Reflections on the making of “Sustainability in multi-tier supply chains: Understanding the double agency role of the first-tier supplier” and mapping the future trajectory of qualitative research in the OM/SCM discipline



This seminar is divided into two parts. In the first part, I will provide a synopsis of a paper recently published in the Journal of Operations Management. This paper focuses on the role of the first tier suppliers in achieving sustainability compliance along the supply chain. We refer to this critical responsibility of the first tier supplier as a double agency role. The study employs agency and institutional theory arguments to explore the conditions under which first-tier suppliers will act as agents who fulfill the lead firm's sustainability requirements (i.e., the primary agency role) and implement these requirements in their suppliers' operations (i.e., the secondary agency role). The findings from three in-depth case studies embedded in different institutional contexts highlight the importance for lead firms to incentivize each agency role separately and to reduce information asymmetries, particularly at the second-tier level. The findings are integrated in a conceptual framework that advances the research agenda on multi-tier sustainable supply chains.

In the second part of this seminar, I will take you “behind the scenes” and discuss how this paper evolved through the review process. I will reflect on my own experience and offer insights on how to avoid critical pitfalls in designing, conducting and publishing qualitative research. I will conclude by offering antidotes to some critical problems and discussing what lies ahead in publishing qualitative work in leading OM/SCM journals.  


Dr. Vikram Bhakoo is a Senior Lecturer within the Operations Management discipline in the Department of Management & Marketing at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His principle domain of interest is supply chain management where he focuses on three key themes; technology and innovation management, buyer/supplier relationships and sustainability. Across these themes his research attempts to understand the contextual and institutional dynamics when organisations are embedded across different tiers of the supply chain. He has published his work in a variety of prestigious journals such as the Journal of Operations Management, Journal of Business Ethics, Supply Chain Management and Production Planning & Control amongst others. He currently serves on the editorial review board of Journal of Operations Management, Journal of Supply Chain Management and International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management. His research agenda continues to draw support from the Australian Research Council and the University of Melbourne.

Dr Bhakoo holds a Bachelor of Economics (Hons) from the University of Delhi and a Masters in Information Systems and a PhD from Monash University. Prior to embarking on an academic career, he has worked in textile manufacturing, financial services and information technology sectors in business development and supply chain management roles.