Sustainable Supply Chains: a Framework for Environmental Scanning Practices


  • Fabbe-Costes Nathalie
  • Roussat Christine
  • Taylor Margaret
  • Taylor Andrew


  • Qualitative research
  • Sustainable development
  • Supply chain management
  • Empirical
  • Environmental scanning
  • Environmental scanning scope

document type



Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the empirical reality of environmental scanning (ES) practices in sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) contexts. In particular it tests a conceptual framework proposed in 2011 by Fabbe-Costes et al. Design/methodology/approach – The empirical data for this research were obtained from 45 semi-structured interviews with key informants, combined with a discussion of the main results with a focus group of supply chain experts. These data are compared with the literature and brought to bear on the framework. Findings – The research finds both breadth and depth in the scope of sustainability scanning practices of the respondent group and provides evidence of multi-level scanning, with all respondents describing scanning activity at the societal level. It further demonstrates the adoption of multiple and diverse scanning targets at all levels in the conceptual framework. The articulation and ranking of scanning targets for SSCM at all levels informs the development of priorities for practice. The paper also makes some observations about the boundaries of the scanning process. Practical implications – The results provide managers with concrete guidance about what to scan in sustainable supply chain contexts. The validated framework can serve as a practical tool to assist managers with the organization and prioritization of their ES activities. Originality/value – The paper is among the first to address the role of ES in sustainable supply chain contexts. It highlights the need for a multi-level framework for such scanning activities and opens up a debate about their implementation.

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