans Co
Nudie Jeans Co is a medium-sized Swedish company with approximately 50 employees and a
2011 turnover of EUR 40 million (profits of EUR 5 million). The company was founded in
early 2000s and has been increasing its turnover continuously over the last decade. The
company’s ownership is divided between the two founders (still active in the company) and
the current CEO. Eighty percent of Nudie’s turnover comes from the sale of jeans with the
remaining 20% coming from other products and accessories (such as shirts, t-shirts and bags).
Nudie has profiled itself in terms of interest, engagement, and practical work in sustainability
issues. As one owner put it in an interview, “it has always been central for us [the owners] to
be able to go to sleep at night knowing that those who work and produce for us are doing
Nudie has outsourced production of all its products. At the outset, production was restricted to
Western Europe, but this has slowly started to change in recent years. In 2013, end production
(i.e., sewing, washing, and packaging) took place mainly in Italy and Portugal, but Nudie also
has a handful of suppliers (and sub-suppliers) in India, Romania, Tunisia, Turkey, and
Scandinavia. The geographic expansion of production has been driven mainly by a desire to
reduce costs. In particular, the move to India was “a big deal” for several Nudie
representatives who “were very proud of only having produced in Europe” (interview, Nudie
customer relations manager and store manager). This pride was related both to high
sustainability standards and to a desire for extensive insight into suppliers’ operations. The
focus on insight and quality has also led Nudie to have fewer than 30 direct suppliers for all of
its sold products (including accessories and other minor products), with two Italian suppliers
of core products being highly dominant in terms of volume.
5.2. Launching the supply chain transparency attempt
Nudie’s drive for transparency gained intensity in 2009, when the retailer was featured in
media coverage under headlines such as “Popular Garment Contains Poison.” Journalists had
discovered that Nudie’s products contained traces of a chemical banned from the European
market. As the social media manager put it, “we only import our products from Europe so the
result was very surprising. We did not have any idea of how it got there.” It was later found
that the chemical traces had been transmitted to Nudie’s products during transportation with
other goods. The scandal made Nudie managers realize the benefits of having more detailed
information about where and how their products were produced, i.e., traceability would be
beneficial, and that this could be a competitive advantage. As the sales manager put it, “the
scandal sparked our desire to be open with everything and we realized that this could be a
competitive advantage.”
In 2009, Nudie joined Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), which gave it a credible way to conduct
factory audits at its suppliers.2 A few years later, in 2012, Nudie started to conduct supplier
audits. Once auditing commenced, Nudie’s CEO officially launched the vision “to become the
most transparent company in the world.” This was certainly an ambitious vision for a
company that just had just started to conduct factory audits and whose managers did not know
the names of all their sub-suppliers. Nudie managers, however, excluded internal processes
and purchasing practices from “transparency,” making its vision somewhat easier to realize.
In terms of internal processes, Nudie managers claimed that customers and other stakeholders
were uninterested in Nudie’s internal operations, such as sustainability conditions at Nudie’s
headquarters and stores. This meant that Nudie would not publish the same information (e.g.,
2 FWF is a Dutch-based European nongovernmental multi-stakeholder organization that conducts independent
verification of European companies’ performance and efforts to ensure good working conditions at their
salary levels, gender distribution, unionization, and environmental performance) about its own
operations as it wanted to publish about its suppliers’ operations.
In terms of purchasing practices, Nudie managers claimed that it was too sensitive to publish
information about Nudie’s purchasing prices, volumes, and other business variables. As the
sales manager put it, we still consider this information to be a business secret and will
therefore not disclose it.” In other words, managers were reluctant to disclose Nudie’s profit
margins or the actual prices paid to suppliers. Nudie managers defined “transparency” so as,
in practice, to include only two of the three supply chain transparency dimensions identified
here (i.e., names of suppliers and sustainability conditions).
5.3. Supplier reactions to the transparency attempt
Despite Nudie’s focus on the supplier dimensions of supply chain transparency, it is worth
noting that suppliers, before the launch of Nudie’s transparency vision, had received limited
information about the vision. However, before Nudie could publish information about
supplier names and sustainability conditions on its website, it had to receive written
permission from its suppliers. As the customer relations manager at Nudie’s main Indian
supplier (Supplier D) put it, “we have not been involved in this project [Nudie’s transparency
attempt]. It is a Nudie project and they are now asking us to sign an agreement to get our
consent in publishing information.” In other words, the entire attempt could be halted if
suppliers refused to sign Nudie’s supplier transparency agreement, which allowed Nudie, on
its website, to publish information about suppliers’ and sub-suppliers’ names and locations
and full factory audit reports.
Most suppliers saw advantages in being promoted on Nudie’s website and the vast majority of
Nudie’s suppliers signed the agreement. Nudie is, thus, able to publish both supplier names
and sustainability conditions on their website for the vast majority of suppliers. As a manager
at a Portuguese supplier put it, “the positive thing is that other clients might come to us.”
However, a selected few suppliers were not equally forthcoming. For example, one
Scandinavian supplier agent (Supplier A) of complementary products refused to disclose its
suppliers’ names to Nudie, let alone make this information publicly available. The supplier
perceived a risk that Nudie, or other buyers, would bypass it as middle-man and source
directly from its sub-suppliers (this supplier had outsourced all its production). After the
agent’s initial refusal to sign the transparency contract, negotiations followed and Nudie was
eventually able to receive and publish information about the country where the products were
produced. As Nudie’s CSR manager put it in the midst of the negotiations, “it is their
[Supplier A’s] policy not to provide the names of their suppliers. I do not think that they will
change, but we are continuously nagging them about this and at least we now get the country
names.” Still, Nudie was unable to be fully transparent about this part of its production and
has therefore threatened to cancel orders starting in 2014 if the agent does not sign the
transparency agreement.
Another Scandinavian supplier agent (Supplier B) reacted similarly, refusing to sign the
transparency agreement and provide its sub-suppliers’ names to Nudie. Since Nudie sourced
finished products from this supplier, it pushed harder in this case to gain access to sub-
supplier names, both to improve quality control and to allow for factory audits. This was
particularly pressing as the Scandinavian supplier agent had outsourced production to Indian
sub-suppliers, i.e., to what Nudie managers perceived as high-risk suppliers in terms of
sustainability violations. After negotiations, Nudie received the names of the Indian sub-
suppliers and conducted factory audits, but the Scandinavian agent still refused to sign the
transparency contract due to the risk of being bypassed by Nudie or other buyers. As Nudie’s
CSR manager put it, “we eventually received the names of the sub-suppliers for internal use,
but at the moment we do not have permission to publish this information on our website. They
are afraid that we will go straight to the sub-supplier to get a better price…we have explained
that we are not interested in doing that.” In early 2014, the names of the sub-suppliers and the
audit results could still not be published, and Nudie has threatened to cancel orders starting in
2014 if this agent continues to refuse to sign.
One of Nudie’s high-volume Portuguese suppliers (Supplier C) also refused to sign the
transparency agreement, but for a different reason. Since this Portuguese supplier did most of
its production in-house, there was no risk of Nudie, or other buyers, bypassing it. On the
contrary, being promoted on Nudie’s website could potentially attract new customers. The
supplier’s management, however, regarded the factory audit results as internal documents,
and the owner felt upset by the transparency agreement. As Nudie’s CSR manager put it, “the
owner of Supplier C was insulted by the transparency agreement…he considers the audit
results to be between us and them.” This reaction was related partly to the transparency
agreement and partly to this supplier’s feeling that it had been unjustly portrayed in the
previous audit report. The supplier has even banned the specific auditor who conducted the
offending factory audit from visiting its factory again. Due to the attractive price levels and
product quality offered by this supplier, Nudie managers have decided to collaborate more
closely with it to build trust and to conduct more informal factory audits in the near future. No
ultimatum has been given to this supplier, despite Nudie’s inability to publish factory audits
for it and its sub-suppliers.
Nudie’s main Indian supplier (Supplier D), which had its name published on Nudie’s website
in connection with another sustainability project, also reacted unexpectedly. Immediately after
its name was published, the Indian supplier requested the removal of its name from Nudie’s
website, because another of the supplier’s buyers had requested this removal. This was
because the other buyer (an agent company) was afraid that potential buyers would bypass it
as an agent and source directly from the Indian supplier. As the CEO of Supplier D recalled,
“I got a call from a buyer that requested that we removed our name from Nudie’s website.
They [the buyer] were afraid of losing business if our name was out in the open.” While
Nudie agreed to temporarily remove the name of the Indian supplier from the website, the
supplier later signed the transparency agreement and then had its name published despite
potentially negative reactions from other buyers.
Finally, Nudie has yet to send the transparency agreement to suppliers of fabrics and
complementary material (e.g., zippers, buttons, and threads). However, when Nudie has
inquired about the names of these suppliers’ sub-suppliers, it received limited or no
5.4. Adding factory audits to the picture
Once the suppliers signed Nudie’s transparency agreement, they agreed to the publication of
factory audits on Nudie’s website. In practice, this was only the case when Nudie had
conducted a factory audit at the supplier and, as of 2013, Nudie had audited only a limited
number of suppliers. Nudie initially prioritized its two high-volume Italian suppliers
(combined accounting for approximately 85% of production volumes). Since both of these
suppliers had outsourced all production to sub-suppliers, Nudie also audited all their sub-
suppliers as well. In addition to the two key Italian suppliers, Nudie also prioritized medium-
volume Portuguese suppliers (accounting for 0.5–2.0% each of production volumes) and their
handful of suppliers and sub-suppliers located in countries perceived as being at a high risk of
sustainability violations (e.g., India, Romania, Tunisia, and Turkey).
This left low-volume suppliers, sub-suppliers to medium-volume suppliers, and new
medium/low-volume Portuguese suppliers. The new Portuguese suppliers were not audited
mainly because of the short lead time between test orders and finished product (making
supplier changes nearly impossible) and uncertainty as to whether the supplier relationship
would continue after the test period. In other words, Nudie representatives perceived it as
unfeasible and potentially unnecessary to audit these new suppliers. The low-volume
suppliers were not audited because they either were located in Scandinavian countries (low-
risk countries where FWF could not suggest qualified auditors) or were perceived as highly
compliant during non-audit visits from Nudie representatives. The sub-suppliers of audited
medium-volume suppliers were not audited because Nudie representatives felt that it made
more sense to audit all first-tier suppliers before auditing these sub-suppliers.
Finally, Nudie has so far limited auditing to post-fabric suppliers. In other words, fabric and
material suppliers (sub-suppliers to Nudie’s suppliers) and their sub-suppliers (e.g., cotton
farms and yarn producers) have not been audited. Similarly, suppliers of complementary
products (e.g., zippers, buttons, and thread) have not been audited.
5.5. Communicating supply chain transparency
With transparency agreements and factory audits in place, in 2013 Nudie launched the
transparency attempt on its website. In most cases, all available information was published:
for audited suppliers, both the supplier name and audit were published, and for non-audited
suppliers, only the supplier name was published. The initial plan was to publish complete
factory audit reports, but Nudie managers eventually decided to publish audit report
summaries. According to the CSR manager, this was because “if you have not read an audit
report before, I believe it will generate an enormous amount of questions.” Full audit reports
were instead available on request (no such request had been made as of early 2014).
The summaries were intended to describe the main audit findings but, in a few instances,
major non-compliances were excluded. For example, legal working hour non-compliances at
a Portuguese supplier (Supplier E) were omitted from the summaries so that Nudie would not,
as the chairman put it, “commit public suicide” and to reduce the supplier’s vulnerability
when the audits were published. Similarly, for Nudie’s Indian supplier (Supplier D), audit
results about juvenile workers were omitted from the summary, since Nudie managers did not
know whether this comprised a legal violation, how to answer questions about the finding, or
what corrective actions to take. As the CSR manager put it, “we do not know how to handle
this [juvenile workers], since there is not any real solution.” For a Turkish sub-supplier
(Supplier F), audit findings about illegal migrant workers were omitted, since this had been
corrected before publishing (other corrections were, however, mentioned in the audit
summaries rather than omitted).
In addition, several non-audited suppliers were also omitted from the published information.
For example, sub-suppliers to several medium-volume Portuguese suppliers were omitted,
creating the impression that these suppliers did not use sub-suppliers. This was done because
Nudie managers had limited information about these sub-suppliers. Similarly, some low-
volume fabric suppliers were omitted from publication, since Nudie did not have direct
contact with these frequently changing suppliers and Nudie managers perceived that it would
be too time-consuming to keep this information updated.
For a few selected products, Nudie was able to publish information extending from cotton
field to finished product. This was possible for products using fair trade cotton, since this
cotton is labeled with an ID number that identifies the farmer. This was also possible for
selected products for which Nudie had actively sourced specific high-quality cotton from
selected suppliers. However, for the vast majority of its products, Nudie at most named the
fabric supplier.
6. Discussion
6.1. Defining supply chain transparency in practice
As discussed in the section “The three dimensions of supply chain transparency,” the term
“supply chain transparency” is often inconsistently defined. The Nudie case illustrates that
firms can leverage this inconsistency to their advantage. Most notably, although Nudie strove
to become the most transparent company in the world, it excluded the purchasing practice
dimension of supply chain transparency, and, thus, did not “become equally subjected to
transparency” as their suppliers (Mol, 2013, p. 2). In this way, Nudie managed to define
transparency to, at least partly, serve its own interests by not disclosing central but sensitive
information about purchasing prices and markups (cf. Doorey, 2011; Toppinen and
Korhonen-Kurki, 2013).
This finding resonates with Dingwerth and Eichinger’s (2010) argument, based on their study
of the Global Reporting Initiative, that the outcomes of specific transparency attempts depend
greatly on the interests of the involved actors, and Mol’s (2013, p. 1) argument that
“transparency in value chains” is “a central object of power struggles, with uncertain
outcomes.” In practice, supply chain transparency is not about “declaring the truth” (Madsen,
2009), but rather about declaring a particular perspective serving certain actors’ interests.
Nudie’s increased transparency can certainly become a way to transfer power to stakeholders
and allow stakeholders to hold Nudie accountable for sustainability conditions in its supply
chains (Dingwerth and Eichinger, 2010; Fung, 2013; Martinez and Crowther, 2008).
However, it could also allow Nudie to shift blame to its suppliers, since Nudie discloses their
names and sustainability problems but makes it difficult for stakeholders to evaluate Nudie’s
role in these problems by withholding information about purchasing practices. In line with
Gray’s (2010, p. 50) argument about information disclosure more broadly, there is thus a risk
that companies, in order to gain competitive advantage over rivals and retain status-quo in
global value chain, shape transparency to be little more thanfairy tales to help the children
sleep at night.”
Supply chain transparency does not just have downstream implications of empowering”
stakeholders to “exert influence” on the company (Dingwerth and Eichinger, 2010, p. 74); it
also has upstream implications for firms’ supply networks. This is illustrated by Nudie’s
attempt to exert contractual control when requiring suppliers to sign formal transparency
agreements (cf. Weitz and Jaap, 1995), by the conflicts resulting from some suppliers’ refusal
to sign (cf. Weitz and Jaap, 1995), and by a display of power in which Nudie managers
attempted to force some suppliers on which they were less dependent to sign while refraining
from pressuring suppliers that were more difficult to replace (cf. Gadde, 2004).
6.2. Transparency outcomes
The realization that supply chain transparency has supply network implications is a good
starting point for understanding the transparency outcomes of supply chain transparency
attempts. In the Nudie case transparency outcomes must be analyzed relative to the
traceability and sustainability dimensions of supply chain transparency, since Nudie refrained
from including the purchasing practice dimension in its transparency work.
6.2.1. Traceability dimension
Compared with other garment industry companies, which have difficulties naming all the
suppliers involved in their production (Boström et al., 2012; Doorey, 2011), Nudie has a high
level of traceability. This is illustrated by the fact that Nudie managers can name all their
suppliers from fabric onward in the supply chain. This results from both Nudie’s type of
supply network (deliberately few long-term suppliers) and the type of “relationship
atmosphere” (Gadde, 2004) that Nudie has gradually created in its supply network. For
example, as Nudie’s CSR manager put it, “initially they [i.e., the two key Italian suppliers]
were hesitant to reveal information about sub-suppliers, but over time they have come to
understand why this is important to us.” In other words, through the use of normative control,
rather than authoritative or contractual control (Weitz and Jaap, 1995), Nudie managers have
been able to build an atmosphere of openness with key suppliers and in this way have
incrementally improved traceability.
So far, such normative control has not given Nudie access to information beyond fabric
suppliers or sub-suppliers to suppliers of complementary material (e.g., zippers, buttons, and
threads). These suppliers have been reluctant to reveal information about sub-suppliers, likely
due to both less frequent buyer–supplier interactions (limiting the ability to exert normative
control) (cf. Weitz and Jaap, 1995) and Nudie’s weaker bargaining power vis-à-vis these
suppliers (cf. Gadde, 2004).
Similarly, normative control has been largely inadequate to induce some of Nudie’s agents to
reveal the names of their sub-suppliers (see, for example, Supplier A and Supplier B in section
5.3). Since a key competitive advantage of most agents is the names of their suppliers, supply
chain transparency is perceived by agents as potentially undermining their business model by,
for example, allowing buyers to bypass them. To handle this situation, Nudie has reverted to
authoritative control, threatening to use its power to force agents to reveal sub-supplier names.
This has not yet led to signed agreements, but rather to deadlock and to dysfunctional rather
than constructive conflict, at least partly because Nudie lacks an authoritative position vis-à-
vis these suppliers. As illustrated by Nudie’s main Indian supplier (Supplier D in section 5.3),
agents unrelated to the focal firm (in this case Nudie) could also influence transparency
outcomes by threatening and forcing suppliers to withdraw from transparency attempts. This
conflict of interest between firms and agents raises the broader question of whether supply
chain transparency will lead to the demise, or reshaping, of agents in supply networks (cf.
Weitz and Jaap, 1995).
It is worth noting that Nudie’s ability to trace products extends beyond fabric suppliers in two
exceptional cases. The first is when Nudie is using Fair Trade cotton, since this certification
requires the tracing of cotton from field to fabric supplier, i.e., it requires traceability.
Traceability “piggy-backs on wider social developments” such as sustainability certifications
(Mol, 2013, p. 1), meaning that firms’ prior use of such standards facilitates supply chain
transparency. Nudie has leveraged this and disclosed the names of some cotton suppliers of its
Fair Trade products. The second exception is when Nudie purchases specific types of high-
quality cotton for one-off projects. In these cases, disclosure of the names of the cotton
suppliers is central to creating a unique selling point for the product.
6.2.2. Sustainability dimension
As could be expected, Nudie’s transparency outcomes are less encompassing for the
sustainability, as compared to the traceability, supply chain transparency dimension, i.e.,
Nudie does not audit all of the suppliers that it is aware of in its supply network. With most
firms having hundreds, or even thousands, of suppliers and sub-suppliers and each factory
audit requiring resources, a key question facing firms is how to prioritize what suppliers to
audit. Despite the practical relevance of such prioritizations and extensive research into how
firms work with codes of conduct and auditing (e.g., Bartley, 2007), few, if any, studies have
analyzed firms’ audit prioritizations (Egels-Zandén, 2010). In the Nudie case, the
prioritization was based on initially auditing high-volume Italian suppliers (and their sub-
suppliers), subsequently auditing suppliers (and sub-suppliers) in perceived high-risk
countries, and finally auditing Portuguese medium-volume suppliers. In other words, the
Nudie case indicates that suppliers’ production volumes and geographic locations were central
variables determining prioritization decisions and shaping Nudie’s transparency outcomes in
the sustainability dimension.
The Nudie case also illustrates how a company can incrementally improve its transparency
outcomes by auditing more and more of its suppliers. However, by late 2013, several
suppliers, such as fabric suppliers, sub-suppliers to medium-volume suppliers, and new
suppliers, were still not audited, implying that Nudie cannot disclose any information about
the sustainability conditions at these suppliers’ factories. Furthermore, Nudie’s conflict with
the Portuguese supplier (Supplier C in section 5.3) that refused access to Nudie’s auditors
after being upset and insulted by Nudie’s proposed transparency agreement and previous
factory audit illustrates how supply chain transparency, in rare cases, can lead to worsen
outcomes in the sustainability dimension. This conflict also illustrates how firms cannot
themselves completely control their transparency outcomes and at least partly depend on
supplier buy-in.
6.2.3. External vs. internal transparency
Nudie’s internal transparency outcomes in the traceability and sustainability dimensions are
clear cut, i.e., Nudie managers either did or did not know the names of the suppliers
(traceability) and whether or not audits had been conducted (sustainability). However,
Nudie’s external transparency outcomes are less clear cut, since Nudie, in some cases,
selectively disclosed information or was restricted by suppliers’ refusal to sign the
transparency agreement. Selective disclosure in relation to factory audits was enabled by
Nudie’s decision to disclose audit summaries rather than complete factory audits. This
allowed Nudie managers to exclude particularly problematic audit findings (e.g., legal
working hour non-compliances at Supplier E, juvenile workers at Supplier D, and illegal
migrant workers at Supplier F in section 5.5) from the disclosed information. Furthermore,
Nudie managers disclosed the names of some, but not all, third-tier suppliers, giving the
impression that some second-tier suppliers did not use sub-suppliers. Although there were
cases of selective disclosure, it is important to point out that Nudie in the vast majority of
cases disclosed all available information.
The Nudie case again illustrates that supply chain transparency, in practice, is not about
“declaring the truth” (Madsen, 2009), but rather about declaring a particular perspective.
Nudie’s exclusion of certain information challenges the core logic of transparency in terms of
reducing information asymmetry (Chapman, 1995) to allow stakeholders to assess firms’
external impact (Martinez and Crowther, 2008). It also to some extent supports the greenwash
critique alleging that firms disclose successful examples while not being transparent about
some of their “hot spots” (Toppinen and Korhonen-Kurki, 2013). In an industry characterized
by name-and-shame campaigns (Bartley, 2007), it is understandable why Nudie managers
were hesitant to disclose highly sensitive information that could have financially detrimental
consequences on both their own and their suppliers’ business (cf. Doorey, 2011). Still, it is
precisely the willingness to assume this vulnerability that makes stakeholders attach
importance to transparency in the first place (Dingwerth and Eichinger, 2010; Doorey, 2011).
6.3. Transparency tradeoffs
Based on this discussion of transparency outcomes and how transparency was defined in
practice in the Nudie case, it is possible to challenge the dominant assumption in previous
research that “the more transparency the better” (Mol, 2013, p. 2). More specifically, the
Nudie case allows us to highlight three main tradeoffs that firms face when attempting to
create transparent supply chains.
6.3.1. Tradeoff I: threat vs. collaboration
First, firms face the tradeoff of threatening or collaborating with suppliers. Supply chain
transparency facilitates “name-and-shame” campaigns by reducing information asymmetries
(Bartley, 2007; Doorey, 2011), increasing the pressure on firms and suppliers to improve
sustainability conditions. Such increased surveillance and control pressure (Mol, 2013) on
suppliers through transparency has also been proven, in a study of the ILO Better Work
program in Cambodia, to lead to improved sustainability compliance in supplier factories
(Ang et al., 2012).
However, publicly disclosing negative information about sustainability conditions at
suppliers, or disclosing agent’s sub-suppliers’ names, risks undermining firm–supplier trust,
as illustrated in the Nudie case by the offended Portuguese supplier (Supplier C in section
5.3). Trust and collaboration have, in turn, proven central to improving suppliers’
sustainability conditions (e.g., Locke et al., 2009), implying that supply chain transparency
might lead to counterproductive results. Furthermore, the transparency threat increases
incentives for suppliers to deceive factory auditors to avoid negative exposure, and such
deceptions severely undermine buyers’ sustainability work in supply chains (e.g., Egels-
Zandén, 2007). As discussed above, Nudie handled the threat vs. collaboration tradeoff by, in
some cases (such as Supplier A and Supplier B), threatening suppliers and risking its supplier
relationships (e.g., when resorting to authoritative control in relationships with agents and
disclosing negative audit findings) and, in other cases, protecting suppliers, attempting to
collaborate, and risking the credibility of its transparency attempt (e.g., when excluding
sensitive factory audit information from the disclosed audit summaries at Suppliers D-F).
6.3.2. Tradeoff II: standardization vs. differentiation
Second, firms face the tradeoff of standardizing or differentiating their transparency work. By
pushing a “one-size-fits-all” solution onto suppliers (i.e., standardizing), supply chain
transparency attempts face the same criticism as do codes of conduct and factory auditing,
i.e., that they should be transformed to “incorporate the voices of suppliers, workers and
communities in the design, implementation, [and] monitoring” to ensure that local actors’
priorities shape private regulation (Lund-Thomsen, 2008, pp. 1012). On the other hand, by
adjusting to the specific circumstances of specific suppliers (i.e., differentiating), firms risk
being accused of double standards and greenwashing (cf. Doorey, 2011; Dubbink et al.,
Nudie managers opted mainly for standardization in this tradeoff, forcing them into
authoritative control, conflict, and deadlock. Nudie, like many firms that outsource (Gadde et
al., 2010), tried to retain detailed control instead of trusting others to handle particular
functions for them (Tomkins et al., 2006). If Nudie managers had taken the suppliers’ (e.g.,
agents’) network contexts into consideration, they could have foreseen many of the network
effects that took them by surprise, as in the case of their main Indian supplier (Supplier D).
This, in turn, might have made Nudie more likely to involve suppliers before launching the
transparency attempt and, consequently, to differentiate its implementation.
6.3.3. Trade off III: means vs. ends
Third, the above discussion indicates a more fundamental tradeoff (or question) of whether
transparency is a means to an end or an end in itself. Most authors stress that transparency is a
means to improve sustainability conditions in supply chains (Dubbink, 2007; Laudal, 2010).
However, as indicated in the above two tradeoffs, supply chain transparency may in some
instances have negative consequences, implying that the recent transparency attempts of
Nudie, H&M, Nike, Patagonia, and others might be praised because they incorporated the
institutionalized transparency myth in their business (cf. Augustine, 2012; Meyer and Rowan,
1977) rather than because their attempts actually had a positive impact on the factory floor.
In other words, and in line with Dingwerth and Eichinger’s (2010) argument about
transparency in another context, supply chain transparency attempts might have become ends
in themselves. This raises the question of “transparency for whom” (Mol, 2013, p. 4). Echoing
Khan et al.’s (2007, p. 1070) argument about codes of conduct, what matters in supply chain
transparency attempts could be that “the sensibilities of western consumers” are “soothed” as
the reputation capital of garment products is safeguarded through transparency attempts;
“whether the stitchers” approve “of the means through which the [sustainability] ‘problem’
was solved” is of little interest to the firms and western stakeholders. Since we have not
examined the impact of Nudie’s transparency attempt on the factory floor, it is for future
empirical studies to determine the impact of transparency attempts in improving suppliers’
sustainability performance. The Nudie case simply raises a warning flag that supply chain
transparency might have become an end rather than a means and, as such, could have
detrimental sustainability impacts in practice.
7. Conclusions
This paper extends the scholarly conversation about supply chain transparency by analyzing
how a company, in practice, attempts to work with supply chain transparency and how to
explain the transparency outcomes of such attempts. We have done this by synthesizing
previous definitions of supply chain transparency, proposing that it comprises three
dimensions (i.e., traceability, sustainability conditions, and purchasing practices). Based on a
study of the Swedish garment retailer Nudie Jeans Co’s transparency attempt, we have
outlined different supply network explanations for the transparency outcomes of Nudie’s
attempt. This makes an important contribution to the sustainability and supply chain literature,
which previously has inconsistently defined supply chain transparency, lacked empirical
studies of supply chain transparency, and focused more on why firms engage in supply chain
transparency attempts than on the more nuanced question of explaining the transparency
outcomes of supply chain transparency attempts.
On an overall level, our findings show that managers face three trade-offs when attempting to
create transparent supply chains. Combined these trade-offs indicate that managers have to
choose between a compliance or cooperation approach to supply chain transparency. In the
compliance approach, managers develop a standardized supply chain transparency policy
(“standardization” in tradeoff II), require suppliers to comply with this policy, threaten to stop
purchasing from non-compliant suppliers (“threat” in tradeoff I), and treat transparency as end
in itself (“ends” in tradeoff III). In other words, in the compliance approach, managers work
on supply chain transparency in a way similar to how they have traditionally worked on codes
of conduct in supply chains (cf. Locke et al., 2009). The upside of this approach is that it is
easily communicated, i.e., it allows the firm to gain legitimacy (cf. Dubbink et al., 2008;
MacLean and Rebernak, 2007), and provides a uniform way of working on transparency. The
downside is that, as occasionally illustrated by the Nudie case, it requires that managers be
willing to jeopardize their relationships with suppliers and cancel contracts with suppliers
resisting transparency attempts. It also requires that the firm have enough power, through
authoritative control, to force suppliers to comply. As the Nudie case illustrates and Locke et
al. (2009) convincingly argue more generally, this is far from certain in global supply chains.
In the cooperation approach, managers instead attempt to understand the network context of
their suppliers and to involve suppliers in developing supply chain transparency attempts.
Managers also view supply chain transparency as a means to the end of improved
sustainability conditions (“means” in tradeoff III) and are open to differentiating the
transparency work to fit the network context of specific suppliers (“differentiation” in tradeoff
II) in an attempt to strengthen collaboration with suppliers (“collaboration” in tradeoff I). A
cooperation approach can minimize dysfunctional conflicts in supply networks, shift the focus
to normative rather than authoritative control, and potentially make supply chain transparency
a tool for developing supply networks. On the other hand, while a cooperation approach may
allow for internal transparency, it makes external transparency difficult since the firm’s
disclosure, as illustrated in the Nudie case, can be perceived as greenwashing attempts.
Whether the compliance or cooperation approach is most suitable depends, among other
things, on why the firm is engaging in supply chain transparency, its position in the supply
network, and the characteristics of the supply network. The Nudie case illustrates that
managers should strive to consistently apply one approach, as it is problematic to mix
elements from both. For example, if a firm, as Nudie did, in some cases threatens to cancel
contracts if suppliers do not sign its standardized transparency agreement and in other cases
accepts supplier refusal to sign, the firm’s legitimacy in the supply network risks being
damaged. Similarly, if a firm, as Nudie did, in most cases discloses complete and standardized
information (enabled by its compliance approach) but in a few selected cases excludes
information (due to its cooperation approach), the firm’s legitimacy in the eyes of external
stakeholders risks being damaged, as stakeholders cannot trust the disclosed information. To
avoid undermining the benefits of each approach, managers are advised to aim for
Future research is well advised to continue to focus on the underexplored topic of “inter-
organizational issues” (Seuring and Gold, 2013, p. 4), as the Nudie case clearly indicates that
firms cannot single-handedly control its supply chain transparency outcomes. Future research
should also examine how companies in other settings (such as other industries and corporate
sizes) work with supply chain transparency and how the setting influences how firms deal
with trade-offs in supply chain transparency. Finally, future research should examine the
impact of supply chain transparency on sustainability conditions on the factory floor, since the
Nudie case indicates that some aspects of transparency lead to counterproductive impacts.
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... Sustainable use or consumption of fashion products is one strategy that can stimulate material circulation and reduce waste caused by frequent buying of fashion products. Denim jeans, considered a luxury garment product in the fashion industry (Zhang and Zhao 2019), are produced via a resource-intensive supply chain with complex decentralised business processes (Egels-Zandén et al. 2015). In the recent decade, these business processes have been highly criticised for large ecological footprints throughout the entire supply chain network Nasrullah and Rahim 2014). ...
... First, conceptualising consumers' buying behaviour in the process of purchasing denim jeans (defined by Muthu (2014) as a long-life product with a huge ecological impact) in the presence of EC is a novel conceptualisation. Although the supply-side of the production of denim jeans was previously discussed by Egels-Zandén et al. (2015), who examined sustainability in the supply chain, the challenging role that remains, according to Jiang et al. (2012), is to address social responsibility. However, no previous studies in which the conceptual mapping of consumer behaviour was proposed (specifically in the case of denim jeans) could be traced. ...
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Every pair of denim jeans produced contributes 33.4 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere, consumes 3781 L of water, and occupies 12 m² of land to support its production. The consumption patterns and consumption behaviour of consumers are both vital determinants of their environmental performance and impact. This paper examines the environmental concerns, production knowledge, and related cognitive measures of consumers by mapping their intentions in the process of buying denim jeans. Consumers of denim jeans in mainland China were taken as a sample to achieve our research objective. Specifically, 1392 respondents were quantitatively investigated. The empirical results indicate that production knowledge, the ascription of responsibility, buying attitude, and personal norms are dominant factors in explaining consumers' buying intentions when purchasing denim jeans. Furthermore, we find that the relationship between cognitive factors and buying intentions is mediated by affordability. This study highlights the immediate need to measure the denim industry's ecological footprint (during the production phase) and communicate this to critical industry stakeholders (i.e. macro-level forces, environmentalists, current and potential consumers). The intention is to redefine the purchasing behaviour of future consumers of denim jeans.
... Information on organizational identification, sustainable supplier conditions, and sustainable buyer practices are examples of information required. For example, Greenpeace, Oxfam, and the Rainforest Alliance use "name and shame" campaigns to pressure to make meaningful commitments to ethical sourcing or supplier norms or behavior (Egels-Zandén et al., 2015). ...
... Some studies have examined SSCT (Egels-Zandén et al., 2015;Gligor et al., 2021). For example, proposed SSCT, which incorporates three dimensions, including product transparency, participant transparency, and the range of transparency. ...
Blockchain technology can improve supply chain transparency to solve many problems in agricultural supply chains, such as lack of social responsibility and poor environmental performance. However, how to enable the transparency and sustainability of supply chain through blockchain technology is indeed a complex decision-making problem. Based on the technology-organization-environment (TOE) theoretical framework, this paper develops a hierarchical enablers framework for improving sustainable supply chain transparency (SSCT) by blockchain technology in the cocoa industry. Then, the best-worst method (BWM) is used to evaluate the weights of main enablers and sub-enablers by a real case of cocoa supply chain in an emerging African economy. The case results indicate the most important main enabler is "Technical Characteristics", and the top three sub-enablers are: "blockchain smart contract", "blockchain security," and "tracking product components", respectively. The framework and method of this study can help decision-makers and supply chain managers develop strategies to promote the effective application of blockchain to improve SSCT. As far as we know, this paper is one of the first studies to evaluate blockchain's enablers for SSCT, especially in the context of African emerging economies.
... Sodhi and Tang [12], for example, identified numerous benefits from transparency in business logistics. Likewise, the vitalness of transparency and its role in sustainable SC has been emphasized [11]. Chen et al. [10] examined the impact of SC transparency on sustainability under nongovernmental organization scrutiny. ...
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There has been considerable worldwide attention to the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain technology (BCT), and artificial intelligence (AI) in all sectors of the economy. Despite still being in the expansion phase, the application of the IoT, BCT, and AI to humanitarian logistics (HL) has drawn a lot of interest due to their significant success in other industries. Commercial and noncommercial organizations are both under growing universal pressure for transparency. Therefore, this study offers a model for understanding the mediating association of transparency between emerging technologies and HL sustainability. The partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) approach was used in conjunction with SmartPLS3. The software was applied to information acquired via questionnaires from 434 disaster relief workers (DRWs) chosen using the snowball sampling approach. The findings suggest that in disaster relief operations (DROs), where corruption and mismanagement in HL have been key concerns for all stakeholders, emerging technologies could be a way forward to achieving system transparency and HL sustainability. The ultimate beneficiaries of transparent and sustainable HL will be all of society, especially the victims of catastrophes. Such victims can receive proper aid on time if the appropriate technology is used in DROs, and early warnings can save many lives. This study adds to the body of knowledge by providing the first empirical evidence assessing the role of emerging technologies in HL transparency and sustainability.
... Sodhi and Tang [12], for example, identified numerous benefits from transparency in business logistics. Likewise, the vitalness of transparency and its role in sustainable SC has been emphasized [11]. Chen et al. [10] examined the impact of SC transparency on sustainability under nongovernmental organization scrutiny. ...
Full-text available
There has been considerable worldwide attention to the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain technology (BCT), and artificial intelligence (AI) in all sectors of the economy. Despite still being in the expansion phase, the application of the IoT, BCT, and AI to humanitarian logistics (HL) has drawn a lot of interest due to their significant success in other industries. Commercial and noncommercial organizations are both under growing universal pressure for transparency. Therefore, this study offers a model for understanding the mediating association of transparency between emerging technologies and HL sustainability. The partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) approach was used in conjunction with SmartPLS3. The software was applied to information acquired via questionnaires from 434 disaster relief workers (DRWs) chosen using the snowball sampling approach. The findings suggest that in disaster relief operations (DROs), where corruption and mismanagement in HL have been key concerns for all stakeholders, emerging technologies could be a way forward to achieving system transparency and HL sustainability. The ultimate beneficiaries of transparent and sustainable HL will be all of society, especially the victims of catastrophes. Such victims can receive proper aid on time if the appropriate technology is used in DROs, and early warnings can save many lives. This study adds to the body of knowledge by providing the first empirical evidence assessing the role of emerging technologies in HL transparency and sustainability.
... Blockchain is a typical, super durable record that works with the technique engaged with recording trades and following assets in a business association (Egels-Zandén, N., Hulthén, K., & Wulff, G. 2015). An asset can be considerable "a house, vehicle, cash, and land" or hypothetical "authorized advancement, licenses, copyrights, stamping", fundamentally anything of huge worth can be followed and traded on a blockchain network, lessening risk and diminishing costs for all notwithstanding (Yang, H., & Tate, M. 2012). ...
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The chapter's fundamental goal is to discover and feature the job of blockchain technology in inventory networks including its benefits and impediments. The idea of the examination depends on auxiliary information and data. The necessary information and data have been gathered from different sites, magazines, and media reports. Supply affixes the need to confront difficulties as far as quality, cost, and speed. These boundaries can be accomplished effectively with blockchain in the inventory network of the executives.
... A blockchain system will likely alter power structures among participants. Generally, transparency implies a shift in power relations in supply chains (Egels-Zandén et al., 2015), and the question is whether those currently benefitting from supply chain opacity will be willing to give up their advantage? On the upstream level, benefits may not accrue to all farmers equally, as farmers can curate their own brand. ...
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Information sharing lies at the core of most governance interventions within agro-food commodity supply-chains, such as certification standards or direct trade relationships. However, actors have little information available to guide sustainable consumption decisions beyond simple labels. Blockchain technology can potentially alleviate the numerous sustainability problems related to agro-food commodity supply-chains by fostering traceability and transparency. Despite significant research on blockchain, there is limited understanding of the concrete barriers and benefits and potential applications of blockchain in real-world settings. Here, we present a case study of blockchain implementation in a coffee supply-chain. Our aim is to assess the potential of blockchain technology to promote sustainability in coffee supply chains through increased traceability and transparency and to identify barriers and opportunities for this. While our pilot implementation clearly illustrates certain benefits of blockchain, it also suggests that blockchain is no silver bullet for delivering agro-food supply chain sustainability. Knowledge on provenance and transparency of information on quality and sustainability can help trigger transformation of consumer behaviour, but the actual value lies in digitising the supply chain to increase efficiency and reduce costs, disputes, and fraud, while providing more insight end-to-end through product provenance and chain-of-custody information. We identify a need to understand and minimize supply chain barriers before we can reap the full benefits of digitalization and decentralization provided by blockchain technology.
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This paper aims to perform a literature review on corporate transparency and to identify gaps in the current body of knowledge for justifying future research directions. The study reviews 121 articles on the topic of corporate transparency. This review process was achieved by using bibliometric and network analysis with the help of a tool-Gephi that provides an in-depth insight on this topic through different visualization models. From the study, it is evident that the currently available research has not covered all the multidimensional facets of corporate transparency. Through network analysis and page rank analysis the authors identify the prestigious journals in the current field of research. Thus, by considering all the identified gaps and various open opportunities mentioned, we strongly believe that the creation of a new transparency index model with the additional set of attributes.
Background The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is growing in food supply chains. The ethical language associated with food supply and technology is contextualised and framed by the meaning given to it by stakeholders. Failure to differentiate between these nuanced meanings can create a barrier to technology adoption and reduce the benefit derived. Scope and approach The aim of this review paper is to consider the embedded ethical language used by stakeholders who collaborate in the adoption of AI in food supply chains. Ethical perspectives frame this literature review and provide structure to consider how to shape a common discourse to build trust in, and frame more considered utilisation of, AI in food supply chains to the benefit of users, and wider society. Key findings and conclusions Whilst the nature of data within the food system is much broader than the personal data covered by the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the ethical issues for computational and AI systems are similar and can be considered in terms of particular aspects: transparency, traceability, explainability, interpretability, accessibility, accountability and responsibility. The outputs of this research assist in giving a more rounded understanding of the language used, exploring the ethical interaction of aspects of AI used in food supply chains and also the management activities and actions that can be adopted to improve the applicability of AI technology, increase engagement and derive greater performance benefits. This work has implications for those developing AI governance protocols for the food supply chain as well as supply chain practitioners.
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In Infotopia, citizens enjoy a wide range of information about the organizations upon which they rely for the satisfaction of their vital interests. The provision of that information is governed by principles of democratic transparency. Democratic transparency both extends and critiques current enthusiasms about transparency. It urges us to conceptualize information politically, as a resource to turn the behavior of large organizations in socially beneficial ways. Transparency efforts have targets, and we should think of those targets as large organizations: public and civic, but especially private and corporate. Democratic transparency consists of four principles. First, information about the operations and actions of large organizations that affect citizens’ interests should be rich, deep, and readily available to the public. Second, the amount of available information should be proportionate to the extent to which those organizations jeopardize citizens’ interests. Third, information should be organized and provided in ways that are accessible to individuals and groups that use that information. Finally, the social, political, and economic structures of society should be organized in ways that allow individuals and groups to take action based on Infotopia’s public disclosures.
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Civil society organisations are employing both adversarial and collaborative strategies to challenge purchasing practices of large corporations as a cause of poor employment conditions for a largely female workforce. This paper draws on analysis of global production networks, labour agency and gender to examine linkages and tensions at the intersection between commercial dynamics of dominant firms and their societal embeddedness in diverse localities of consumption and production. It contrasts two campaigns, one adversarial, the other collaborative, on corporate purchasing practices pursued by smaller, women-oriented NGOs to improve working conditions of a feminised labour force in fruit and garment GPNs. It analyses how the positioning of lead firms within GPNs affects their engagement with social actors. Brand exposure to reputational risk allows civil society organisations to exploit leverage points opened up at different GPN nodes to pressure for commercial change. It argues this is not coincidental. It often plays out within a gender contested terrain where women workers bear the brunt of adverse purchasing practices. But GPNs also open up new channels for women’s voice and organisation. The paper considers the extent to which these forms of civil society engagement reflect a fundamental challenge to GPNs, or new forms of incorporation by firms adapting to their social critics. It assesses this in light of a process of gender transformation within global markets, where women now participate as more informed workers, consumers and activists.
This book argues that transparency is a concept that has gained increasing currency and favour as an organizing principle and administrative goal in recent years. Calls for transparency have been directed towards states, markets, corporations and national political processes as well as towards large institutions such as the European Union. Focusing on empirically rich case studies, this volume explores the ideas and practices of transparency in different contexts, encouraging a discussion of the many facets of the term and its strengths, ambiguities and limitations. The authors aim to shed light on the powerful global discourse and practices contained in the concept, although previously, few attempts have been made to examine the actual content and practice of transparency. Christina Garsten and Monica Lindh de Montoya aim to fill this gap in the literature. They discuss the complex negotiations through which it is determined what shall be displayed and what shall remain hidden, the uses of power and control, and the processes through which transparency is, or is not, achieved. © Christina Garsten and Monica Lindh de Montoya, 2008. All rights reserved.
The United Nations (UN) Global Compact’s journey over the last 12 years can be summarized as building and integrating UN issues into the global corporate responsibility movement. This summary begs the question as to how a policy speech developed for the UN secretary-general has evolved into an innovative public–private partnership initiative. This article argues that the following four factors contributed to creating enabling ingredients for the UN Global Compact’s growth: continued relevance of the initiative’s underlying idea, sustained institutional leadership support, governmental support (political back-up), and operational viability. Based on the author’s personal experience with the initiative from its inception, the article highlights what is required for an initial idea to be developed into a vibrant operational entity in the context of a multilateral organization. Specially, the article reflects on how the aforementioned four attributes have interacted with each other throughout the last 12 years.
This dissertation abstract and reflection essay presents the work of Dr. Darline Augustine. The dissertation examines variance in firm performance in the microfinance industry. The investigations unfold throughout six dissertation chapters, four of which are empirical. Each chapter illustrates the complex nature of the practice of corporate governance within microfinance firms, and the relationship of transparency to performance. In particular, the dissertation illustrates the influence of firm-level transparency—a proxy for good practice in corporate governance—and positive firm performance. The chapters focus primarily on financial performance and, and to a lesser extent, social performance is also examined. This extended abstract explains the research question, setting, and methods. The reflection essay in the appendix discusses the author’s journey in the research process as a junior scholar.
Effectively integrating sustainability into firms requires action that exceeds organizational boundaries. These boundary-spanning activities are increasingly being taken up by corporate action and are spurred, accompanied, and reflected in a growing body of academic literature. This special volume of the Journal of Cleaner Production significantly expands our understanding of sustainable supply chain management, both on the theoretical and the practical side. In this way, the special issue is another bit of fuel that drives the dynamic evolution of this research field. This editorial amplifies on how the different papers contribute to the new developments of sustainable supply chain management. One key development in this respect is the rising debate about the performance implications triggered by the integration of sustainability and supply chain management. This ranges from stakeholder integration and the implementation of standards to supplier partnerships and the development of appropriate performance measures. Among future research needs supply chains in low-income countries stand out, which are still hardly addressed. Therefore, we call for further empirical research that sharpens supply chain management theory and critically evaluates real-world sustainability effects.
We examine recent evolution in corporate responsibility in the forest industry, an important natural‐resource‐based industry which is under rapid internationalisation and structural change under challenging financial pressures. We address two recent trends in corporate communication: corporate disclosure, that is the adoption of consistent external reporting standards [namely the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)], and the growing awareness of engagement with and impact on local communities through philanthropy, generation of prosperity, communication and the social impact of core activities. This study uses a comparative qualitative case approach to forest industry multinational enterprises (MNEs) based on a combination of secondary (reporting, company newsletters and other documentation) and interview data. Three large‐scale multinational forest industry firms, all pursuing different strategies in terms of internationalisation and geographical and product diversification, were chosen for the study: Stora Enso, SCA and Sappi Ltd. Our results show that the overall quality of sustainability reporting has improved in these companies from 2005 to 2009 with the adoption of GRI. However, based on our fourfold categorisation of social impact, the core social impact indicator in GRI (SO1) has been interpreted very differently in these MNEs, and the adoption of GRI has not actually much improved the comparability of the reports or transparency of practices.
Public disclosure of labor conditions has been suggested as one way to encourage compliance with labor law and improvements in working conditions. Analyzing labor law compliance data in the apparel industry from Better Factories Cambodia, this paper finds that after the elimination of public disclosure of factory‐level noncompliance the rate of increase in compliance slowed, but did not return to the baseline, even in the absence of a reputation sensitive buyer.