Critical evaluation of different supply chains

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The aim of the study is to critically evaluate the different views associated with what green supply chain entails and the ways firms implement it. Hence the rationale of this chapter is to confer the diverse research methodology and methods that would be applied in this study. In view of this, the discussion would be base on the various methodological outlooks which will be used for the study as well as the different methods through which the data will be collect. The reason behind the use of the methodology in this paper is to describe the diverse approaches and means of accomplishing the research (Kaplan, 1973). Saunders et al. (2007, p. 206) defined methodology as

"the theory of how the research should be undertaken including the theoretical and philosophical assumptions upon which research is based and the implications of these for the method or methods adopted".

Writer Kothari (1996) viewed methodology as the logical means of resolving research problems.

On the other hand, Collis and Hussey (2003) also explain the techniques used in obtaining and analysing data. He defined methods as the numerous means through which data can be collected and analysed. Saunders et al. (2007) mentioned questionnaires, statistical, non statistical and interviews as the approaches through which data is collected and analysed. The following paragraphs will highlight the methods, methodological outlooks and the means of collecting data to be used for the research. The research thinking accepted for a precise research mainly verifies the approach the research will be conducted with regards to the methods and strategy. According to Jankowicz (2005) the research thinking accepted serves as a guideline for the research and verifies the approach the researcher observes the world and the manner in which knowledge is developed (Saunders et al., 2007). According to Saunders et al. (2007) research thinking can be classified into three major approaches namely: Axiology, Ontology and Epistemology. Axiology is noted as the subdivision of philosophy which focuses on the researchers' ideals running through the research and eventually verifies the integrity of the research (Saunders et al., 2007), whiles the Ontology is fundamentally perceived as the approach the researcher comprehends the authenticity with regards to the topic to be researched on (Jankowicz, 2005). Since this chapter is more concern of the application of knowledge on the research, the epistemology approach will be delved into.


Jankowicz (2005) viewed epistemology as a variety of hypothesis made in relation to the potential means through which the authenticity of knowledge can be achieved pertaining to a particular chosen area of research. Equally, Eldabl et al. (2002) referred epistemology to the convictions concerning the manner in which knowledge is created. This is in line with Saunders et al. (2005) opinions about the execution of the research which depends on the manner in which the researcher takes into account the knowledge pertaining to a specific area of research. In view of the above, the researcher will highlight on three areas of epistemological positions for the purpose of the study which includes positivism, interpretivism and realism.

3.1.1 Positivism

Bryman and Bell (2003) explained positivism as the epistemological position that provides support for the application of natural science methods in studying social reality and beyond. Thus to say something can be reckon to be imperative and factual provided only if it can be demonstrated without prejudice by the human sense. Authors such as Collis and Hussey (2003, p. 52) defined positivism as "the facts or causes of social phenomenon with little regard to the subjective state of the individual". Positivists deem the application of scientific method as the optimum approach in seeking the genuineness during the execution of research (Jankowicz, 2005). So in this case, Borg and Gall (1989) rule out individual intuitions, beliefs, feelings and values as an evidence of carrying out research. According to Remenyi et al. (1998) the possibility of adopting the philosophical position of the natural scientist is high among researchers who accept the positivist approach in executing a research and will mostly have to choose to work with an observable social reality as end product of such research is simplified.

However, the use of the positivism was criticised by (Howe, 1985; Borg and Gall, 1989) claiming that positivists do not take any notice of or pay attention to the subjective situation of the person when executing the research. Furthermore, Howe (1985) continue to criticise the idea of the positivist who believe that the research should be value-free in regards to using observations to substantiate knowledge (Saunders et al., 2007) by arguing that in today's settings, value-free observation is not in existence. Instead other critics Gill and Johnson (2002) suggested substituting subjectivity with objectivity in the execution of a research so long as individuals cannot be cared for as equally as objects or animals as there are basic differences. Positivism is largely connected to the use of quantitative methods as indicated by Naslund (2002) that positivist can be studied through the application of objective methods due to the existence of objective reality.

3.1.2 Interpretivism

Straus and Corbin (1990) viewed interpretivist approach as the means through which the researcher eventually gain better understanding of peoples actions in their quest to find out the meanings to how and why people behave the way they do. Similarly, Saunders et al. (2007, p. 107) defined interpretivist approach as "an epistemology which advocates the need for the researcher to understand the variances between humans in our role as the social actors". According to Eaterby-Smith et al. (2003) human beings are deem to recognize the fact of reality relatively than objects and external factors as contrasting to the idea of positivist who have the conviction that something can be reckon to be imperative and factual provided only if it can be demonstrated without prejudice by the human sense (Bryman and Bell, 2003). On the other hand, the interpretivist in contrast with the positivist, during the execution of the research be likely to amass and analyse data from diverse facets of a specific observable fact that aid in offer a superior understanding of an occurrences, of which the positivist is likely to miss out. Hence the interpretivist researcher in executing its research adopts an emphatic position, which implies that for the researcher to understand how the individuals view the world, then the researcher must also enter into the social world Saunders et al. (2007).

However, the anti-proponents of interpretivist critique the interpretivist researchers to some level for the neglect of the scientific process of substantiating the behaviour of the people (Mead, 1934). Beinstein (1983) also argue that the ways of the interpretivist could give a wrong impression about an event in the sense that the present condition of a person one way or the other affect how that person interpret the event, of which might not depict the actuality of the situation. continue

3.1.2 Realism

According to Easterby-Smith et al. (2003) realism is an epistemological position believed to be a mixture of both the positivist approach and the interpretivist approach. Realism also admits the existence of reality that is relatively autonomous of the mind. Saunders et al. (2007) viewed realism as being inclined towards the implementation of scientific approach in knowledge development thereby being seen as parallel to positivism. On the other hand, Bryan and Bell (2007) said that in the gathering of data, the realist deem it necessary for natural and social sciences to use the same kind of methods albeit the external reality that the scientist must focus onto. According to Saunders et al. (2005) realism is said to be principally based on the theory that; there is existence fact that is autonomous to individual beliefs and thinking; admits it necessary to recognise human's subjective reality; admits the reality that human beings are not objects to be studied; and instead discovers an external objective world that could be studied.

Sobh and Perry (2006) considered realism to be the best possible approach applicable for exploring business trends, due to the realist simultaneous consideration of the external reality and complex nature of business as they use detailed qualitative research methods to invetstigate it instead of implementing entirely the positivist approach.

Nontheless, Outhwaite (1983) claim that the realist approach is the most advantageous research tool used for studies which aspires to find out, identify, illustrate and analyse data that are complex.


Identifying the research questions one seeks to answer will be determined by the research approach to be used at on different projects at different times. Therefore it seems to be ill-advised with the idea that a specific research approach is better than the other (Saunders et al. (2007). However, the author on the other angle claim that deciding on the research approach to be adopted for a research project is highly dependent on the theoretical position of the initial stage of the research.

Cohen et al. (2007) identified inductive and deductive reasoning as the major forms of reasoning in research. The inductive reasoning is interconnected to the interpretivism philosophy whereas the deductive reasoning is related to that of the positivism philosophy. The deductive reasoning appear to be more of the scientific approach which views nature from diverse facet through the development of hypothesis that can thoroughly test the manner in which nature works (Collis and Hussey, 2003). Cohen et al. (2007) mentioned generalization and hypothesis testing which uses quantitative data as the core attribute of the deductive approach. However, although using its approach is faster to complete, Saunders et al. (2007) criticise the deductive approach as being inflexible thereby failing to be enlightened on the bases for things to be as they are.

On the other hand, the centre of attention of the inductive approach which is interconnected to the interpretivism philosophy is experiencing some sort of problem so as to gain more insight of the nature of the problem (Saunders et al. (2007). Researchers who want to explore the different views associated with a particular issue are likely to use more qualitative data and any other different methods in collecting data to establish the fact, as this enables the researcher to select the research design too be used (Easterby-Smith et al., 2003). However, Saunders et al. (2007) criticise the inductive approach of requiring lengthy time with the possibility of not getting valuable data. So in view of the above and for the purpose of this research which is to investigate people's perception on green and the way they implement it, the researcher will use the realist approach to give a detailed insight into green and its implementation.


Qualitative data mainly represents data analysis tool or form of collecting data such as interviews or categorising data that often turn out to be non-numerical data (Saunders et al., 2007). This form of data provides that delves deeper into the actions of human beings finding out how and why they act that way (Cohen et al., 2007). In the quest of finding out also opens up the discussion for response as new issues or related developments are raised throughout the research process (Holliday, 2007). However, Collis and Hussey (2003) criticise this form of data as being subjective and consuming too much of time, thereby creating difficulties in analysing the collected data.

On the other hand, quantitative data is the measurable form of data collection (Bryman and Bell, 2003). Thus using scientific techniques to measure facts gathered and analysed to produce results (Bell, 1993). Quantitative data mainly represents data analysis tool or form of collecting data such as questionnaires, statistics or graph which turn out to be numerical data. Nevertheless questionnaires are the general technique used for gathering quantitative data (Sobh and Perry, 2006). Authors such as Collis and Hussey (2003) believe that this data is the best to use because it provides straightforward information and makes it faster in terms of analysing the data.

Fielding and Schreier (2001) consider the advantage of cross method triangulation which involves the combination of qualitative and quantitative data collections in a particular research despite the philosophical position adopted for the research. Fielding and Schreier (2001) refer triangulation as the validity model in the sense that by using different methods to in studying the same phenomenon, mutual validation of results is obtained. Furthermore, Collis and Hussey (2003) assert that the use of triangulation reduces partiality which could be found in any either the qualitative or quantitative approach.

Therefore the researcher will adopt the triangulation approach so long as two companies will be used in the gathering of data so as to come into a logical conclusion thereby giving the researcher more insight to how the companies understand green and implement it.


Bryman and Bell (2007, p. 40) viewed research design as "that which provides a framework for the collection and analysis of data; therefore a choice of research design will reflect the decisions about the priority being given to a range of dimension of the research process". Saunders et al. (2007) in their opinion express research design as general plan which indicate the means through which the research questions and objectives will be answered. These will include the source of data collection, the limitation and the ethical issues that might appear during the execution of the research. Saunders et al. (2007) identified three types of the research design including the exploratory, explanatory and descriptive.

According to Robson (2002, p.59) the explanatory research design is used to find out "what is happening; to seek new insights; to ask questions and to assess phenomena in a new light". In addition Saunders et al. (2007) outline searching of literature; interviewing experts in the field; and conducting focus group interviews as the primary ways of embarking on exploratory research. The authors stress the flexibility of using this research design and its ability to adjust to change.

The explanatory research design on the other hand, is seen as the extension of the exploratory research design which provides an appropriate layout of a specific circumstance prior to the data collection (Jancowicz, 2005). The explanatory research design also ascertains the relationship between the variables (Saunders et al., 2007). The descriptive research design is more of survey or observational studies that is used to describe the data collected on a particular subject (Saunders et al., 2007).

For the purpose of this research, the researcher will adopt the components of explanatory and descriptive designs as the researcher try to find out the views on green and the way its implemented.


Jackowicz (2005) express research methods as the logical means of gathering and analysing data so as to obtain information from it. The nature of investigation or request for information required by the researcher will determine the form of research and the methods of data collection to be used. Moreover the research questions and objectives as well as the researcher's philosophical position such as the researcher's existing knowledge on the subject, resources available and time guides the choice of research strategy adopted for the study. In this paper, a comparable case study strategy will be adopted.

3.5.1 Benefits and limitation of comparative case study methodology

It is significant to note that research done previously in the GSCM field has mostly based on case study methodology (Geyer and Jackson, 2004; Trowbridge, 2001; Reiskin et al., 1999; Matthews, 2004). As such, it deem suitable to adopt a similar research method. Eisenhardt (1989, p.534) classifies the case study as "research strategy which focuses on understanding the dynamics present within single settings". The advantage associated with case studies is that, they can be used to discover about a case retrospectively whereby themes can be developed out of the material. Moreover, the themes can be used as precedents whereby lessons can be learnt from when similar projects are been executed (Gill, 1995). Yin (1994) in another angle observes the advantage of a case study approach in conditions where 'how and why?' questions are asked and the researcher has little or no control over of the case. The case studies approach makes possible the application of multifaceted sources of evidence such as guidelines, reports, protocols and interviews especially.

In view of the above, the researcher opt for comparative case study analysis which appears to be the most appropriate type of research to discover the views of companies on GSCM and how they implement it. The reason is to enable the researcher generate theological justifications and generalizations of the research subject (Skocpol, 1984; Seuring, 2001). Skocpol (1984) also argue that it is through comparative research that generalization can be developed. Nevertheless issues do occur as the comparative framework is being developed.

In order to curtail this, the researcher deems it significant to focus on a particular business sector, which is the Food Processing sector.

Furthermore, comparative case study can be used to review and contrast cases and the underlying theory (Hildrum, 2007). This enables the researcher to gain insight of the subject in a holistic view. According to Kim (2003) there is variance in firms' functionalities and to obtain a satisfactory study of a firms' functionality, qualitative approaches such as comparative case studies are the best. It presents the needed information on the subject matter as the results turn out to be robust and compelling (Yin, 1994). In terms of environmental developments, comparative case study allows the surveillance of firms on different levels (del Brio et al., 2008). The researcher also propose that using this method of research will be of much help so as to understand into details how the companies operates and having a closer look at the reasons for using the packaging materials for the product.


Jackowicz (2005) regarded techniques as the procedures that is used to collect and analyse data for the information contained in the data. Techniques inform the researcher how to do something (Bennet, 1986). Gathering of data can take the form of primary and secondary data. Both the primary and secondary data was used for the purpose of the study.

Secondary data is noted to be the existing data which have already been gathered for any other purpose (Saunders et al., 2003). In this study, secondary data in the form of literature review was used. These include the existing research relating to the theme under study which was reviewed using journals, magazines, textbooks and the websites. The use of the secondary data provides guidance to the researcher in answering the research questions and objectives. However, the existing data is criticised of sometimes not relating directly to the current study or providing all the answers to the research questions (Kotabe, 2002). Therefore it deem significant to appraise such factors prior to the use of this form of data (Malhotra (2004).

On the other hand, primary data is regarded as the raw data gathered through observations, questionnaire surveys and interviews for a specific research (Saunders et al., 2003). According to Malhotra (2004) obtaining information through primary data are extremely important and more reliable even though it is said to be consuming more time and expensive. The observation aspect of primary data collection entails observing, recording, explaining, analysing and giving an interpretation of human behaviour (Saunders et al., 2003). deVaus (2002) describe the use of questionnaires as a means to collect primary data as a technique whereby individual respondents are anticipated to respond to the same set of question in a predetermined manner. Writer, Jackowicz (2005) assert the use of questionnaire since it is easy to design to contain with many questions, and in terms of gathering responses from large sample it is the faster and efficient way of collecting data. However, Gill and Johnson (2002) criticise the low response rate and accessibility as the limitation in using this method.

The other means of collecting primary data is the interviews which seem to be the most promising in terms of collecting consistent and suitable data that is significant to the research questions and objectives. Saunders et al. (2003) mentioned three forms of interviews including; structured interviews, unstructured interviews and semi-structured interviews. The structured interviews are executed using questionnaires that are based on programmed and uniform questionnaires whiles the unstructured questionnaires are carried out when the researcher wants to gain detail knowledge into a case being studied; finally with the semi-structured interviews, the researcher outlines questions related to the theme which is anticipated to gain answers from. The means of collecting semi-structured interviews data is by tape-recording the conversation or taking notes (Saunders et al., 2003).

3.6.1 Methods of data collection and Analysis

Proceeding from above, the study as stated earlier comprise of both primary and secondary data considering the time frame. For this research, the primary data will be collected through semi-structured interviews. This will enable the discussion of the themes to bring forth the interviewee's opinions and ideas (Cheney et al., 2004). Generally the questions have been prepared in advance and when appropriate questions might be asked in order to obtain more information on the theme. Easterby-Smith et al. (1991) outline five conditions under which semi-structured interviews are appropriate: First, when it is significant to recognise the build- up of the interviewee. Second, when the interviewer requires constructing a precise understanding of the interviewee's perception of the reality and the world, influenced by the interviewer. Third, the logic of a process is generalized. Fourth, when the topic under discussion is commercially sensitive or confidential and the fifth, unless having a face-to-face setting discussion about the theme, the interviewee will not be completely open up.

The will be audio recorded on tape a


The researcher will use two mid-size companies as its units of analysis and in doing so the researcher will take into account the companies' former practices and the present use of green practices across its level of operations. Also considering the fact that the operations of companies varies from one industry to another industry, the focus of attention for the research will be in the Food Processing sector. Vechon (2007) observed that a particular industry's mode of operations generally benefit from a related procedures or course of actions and workflows. Meanwhile Zhu and Sarkis (2007) are of the opinion that among the diverse sectors of industries, different regulations and legislation on the environment is applied which leads to diverse environmental practices. The Food Processing sector is very wide, but then the high level of customers susceptibility to the quality of the product is what makes the companies within distinct. Nevertheless, the size of the company determines the application of the environmental scheme (Lee and Rhee, 2007). On the other hand, the resercher's focus of attention on the mid-size companies is because of their related organisational structures and level of development.

The researcher chose two companies within the Food Processing sector because these companies usually uses the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) lines for their import shipments which offered the reserchare opportunity to visit their facilities two years ago. The researcher was then assistant to the logistics manager of MSC and visited the facilities several times prior to this research. The researcher's early connections with company X disclose that some aspect of green is being practiced in the company's operations. This makes the availability of adequate data to be possible to invetstigate the archive and plan for the study. Additionally the research creates the flexibility and robustness of the research methodology. It places the pattern for another case study that uses also archivial despite the manufacturing facility were implementing green practices at the time of study. The design of the research will not modify the pilot study

Validity and Reliability



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