The purpose of this paper is to unpack tensions faced by procurement professionals as part of their triple bottom line (TBL) sustainability activities. The authors take an integrative perspective based on the procurement sustainability and organizational tensions literature, as well as stakeholder and institutional theory.
The authors use a multiple case study approach. Data are collected through multiple interviews and archival data from eight case companies in Australia.
The authors identify supply chain and company procurement sustainability tensions (PSTs) and explain their multi-level nature. The analysis also dissects the multi-stakeholder and multi-institutional environments where PSTs operate. The authors discuss such environments in terms of various temporal and spatial legitimacy contexts (LCs) that, through their assessment of institutional distance, can characterize the manifestation of PSTs.
The findings are instrumental for managers to make informed decisions when dealing with PSTs, and they pave the way for paradoxical leadership given the increasing importance of simultaneous development and balancing of TBL dimensions, as evidenced in this study.
This is one of the first studies to empirically investigate PSTs by drawing on an integrative approach to identify PSTs, and to discern various LCs that underpin stakeholder judgments of procurement’s TBL sustainability activities.