Food for thought: Social versus environmental sustainability practices and performance outcomes

Madeleine E. Pullman, Michael J. Maloni, CRAIG R. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

417 Scopus citations


Sustainable supply management research generally focuses on environmental practices. We show through an analysis of the food industry that sustainability requires an expanded view to encompass both environmental and social elements. We interviewed and surveyed food and beverage producers in the U.S. Pacific Northwest to both validate expanded sustainability elements in the industry and assess subsequent performance outcomes. A path analysis reveals that food industry managers perceive both direct and mediated impacts of sustainability programs on performance. Specifically, the results indicate that sustainability program effects are limited to the impact of conservation and land management environmental practices on overall environmental performance and human resources practices on quality performance. However, environmental performance improvements lead to improved quality performance, which in turn improves cost performance. The results highlight the complexity of sustainability impacts on performance and suggest that performance benefits from sustainability programs may be difficult to recognize.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-54
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Supply Chain Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Path analysis
  • Social responsibility
  • Supply chain management
  • Survey methods
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Marketing


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