Doctoral student writing

The Implementation of Sustainability in Asymmetric Supply Chain Relationships

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Starting: 2018
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


How relational approaches can foster the implementation of sustainability policies in asymmetric supply chain relationships in the apparel industry, characterized by powerful retailers and small apparel suppliers. This research focuses on relationship perspectives in sustainability because of the limited application of the relational view identified in the sustainability literature (Toubolic and Walker, 2015).

Sustainability goals in terms of ecological impact, social responsibility and geographical proximity of suppliers may well reduce the alternatives available to purchasers by excluding those suppliers, or even countries, unable to meet the buyer’s sustainability requirements. A reduced supply base can then impact other variables such as cost levels, subsequently reducing the negotiation power of buyers no longer able to exploit price competition among a large number of alternative suppliers (Gadde and Håkansson, 2001). Brindley and Oxborrow (2014) reported a dramatic power shift in supply chains, that may influence sustainability. Therefore, this research aims to investigate sustainability in asymmetric relationships between small apparel suppliers and large apparel retailers in the UK.

Power and dependence have been investigated extensively by IMP researchers, as an important factor in strategic supply relationships (Meehan and Wright, 2012) and in asymmetrical business relationships (Johnsen and Ford, 2008). However, business relationships are vital in sustainability implementation in supply networks. Where power is exerted in supplier-buyer relationships, a large buyer can coercively enforce its suppliers to respond to its requirements (Vachon, 2007;Hingley et al., 2015). In contrast, trust and cooperation are essential relational elements for the implementation of sustainability (Geffen & Rothenberg, 2000).

Method: It is anticipated the exploratory nature of this research will use qualitative approach and case study method in dyadic relationships of suppliers and large buyers. Primary and secondary data is required to collect and analyse regarding sustainability practices and policies of apparel industry players.


Brindley, C. and Oxborrow, L. (2014) Aligning the sustainable supply chain to green marketing needs: A case study. Journal of Industrial Marketing Management, 43 (2015) pp.45-55.
Gadde, L.-E. and H. Håkansson. (2001). Supply Networks Strategy. Chichester, John Wiley & Sons, 161-186.
Hingley, M., Angell, R., and Lindgreen, A. (2015). The current situation and future conceptualization of power in industrial markets. Industrial Marketing Management, 48(1), 226-230.
Johnsen, R.E., and Ford, D. (2008). Exploring the concept of asymmetry: a typology for analysing customer–supplier relationships. Industrial Marketing Management, 37(4), 471–483.
Meehan, J., & Wright, Gillian, H. (2012). The origins of power in buyer–seller relationships, Industrial Marketing Management. 41(1), 669-679.
Toubolic, A and Walker, H. (2015a) Theories in sustainable supply chain management: a structured literature review. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics, 45, 16-42.
Vachon, S. (2007). Green supply chain practices and the selection of environmental technologies. International Journal of Production Research, 45(18-19), pp. 4357-4379.


Dr Cagri Talay

Entry qualifications

An applicant for admission to read for a PhD should normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second class honours degree with a Master's degree at Merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0). Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements. A research proposal (between 1,000 and a maximum of 2,000 words) must be submitted as part of the application.

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This is a self-funded PhD opportunity.

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Cagri Talay