Supervisor: Dr Hendrik Reefke

Sustainability is recognised as an increasingly important dimension in supply chain relationships since it addresses three interacting parameters - the 'triple bottom' line as conceived by Elkington (2004).  An increasingly close relationship is demanded in manufacturer-retailer partnerships in order to progress the role of sustainability.  However, the current academic literature lacks an effective coverage of the role of sustainability in manufacturer-retailer relationship, and there are significant opportunities for further research. 

More significant contributions are available for the upstream segment - supplier-manufacturer relationship for sustainability.  Environmental and social sustainability are changing the rules of the game in the supplier-manufacturing relationship, according to Pagell et al. (2010).  Their contribution revealed that what is a commodity based on the traditional approach to profit, might not be considered a commodity if the Triple Bottom Line is the measure of success.  Consequently, more collaborative approaches are jointly undertaken to successfully tackle the triple bottom line.

The context of manufacturer-retailer relationship differs significantly from the upstream.  It is dynamic, for example manufacturer-retailer relationships have undergone a shift from "brand power" to "retailer power", and from passive "consumers" to well informed "shoppers".  The proposed solution of more collaborative initiatives seem to be at odds with the changing power balance between manufacturers and retailers.

In the last few years the major retailers in UK and Europe launched a number of initiatives to reshape their brands around environmental and social sustainability and to be more efficient and less pollutant.  For instance, they are increasingly expected to mitigate environmental damage and are urged by regulatory forces, customer expectations, as well as community group pressures to embrace green practices for improving their value chains (Lai et al., 2010).

Apart from several practitioners' publications on green retailing or specific practices, there are not significant academic contributions framing the issue within a theoretical framework through a robust research methodology.

We are currently researching different aspects of the triple bottom line in the supply chain context through a number of different projects.  The EU 7FP project CO3  is encouraging a structural breakthrough in the competitiveness and sustainability of European logistics by stimulating horizontal collaboration between European shippers.  The INTERREG IVB funded SCALE project aims to increase economic competitiveness and improve environmental and social sustainability of food and drink supply chain logistics across Northern Europe.  Resources are dedicated to informing each other to build a comprehensive knowledge framework within the Supply Chain Research Centre.

Within this context, PhD research proposals are expected to address issues related to the evolution of manufacturer-retailer relationship for sustainability - for instance for reverse logistics initiatives, the impact on consumer behaviour, inter-organisational changes and adjustments.

The research proposals can focus on, but need not be limited to, the following subjects:

  • Characteristics of a successful collaborative initiative for sustainability
  • Costs of collaborating
  • Economic and financial benefits of sustainable initiatives
  • Value created by collaborative initiatives for sustainability

Candidate Details

Candidates should have at least three years of experience in supply chain management at managerial level within a manufacturer or a retailer; however, candidates with other industrial backgrounds will also be considered.  The successful scholarship candidate is expected to outline a research proposal that draws on existing and future challenges in sustainable initiatives between manufacturers and retailers.  It is expected that the research proposal will reflect the applicant's clear understanding of the relevant literature, research methodology, date collection and data analysis methods.

Applicants are invited to make contact with Dr Hendrik Reefke ( setting out a preliminary research agenda as a guide to discussion, indicating what reading you have so far done around the topic. 


Elkington, J. (1994), "Towards the Sustainable Corporation: Win-Win-Win Business Strategies for Sustainable Development", California Management Review, Vol.36, No.2, pp.90-100.

Lai, K. H., Cheng, T. C. E. and Tang, A. K. Y., (2010), "Green Retailing: Factors for Success", California Management Review, Vol.52, No.2, pp.6-31.

Pagell, M., Wu, Z. and Wasserman, M. E. (2010), "Thinking Differently about Purchasing Portfolios: an Assessment of Sustainable Sourcing", Journal of Supply Chain Management, Vol.46, No. 1, pp. 57-73.