Nowadays, two forces significantly affect companies: sustainability and digitalization. Consumers, and stakeholders in general, are becoming increasingly concerned with sustainable business practices, penalizing companies perceived as not in line with sustainability requirements. In the face of a global trust crisis, consumers expect companies to behave with moral and business integrity, rewarding those firms acting to make the world a better place. At the same time, digitalization profoundly affects businesses’ processes, opening up unprecedented opportunities, while also posing a threat to companies failing to follow the digitalization route. While practitioners and scholars have studied the impact of these forces on businesses, they have scarcely examined the combination of the two, including how companies can communicate their virtuous sustainability practices via digital channels and, in turn, how consumers perceive the companies’ effort in aligning to sustainability goals. Our research project thus builds on the current literature on sustainability and digitalization. Specifically, communicating companies’ supply chain sustainability in a digital environment has the potential to be a lasting source of competitive advantage for companies that develop the skills, relationships and reputational assets to do so. This project aims to examine the antecedents – i.e. contextual factors – and consequences – impact on company growth/innovation; societal benefits – of communicating sustainable supply chain practices in a digitalized environment. Communicating the sustainability of the supply chain process in a digital environment is a complex yet relevant and constantly evolving task. It is relevant for its social, environmental, and economic impact on consumption, firms, policymakers, and local communities. Evolving because of the increasing sensitivity towards sustainability, not only limited to consumers and the business context but also in society and institutions, as exemplified by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our research findings will benefit practitioners, managers, and entrepreneurs, as we aim to unveil how sustainability communication affects firm performance and customer perceptions and engagement. Our findings could, therefore, support companies, especially SMEs, to improve their competitiveness and performance by communicating specific elements of sustainability practices. From the academic standpoint, the joint consideration of digital communication and sustainability will offer rich insights into the value creation pathways through the extended supply chain process.

COMMUNICATING COMPANIES’ SUPPLY CHAIN SUSTAINABILITY PRACTICES IN A DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT

Cedrola E.;Silvestrelli P.;Epasto S.
2022

Abstract

Nowadays, two forces significantly affect companies: sustainability and digitalization. Consumers, and stakeholders in general, are becoming increasingly concerned with sustainable business practices, penalizing companies perceived as not in line with sustainability requirements. In the face of a global trust crisis, consumers expect companies to behave with moral and business integrity, rewarding those firms acting to make the world a better place. At the same time, digitalization profoundly affects businesses’ processes, opening up unprecedented opportunities, while also posing a threat to companies failing to follow the digitalization route. While practitioners and scholars have studied the impact of these forces on businesses, they have scarcely examined the combination of the two, including how companies can communicate their virtuous sustainability practices via digital channels and, in turn, how consumers perceive the companies’ effort in aligning to sustainability goals. Our research project thus builds on the current literature on sustainability and digitalization. Specifically, communicating companies’ supply chain sustainability in a digital environment has the potential to be a lasting source of competitive advantage for companies that develop the skills, relationships and reputational assets to do so. This project aims to examine the antecedents – i.e. contextual factors – and consequences – impact on company growth/innovation; societal benefits – of communicating sustainable supply chain practices in a digitalized environment. Communicating the sustainability of the supply chain process in a digital environment is a complex yet relevant and constantly evolving task. It is relevant for its social, environmental, and economic impact on consumption, firms, policymakers, and local communities. Evolving because of the increasing sensitivity towards sustainability, not only limited to consumers and the business context but also in society and institutions, as exemplified by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our research findings will benefit practitioners, managers, and entrepreneurs, as we aim to unveil how sustainability communication affects firm performance and customer perceptions and engagement. Our findings could, therefore, support companies, especially SMEs, to improve their competitiveness and performance by communicating specific elements of sustainability practices. From the academic standpoint, the joint consideration of digital communication and sustainability will offer rich insights into the value creation pathways through the extended supply chain process.
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