The need for the development of collaborative relationships

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Generally speaking, the growing trend of organisational pursuit of business economic gains involving the use of more effective cost saving measures within an uncertain environment has indeed stimulated the need for the development of collaborative relationships (Mentzer, 2004). A practice that is more evident in the modern day retail sector whereby the alignment of supply and demands sides of the supply chain has been highly prioritised so as to eliminate all forms of waste while driving up efficiency (Gattorna, 2002).

Thus, this piece of work aims to critically appraise or evaluate the rationale underpinning why most organisations struggle to develop customers-suppliers collaborative relationships within a supply chain network. However, to help explore this debate, this paper would be clearly structured around a number of subjects such as: an exploration of the concept of collaboration; the conditions for developing a collaborative relationship; the benefits or rewards of developing customers-suppliers collaborative relationships; the challenges of developing customers-suppliers collaborative relationships; and then a concluding summary while drawing on a variety of rich academic and practitioner literatures.

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According to Mentzer (2004) collaboration in supply chains entails the joint working of the entire members of the supply chain based on a common set of defined objectives. But, Gattorna (2009) has argued that collaboration is a mutual relationship that pools together resources in order to create competitive advantage for both partners under a harmony of objectives and strategy. But, Sehgal (2009) has contended that collaboration is any process that cuts across organisations under the platform of a close and cooperative working relationship that fosters the sharing of information as well as joint planning and execution of established work plans. However, Simaptupang & Sridharan (2002) has further argued that collaboration involves two or more partners working together under a joint decision making, sharing of critical information resources as well as common sharing of the rewards accruable to higher profits generated in providing a better customer service far beyond what would have been obtainable if the joint partners where to work alone. Thus, it could be conclusively argued that the term collaboration for the purpose of this academic piece of work would simply mean a combination of more than one partners' working under a joint mutual relationship with common goals and objectives so as to create higher efficiencies and competitive advantage. Needless to mention, it has been argued that for collaboration to exist there must be a number of elements as shown demonstrated in figure 1 which includes: common objectives defined by shared performance metrics; sharing of vital information so as to allow for visibility and enhanced decision making process; joint decision making so as to allow for a better response to market signs; incentive alignment which involves monitoring of set performance metrics to ensure clear objectives are met; and innovative supply chain processes which relays the systems feedback on the collaborative processes (Simatupang & Sridharan, 2008).

Figure 1 - Structure of Collaboration in Supply Chains

Source: Simatupang & Sridharan, 2008

Nevertheless, it has been argued that most organisations currently struggle to develop collaborative relationships along their supply chain networks owing to perceived economical rewards by way of lowering aggregate operating costs while creating value add and competitive advantage (Ireland & Crum, 2005). But, this could mean gaining better strategic positioning for improved performance and higher return on investment by way of reducing the total costs element of the entire supply chain rather than pushing the costs burden unto specific members of the supply chain network (Cohen & Roussel, 2004). However, in the same vein, Fisher (1997) has also argued that the rationale underpinning the quest for developing collaborative relationships in as a result of the fact that such mutual relationships leads to higher business gains as demands and supplies are effectively check mated in order to avoid expensive inventory carrying costs. However, for collaboration to occur, Clark, et al. (2001) contends that information technology - IT- invariably offers a sensitive role in harmonising the various structural collaborative elements such as information sharing, decision making, set objectives et cetera as demonstrated in the Business-to-Business (B2B) environment. This is somewhat in consonance with Ireland & Crum (2005) argument that explores the critical role of IT resources like Collaborative Planning Forecasting & Replenishment (CPFR) in creating effective collaboration along supply chain networks as seen amongst several organisations like Wal-Mart, HP, et cetera. Moreso, it has been further contended that organisations continuously strive for the development of collaborative relationships so as to be able to better manage consumers' behavioural attitude (Ireland & Crum, 2005), as well as potential disruptions from supply chain demand and supply uncertainties (Tang, 2006), which in turn fosters the bullwhip effect (Lee, et al., 1997). But, regardless, of such perceived economical benefits, it is interesting to note that most modern organisations finds it difficult or challenging to engage in real or absolute collaboration practices owing to a number of reasons such as fear of power positioning as evident in the current B2B environment (Lee, et al., 2003; Matopoulos, et al., 2007). This is somewhat in consonance with the argument that the fear of imbalance of power amongst supply chain collaborating members does deter the development of absolute collaborative relationships especially amongst the potential collaboration with large and small organisations (Hingley, 2005), which in turn fosters the growth of adversarial or arm's length relationships underpinning lamberts model of relationships (Lambert, 2008). However, it has been argued that the existence of such adversarial relationships owing to fear of power imbalance amongst supply chain members do result in lower aggregate supply chain gains as each supply chain member adopts a defensive approach built on a win - lose relationship approach rather than a collaborative win - win relationship approach that guarantees higher value add, greater productivity and efficiencies (Emmett & Crocker, 2006). However, it has been further contended that such imbalance in power could be mitigated by way of effectively jointly defining the performance metrics as well as common objectives of the relationship without any form of overdependence on any single partner along the supply chain network (Hingley, 2005), while creating an enabling environment that promotes a supply chain collaborative leadership system rather than a dominant system of leadership (Mentzer, 2004). This of course is demonstrated in the prevailing collaborative relationship that exists between Wal-Mart and its suppliers such as Procter & Gamble which has attracted tremendous financial gains to both partners (Ireland and Crum, 2005). However, it has also been argued that the fear of power imbalance amongst organisations intending to engage in absolute collaborative relationships could be linked to the underlining issue of trust as most organisations are not willing to share sensitive business information owing to the fear of losing their negotiating power which might be seen as a form of competitive advantage in quest of business survival (Lee, et al., 2003), where trust has been argued to be an element of absolute reliance and dependability on others (Derek & Steve, 2008). But, it has been further argued that the establishment of absolute trust as a key ingredient towards developing absolute collaborative relationships is said to be challenging as it does requires a considerable period of time (Mangan, et al., 2008), as well as synchronised business objectives amongst the partners (Wang, et al., 2007). However, it is interesting to note that the absence of trust underpinning the simulated prisoners dilemma effect (Mangan, et al., 2008), arguably fosters the occurrence poor information sharing processes which in turn encourages the existence of bullwhip effect along supply chain networks as a result of the fact that poor information sharing basically results in unguided forecasting of demand and supply variables thereby creating excessive supply disruptions which are amplified as the flow moves towards the demand end of the supply chain in relation to demand order variations (Lee, et al., 1997), as modelled in the Beer game theory (Ireland & Crum, 2005; Lee, et al., 1997) and as shown in figure 2. For instance, the occurrence of the diapers sales bullwhip effect whereby the presence of small demand order variations created at the sales end of Procter & Gamble amplified demand orders generated by its product distributors thereby creating a further amplification of Procter & Gamble's demand order for materials placed on 3M - the raw material supplier (Lee, et al., 1997).

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Figure 2 - Bullwhip Effect

Source: Lee, et al., 1997

However, Lee, et al. (1997) further contends that the occurrence of the bullwhip effect in supply chains could also be linked to uncertainties associated with the behavioural pattern or changing preferences of consumers' underpinning the rationing game which in turn results in the creation of artificial demand patterns owing to perceived future supply scarcities. And that such uncertainty in consumers' behavioural pattern could arguably be better managed only under a collaborative relationship (Lee, et al., 1997). However, on the other hand, it has been argued that the occurrence of bullwhip effects as a result of uncertainties along supply chain networks do stimulate the generation of supply chain waste in the form of inventory carrying costs, overproduction, et cetera under the absence of true collaborative relationships (Ireland & Crum, 2009). But, Rashid (2009) has argued that to help mitigate the impact of bullwhip effects along supply chain networks, organisations must adopt an open and trust driven relationship so as to allow for easy sharing of critical information in order to create effective visibility of demand and supply variables to better manage the market uncertainties of supply chains.

However, as regards the element of openness and trust, Emmett & Crocker (2006) has further contended that supply chain members must learn to cultivate and nurture absolute trust within their respective organisations as well as within established relationships by way of sharing a common set of business objectives coupled with an agreed risks and rewards sharing metrics so as to be able to leverage the strengths of such synergy in order to gain competitive advantage and higher profitability within the present dynamic business environment. However, this is somewhat in consonance with Wisner, et al.(2009) argument on the issue of trust which bothers on the fact that the development of absolute trust in the collaborative relationship that existed between Boeing and its suppliers was attributed to the production of its ground breaking and most profitable aircraft series in the year 2007 known as the 789 Dreamliner that recorded a relatively high sales volume as Boeing absolutely trusted its suppliers in the area of engineering functions which in turn necessitated effective sharing of information and reliance on mutual resources. However, on the other hand, Sheffi (2005) has argued that the absence of trust in relationships could lead to the hoarding of information which in turn creates disruptions along supply chain networks due to poor visibility. This is further supported by Sheffi (2005) argument that explores the supply disruptions experienced by Ericsson in the year 2000 as a result of the fire incidence of its major supplier known as Philips whereby real time communication with Ericsson was devoured by Philips by way of choosing to inform Nokia about the nature of the prevailing circumstances of their supply capacity and then deciding to offer Nokia a deal on the bulk of its undamaged supplies without considering Ericsson thereby putting Ericsson in a situation of toughened business risk.

Nevertheless, it is needless to also note that the existence of perceive business risks arguably limits the development of absolute collaborative relationships between customers and suppliers in a supply chain network as a result of fear of potential failures in terms of business continuity, probable loss of investments as well as risks of toughened level of competition (Matopoulos, et al., 2007), where the term business risks is liken to be associated with supply chain vulnerability (Christopher & Peck, 2004). This is somewhat in line with Christopher & Peck (2004) argument on the embattled business risk failure of UPF a key supplier of chassis products for the Land Rover's classical Discovery car unit such that its level of bankruptcy prompted its receiver - KPMG - to threaten the flow supplies to Land Rover in attempt to recover its capital as UPF's creditors thereby leaving Land Rover with the best possible choice of sourcing an alternate viable auto raw material supplier network while cutting back on their workforce and spending in a bid to survive the ailing business relationship. However, on the other hand, it has been conclusively argued that the challenge or issue of perceived business risks as a factor that deters the development of absolute collaborative relationships (Matopoulos, et al., 2007), could be mitigated by way of building a mutual relationship that is tailored around competent supply chain members with evidence of a robust and sustainable system while continuously pooling resources in the accomplishment of a common set of objectives (Lambert, 2008).

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Nonetheless, as a conclusive summary as regards the rationale underpinning why organisations or companies are in continuous struggle in attempt to develop their customers' - suppliers collaborative relationship, it could be argued that the most important reason is to allow for a better strategic positioning in order to achieve competitive advantage by way of value add or creation while ensuring higher return on investments across the entire supply chain network (Cohen & Roussel, 2004; Ireland & Crum, 2005), but that for absolute collaborative relationships to be established there must be a mutual working together of two or more partners under a joint decision making, sharing of critical information resources as well as common sharing of the rewards accruable to higher profits generated in providing a better customer service far beyond what would have been obtainable if the joint partners where to work alone (Simaptupang & Sridharan, 2002) under a structural framework that entails: common objectives defined by shared performance metrics; sharing of vital information so as to allow for visibility and enhanced decision making process; joint decision making so as to allow for a better response to market signs; incentive alignment which involves monitoring of set performance metrics to ensure clear objectives are met; and innovative supply chain processes which relays the systems feedback on the collaborative processes (Simatupang & Sridharan, 2008). Moreso, it has been argued conclusively that the sharing of information through collaborative relationships fosters supply chain visibility (Ireland & Crum, 2009), aiding the better management of demand and supply chain uncertainties and disruptions such as the bullwhip effect (Lee, et al., 1997), but that requires the presence of trust, IT collaborative resources (Wisner, et al., 2009; Emmett & Crocker, 2006; Mangan, et al., 2008), as well as collaborative leadership with an element of power symmetry (Mentzer, 2004; Hingley, 2005). However, as a final conclusion, it could be argued that based on the critical evaluation of the need for customers - suppliers collaborative relationship, it is evident that no true or absolute collaborative relationship practically exists in the real world of business owing to the absence or deficiency of one or more of this critical elements that accounts for an absolute collaborative relationship as explored in the body of this paper.

REFERENCES

Clark, T. Croson, D. & Schiano, W. (2001). Hierarchical Model of Supply Chain Integration: Information sharing and operational interdependence in the US grocery channel. Information Technology and Management, Vol. 2, pp. 261-288

Christopher, M. & Peck, H. (2004). Building the resilient supply chain. International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 1-13

Cohen, S. & Roussel, J. (2004). Strategic Supply Chain Management: the five disciplines for top performance. New York. McGraw-Hill

Derek, W. & Steve, R. (2008). Procurement Systems. Abingdon. Taylor & Francis publishers

Emmett, S. & Crocker, B. (2006). The relationship - Driven supply chain. Hamsphire. Gower Publishing Company

Fisher, M. (1997). What is the right supply chain for your product?. Harvard Business Review. Vol. 75, No. 2, pp. 105-116

Gattorna, J. (2002). Strategic Supply Chain Alignment: best practice in supply chain management. Hampshire. Gower Publishing Limited

Gattorna, J. (2009). Dynamic Supply Chain Alignment. Farnham. Gower publishing limited

Hingley, M. (2005). Power to all our friends? Living with imbalance in supplier-retailer relationships. Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 34, No. 8, pp. 848-858

Ireland, R. & Crum, C. (2005). Supply chain collaboration. Florida. J. Ross publishing.

Lee, S. Pak, B. & Lee, H. (2003). Business value of B2B electronic commerce: the critical role of inter-firm collaboration. Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, Vol.2, No. 4, pp.350-361

Lee, H. Padmanabhan, V. &Whang, S. (1997). The bullwhip effect in supply chains. Sloan Management Review, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 93-102

Lambert, D. (2008). Supply Chain Management: processes, partnerships, performance. 3rd edition. Florida. Supply Chain Management Institute

Mentzer, J. (2004). Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management: twelve drivers of competitive advantage. London. Sage Publications Ltd

Matopoulos, A. Vlanchopoulou, M. & Manthou, V. (2007). A conceptual framework for supply chain collaboration - Empirical evidence from the agri-food industry. International Journal of Supply Chain Management, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp.177-186

Rashid, M. (2009). Collaboration and the evolving semi-conductor supply chain. [online]. Available: http://www.edn.com/article/CA6713101.html. [accessed 20th July, 2010]

Simatupang, T. & Sridharan, R. (2005). An integrated framework for the supply chain collaboration. The International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 257-274

Simatupang,T. & Sridharan, R. (2008). Design for supply chain collaboration. The International Journal of Logistics Management, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 401-418

Sheffi, Y. (2005). The resilient enterprise - Overcoming vulnerability for competitive advantage. The MIT press

Sehgal, V. (2009). Enterprise Supply Chain Management: Integrating best in class processes. New Jersey. John Wiley & Sons

Tang, S. (2006). Perspectives in Supply Chain Risk Management. International Journal of Production Economics, pp.451-488

Wisner, J. Tan, K. & Leong, G. (2009). Principle of supply chain management: a balanced approach. 2nd edition. Mason. South-Western Cengage Learning

SECTION TWO

Basically speaking, the recent public awareness and concern for a sustainable environment has indeed created a prevailing green wave pressure on supply chain networks of modern day business organisations (Esty & Winston, 2009), as current managers strive to minimise the impact of their business activities on the environment within which they operate (Webber & Wallace, 2009).

Thus, this piece of work aims to critically appraise or evaluate the viability of achieving a green supply chain network by business organisations or companies. However, to help explore this debate, this paper would be clearly structured around a number of subjects such as: an initial exploration of the concept of green supply chains; the conditions driving the need for developing green supply chain networks; the benefits or rewards of greening supply chain networks; the challenges of greening supply chain networks; and then a concluding summary while drawing on a variety of rich academic and practitioner literatures.

Generally speaking, according to van Hoek (1999) green supply chain has been argued to encompass the integration of various chain activities involving forward and reverse flow of goods, services and information resources while minimising the corresponding impact on the environment. However, Penfield (2008) contends that green supply chain simply involves a flow process that utilises eco -friendly inputs in the production of recyclable products. This is somewhat in consonance with Webber & Wallace (2009) argument that green supply chain entails the conversion of environmentally friendly raw materials into by products which could be recycled with minimum landfill usage through the use of a minimum energy driven conversion process while working closely with suppliers and customers. However, having looked at the various definitions of the concept of green supply chain it could be argued that green supply chain within the context of this academic paper entails the integration of environmental consciousness within the entire processes or activities involving the forward and reverse movement of products, information and funds in a given supply chain network.

Nevertheless, according to Yug (2008) green supply chains could be arguably achieved by way of developing an environmental friendly culture and then driving it down the corporate environment as part of the organisational business objectives. But, Webber & Wallace (2009) argued that the supply chain network of business organisations could be greened if an enabling interactive and collaborative environment is created between the main organisation, suppliers and customers' chain networks. Such that organisations are made to work closely with their supply chain suppliers-suppliers as well as their suppliers-customers in order to help identify and reduce any form of downstream waste or unhealthy activities associated with the use of raw materials and the methods of processing or production (Tolson, 2009). In the same vein, this is somewhat in consonance with Zhu, et al. (2006) argument that explores Fords decision to identify and reduce its downstream automobile supply chain waste at a cheaper cost through the implementation of a mandatory ISO environmental and safety standard as a pre-requirement for the selection and use of its suppliers in attempt to green its automobile supply chain network. However, Cousins, et al. (2006) contends that for supply chain networks to be greened organisations could engage the environmental practice of direct investment on its in-house resources or indirectly through the use of arm's length and market mechanism tools in coercing its pool of supplier to demonstrate eco friendly practices.

But, on the other hand it has been argued that the mere act of organisations' compliance with the prevailing legislatures as regards a safer environment through the likely possession of relevant documentations on environmental compliance level does not guaranty a sustainable green supply chain network (Bowen, et al., 2001). In the same vein, Handfield, et al. (1997) has argued that the use of legislative environmental standards as a greening tool within supply chain networks fosters a reactive legislative compliance culture amongst the supply chain networks of organisations rather than a proactive attitude towards sustaining a better and more quality environment. However, it has also been further contended that such an environmental reactive legislative compliance practice is attributable to the fear of the consequence of non compliance in terms of potential penalty costs (Yang, et al., 2006). Nevertheless, according to Min & Galle (2001) and Zsidisin & Siferd (2001) organisations' supply chains could be greened by way of integrating an environmental management practice across the purchasing function of the supply chains so as to facilitate reduction of environmental impact at the source location while encouraging recycling and reuse of supply chain products. However, it has been further contended that this could also mean the use of environmental friendly packaging for the handling of supply chain manufactured products coupled with building an environmental protective culture into the product design phase, its process of manufacture as well as its post consumption phase (Penfield, 2007). This is arguably demonstrated in the case of the eco-friendly design culture underpinning the production of re-usable baby nappies made from biodegradable materials in a bid to reduce the environmental impact of continuous remanufacture and possible disposal landfill pollution (The Times, 2008). However, such environmental inclined practice in turn has been argued to often result in a number of significant costs savings across the entire supply chain network owing to the presence of reverse logistics activities within the system as organisations aim to minimise their environmental impacts (Rao & Holt, 2005). However, it has also been contended that beyond such gains derived from environmental management purchasing in attempt to achieve a green supply chain network, organisations could inevitably green their chain networks by way of encouraging domestic purchasing in order to reduce the aggregate impact of supply chain activities in terms of either emissions or pollution on the environment (Tice, 2010). But, on the other hand it has been argued that the viability of greening supply chain networks could be deterred especially as it affects the purchasing functions owing to several challenges such as high initial implementation costs (Cousins, et al., 2006), resistance to the organisational culture of changing from conventional purchasing practice to eco-friendly purchasing practice, as well as presence of weaker environmental legislatures in operation at a different part of the world (Eco Buy, 2009). Nevertheless, drawing on the advocated environmental practice of domestic purchasing geared towards reducing environmental foot prints (Tice, 2010), it could also be argued that might possibly mean the use of less modal transport system especially that which involves the use of road modal transportation of which accounts for a greater percentage of the amount of environmental bundle created by organisations' supply chain networks (Sarkis, 2003). However, it has been contended that the move towards the integration of environmental management practice across the transport or logistics activities of supply chain networks could be attributable to the quest for lowering aggregate operating cost in terms of overheads by way of withdrawing the large number of underutilised transport equipment such as lorries from the road traffic (Raconteur on Transport, 2009). However, this in turn could also mean lesser generation of carbon foot prints in terms of emissions derived from the poor utilisation of road modal transport system (Raconteur on Transport, 2009). In the same vein, Raconteur on Transport (2009) has further argued that the integration of certain intelligent information technology systems into road modal transport system helps facilitate an improved traffic system characterised by better management of traffic congestions aimed at reducing unproductive waiting times while ensuring maximum utilisation of a higher load capacity factor of the trucks or lorries thereby resulting in accumulation of fewer millage as well as lower emission rates. However, it is interesting to mention that it has also been argued that green supply chain networks could be achieved by way of focusing on the logistics or transport function of the supply chains and then promoting the use of direct destination shipment deliveries (Tice, 2010), as well as engaging the use of a multi-modal or intermodal transport system in order to lower the huge environmental impact of using a single modal choice like road transport in support of the distribution flow of supply chain networks (Raconteur on Transport, 2009). But, on the other hand it has been contended that the use of road modal transport system has been considered to be the only recommended and approved means of freight movement of certain kind of products such as chemicals and as such posing a great challenge towards greening the transport or logistics function of supply chains in attempt to achieve a green supply chain network (Sarkis, 1999). Nevertheless, the strategic move towards greening the transport or logistics function of supply chains could also be linked to the incidence of the global rising price of crude oil as well as growing demand for the use of fuel especially by freight carriers coupled with the growing awareness on the high rate of crude oil resource depletion (Greene, 2007). This has in turn fostered a great deal of challenge to organisations or companies with the pressure of sourcing alternate measures geared towards ensuring sustainability within their supply chain networks and as such the need for transport systems with aerodynamic designs with higher load capacity factor but tailored towards ensuring generating a lower amount of emissions owing to its streamlined design benefit that offers less drag or backward force (Freight Best Practice, 2009). However, it has been further contended that the practice of sourcing alternate sustainable energy driven freight transport systems involving such technologies like use of hybrid cars could help in reducing the aggregate environmental foot print of supply chain networks of companies while cutting back on the running costs attributable to the use of road freight modal transport (Khiewnavawongsa & Scdmidt, 2007). But, on the other hand it has been argued that the use of hybrid cars or electrically powered cars is often associated with cost implication elements in terms of relatively high costs of acquisition or purchase as well as high maintenance costs which in turn makes it somewhat impractical to achieve a sustainable green supply chain network in a bid to greening the transport or logistics function of supply chains (LMI Government Consulting, 2005). However, this is somewhat in consonance with Cousins, et al. (2006) argument that green supply chains could be difficult to achieve by most companies as a result of the fact that its implementation practice does require a lot of initial capital investment costs or funding with little or no short run financial paybacks.

Nevertheless, it has also been argued that for companies or organisations to achieve a green supply chain network much attention should be paid in investing and integrating an environmental management practice across its supply chain product post consumption phase also known as reverse logistics in order to allow for a cost effective but efficient recovery of post consumption products for safer disposal (Metro Vancouver, 2009). However, the implementation of such kind of environmental practice in a bid to ensure a sustainable eco friendly environment has arguably fostered or created a number of value add across the supply chain network of most organisations especially in terms of maximising the use of post consumption waste such as food items (Raconteur on Transport, 2009). This has been argued to be very visible or practical in the conversion of food waste into energy source through the use of anaerobic mechanism of breaking down food particles for alternate use with the resulting effect or benefit of reducing the potential level of pollution associated with their disposal as solids occupying any given mass of land which would have otherwise been utilised for alternate value adding activities (Raconteur on Transport, 2009). However, Rao & Holt (2005) has also contended that the environmental management practice of reverse logistics do offer a number of costs saving benefits to the supply chain networks of business organisations. However, it has been further argued that the implementation of reverse logistics as a measure geared towards greening the supply chain networks of companies do offer a higher customer service performance rate in terms of customer loyalty as customers tend to be more attracted to companies operating a reverse logistics policy that allows for product returns either as a result of defects or for the sole purpose of scrapping (Supply Chain Digest, 2009). This is arguably in consonance with the high customers' loyalty rate attributable to Apple's return policy that guarantees a relatively speedy and free replacement of Apple's manufactured ipods sold to customers with complaints on gadget defect or malfunction (Supply Chain Digest, 2009). But, on the other hand it has been argued that the use of reverse logistics as an environmental management tool in attempt to ensure a green supply chain network amongst business organisations often lead to a number of financial loss as a result of the fact that certain recovered products are often worth far less in relation to the cost or price paid in recovering them (Wu & Cheng, 2006). In the same vein, Stock, et al. (2009) has contended that such financial loss incurred on the process of recovering supply chain post consumption products could also be attributable to absence of market system which supports further sales of such recovered products and as such fostering additional costs such as inventory carrying costs, storage costs as well as costs of potential disposal which in turn constitutes a challenge towards greening the supply chain networks of most business organisations or companies. However, this is somewhat in line with Klappic (2008) argument that the implementation of reverse logistics as a tool for achieving a green supply chain network does not necessarily guarantee financial returns in all industrial sectors. It has been further argued that though the retail sector has indeed seen some returns on investment in the reverse logistics function of their supply chain networks, the benefits of such investments in other industry sectors is yet to be seen as aggregate logistics costs have been driven up by about 4% due to spending incurred on reverse logistics activities (Klappic, 2008). Moreso, Klappic (2008) has also contended that the level of technological control and management of reverse logistics activities is only efficient within the retail market with other industries still experiencing a low and immature level of technological support (Klappic , 2008).

Nevertheless, considering the possibility of achieving a green supply chain network from a different viewpoint, Friend, et al. (2009) has contended that green supply chains could also be achieved owing to the growing consumers' need for products with less carbon footprints as most business organisations are been placed at a risk of losing business in view of not meeting up with the consumers' requirements on sale of eco friendly products. However, it has be further argued that such supply chains could be greened by way of introducing and implementing the corporate use of green sustainable scorecards as a measure of compliance audit tool to help communicate and embed a system of environmental protection into the various activities of the pool of partners acting in the whole supply chain networks which in turn arguably results in total savings in supply chain operating costs (Friend, et al., 2009). This is arguably demonstrated in the example of Wal-Mart company whereby a sustainable scorecard was introduced to measure the level of environmental performance of its suppliers such that suppliers with a lower score ratings were faced with the risk of losing their continued business relationship with Wal-Mart (Friend, et al., 2009). But, on the other hand it has been argued that while only a few business organisations are aware of such practices (Eco Buy, 2009), a majority of organisations continuously hype the level of their commitment to environmental performance more than their actual performance in what is known as green washing and as such posing a huge challenge towards achieving a green supply chain network (Estes, 2009).

Nonetheless, as a conclusive summary as regards the critical debate on the possibility of achieving green supply chain networks, it could be argued that green supply chains which involves the application of environmental practices across the various functions of supply chain networks (Webber & Wallace, 2009; van Hoek 1999; Penfield, 2008), could be achieved been driven by several factors such as strict environmental protection legislatures (Bowen, et al., 2001; Handfield, et al., 1997), need for driving down aggregate supply chain operating costs (Rao & Holt, 2005), growing consumers concern on the need for eco-friendly products (Friend, et al., 2009), as well as need for sustainability (Khiewnavawongsa & Scdmidt, 2007; Freight Best Practice, 2009). However, such green supply chain networks could be possibly achieved by engaging or integrating an environmental management practice across the various supply functions (Min & Galle, 2001; Zsidisin & Siferd, 2001),involving the practice of green purchasing and sourcing (Cousins, et al., 2006; Eco Buy, 2010), green logistics / reverse logistics (Freight Best Practice, 2009; Metro Vancouver, 2009; Klappic, 2008; Sarkis, 1999), effective collaborative practices (Tolson, 2009; Friend, et al., 2009), as well as use of green scorecards (Friend, et al., 2009). Nevertheless, although green supply chain networks could be possibly achieved there exists a number of challenges that could deter organisations' efforts in achieving green supply chain networks such as cultural resistance (Eco Buy, 2010), expensive initial investment costs with little or no significant short term financial rewards (Cousins, et al., 2006), presence of weak legislatures in certain parts of the world (Eco Buy, 2010), growing wave of green washing (Estes, 2009), green inclined technological support limitations (Klappic , 2008), as well as absence of green awareness programs (Eco Buy, 2009).