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The existence of complexities in supply chain networks and toughened economic situations coupled with rapidly growing pressure of globalisation within a highly competitive market environment in deed poses a major challenge to modern business organisations as they struggle to redefine their business practices to allow for improved development of their supply chain customers-suppliers relationships through positive collaborations in a bid to gain competitive advantage, improved customer service, better responsiveness, reduction in aggregate operating costs, improved supply chain visibility and efficiency as well as a sustainable supply chain network that assures long-term business survival (Ireland & Crum, 2005).
Whence, this piece of work draws from a wide range of academic and professional literatures and carefully explores this critical debate in the sequence of: x-raying the definition / theory of collaboration, the framework of collaboration, detailed exploration of the need for customers-suppliers relationships in terms of its pros / cons and then followed by an executive summary.
What then is Collaborative Theory?
Collaboration according to Barratt & Oliveira (2001) entails mutual cooperation between a group of organisations with shared risks, gains and relevant information amongst the participating partners. But Simatupang & Sridharan (2002) argued that collaboration involves more than one company operating in synergy in order to gain competitive advantage and higher profits compared to what could be obtained if they were working independently. However, Gattorna (2009) sees collaboration as "working together to bring resources into a mutual relationship in order to achieve effective operations that harmonises the strategies and objectives of both parties". Thus, collaboration, within this context, could be argued to mean the existence of a mutual relationship between two or more business organisations designed to improve efficiency, reduction of costs while increasing aggregate revenue on the platform of shared risks and benefits amongst participating partners as shown in figure1.
Figure1 - Simplified Collaborative Supply Chain Structure
Source: Simatupang & Sridharan, 2005
However, Simatupang & Sridharan (2005) has arguably noted that the mutual relationship between participating partners is built on a collaborative framework which consists of five interactive features namely: "information sharing; collaborative performance system; decision synchronisation; incentive alignment; and innovative supply chain processes" (Simatupang & Sridharan, 2005) where each feature is seen as an identified area that impacts the performance of the relationship. However, it was further argued that such identified multi-interactive features (Barua, et al., 1996; Milgrom & Roberts, 1995) act as catalysts to the entire relationship through their interactive reciprocated actions (Simatupang & Sridharan 2005) as shown in figure2.
Figure2 - Collaborative Supply Chain Framework
Source: Simatupang & Sridharan, 2008
Nevertheless, Simatupang & Sridharan (2005) argued that collaborative performance system feature facilitates the designing and enforcement of work performance matrix amongst participating partners in order to stimulate higher aggregate performance in the relationship network while addressing such critical issues like mutual objectives and performance matrix requirements. However, Simatupang & Sridharan (2008) further argued that information sharing conveys key relationship performance data with the decision synchronisation feature acting as an enabler of the work performance matrix. And that the incentive alignment feature provides the relationship with a cost sharing and reward structure while the innovative supply chain processes conveys the actual collaborative relationship status data (Simatupang & Sridharan, 2008).
However, as regards the multi-feature interaction for better relationship performance, Simatupang & Sridharan (2008) arguably noted that the information sharing feature furnishes collaborative performance system with key performance matrix data in order to measure and set new matrix targets while the interaction between information sharing and incentive alignment establishes visibility which in turn furnishes collaborative performance system with performance matrix feedback based on decision synchronisation as well as key performance indicator measurement by the innovative supply chain processes with the aim of identifying potential areas for corrective actions in the collaborative performance system.
Why then do companies struggle to collaborate?
The evolution of globalisation, economic pressures and technological advancement compelled several companies to be reactive in a bid to fulfil customers' order requirements which in turn resulted in poor cash flow as rising operating costs posed a serious threat to long-term business survival with net profits ranging from 2-4% in retail food market, 5-7% in consumer goods market and 4-6% in retail merchandise industry (Ireland & Crum, 2005). However, as a mitigating measure, it has argued that modern companies are presently shifting from a reactive business approach to an effective collaborative approach by way of developing their customers-suppliers relationships aimed at reducing operating costs while increasing sales revenue through information sharing resources like CPFR (Collaborative Planning Forecasting and Replenishment) with such derived gains as 5-20% retailers sales benefits and 2-10% suppliers' sales benefits signalling higher profit margins in the supply chain network of companies like Dell computers; Wal-Mart; Cisco-Systems; Procter & Gamble et cetera (Ireland & Crum, 2005). But, Fisher (1997) arguably noted that such mutual relationship generates high aggregate benefits by creating a balance between demand and supply.
Nevertheless, Matopoulos, et al., (2007) argued that despite its offered benefits, collaborative relationships are plagued with a number of business risks such as risk of business failure in the form of loss of materials / investments, time, capital and exposure to stiff competition. For example the case of Land Rover and its supplier UT-Thompson for the Discovery car model unit where UT-Thompson's insolvency led to their assets acquisition by KPMG who requested Land Rover to make an upfront payment of £30-40 million in attempt to legally recover UT-Thompson's debt by temporarily halting Land Rover's operations as supplies were cut following a court injunction that permitted Land Rover to seek another supplier in order to save its failing business (Christopher & Peck, 2004).
However, it has been further argued that mutual supply chain relationships are associated with increasing risks of market uncertainties (i.e. demand uncertainty and supply uncertainty) as a result of insufficient information sharing / poor visibility between the upstream and downstream ends of the supply chain network (Rong, et al., 2009) coupled with the risks of business dynamism, customer preference and market competitiveness (Ireland & Crum, 2005). But, Tang (2006) arguably noted that demand and supply uncertainties pose a major challenge to supply chain networks as any disruption in supply capacity affects the entire network. For example the year 2000 fire incidence of Philips whose disrupted supply capacity affected the business performance of its customers such as Nokia and Ericsson and the year 1999 earthquake incidence that cut supplies of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to its numerous customers within the IT / Telecoms industry (Sheffi, 2005) as well as the Hurricane incidence that interrupted Huntsman Corporation and Nalco Holding supplies to their customers within the chemical industry (Stock, 2005).
However, Rong, et al. (2009) has arguably noted that market uncertainty in the midst of insufficient supply capacity triggers a negative response from customers' by way of communicating excessive demand order fulfilment in a bid to obtain a larger chunk of the supply owing to anticipated scarcity and price variation thereby fostering the Rationing Game which in turn creates a Reverse Bullwhip effect at the supply end of the supply chain such that movement of order variation increases downstream while the demand end suffers a typical Bullwhip effect. For example the case of the reverse bullwhip effect in the US oil industry which occurred as a result of increased gasoline demand variation movement upstream after the Hurricane Rita / Katrina attack (Rong, et al., 2008).
Nevertheless, Holweg, et al., (2005) argued that companies could mitigate the risk of supply capacity constraint by collaborating to closely monitor especially products with long-lead times and then communicating delivery constraints to customers' more early for example the Volkswagen case in the auto industry where Volkswagen through its e-cap system decided to control the supply of engines as excessive demand for diesel engines posed a high risk to their supply capacity constraint.
Nevertheless, Wu, et al., (2005) argued that the reverse bullwhip effect caused by supply constraints especially within the high-tech / semi-conductor industry could be reduced by establishing a collaborative capacity management approach. But, Rong, et al., (2009) arguably noted that effective information sharing of realtime supply capacity as well as the use of proportional allocation rule with an element of reservation payment fosters the "Nash Equilibrium" thereby lowering excessive orders which in turn reduces the reverse bullwhip effect in the supply chain network.
Nevertheless, Ireland & Crum (2005) has further argued that the risk of market uncertainties due to lack of visibility of true demand information induces prediction amongst the supply chain partners in attempt to respond to consumers demand thereby creating a phenomenon known as the Bullwhip effect as modelled by the Beer Game in MIT Sloan School of Management which is represented in figure 3.
Figure 3 - Bullwhip Effect
Source: Lee, et al., 1997
However, Lee, et al., (1997) had arguably linked Bullwhip vulnerability of supply chain networks to four major factors namely: "demand forecast updating; order batching; price variation; rationing and shortage gaming" (Lee, et al., 1997). And that the use of the practice of demand forecast updating in generating demand forecasts based on past statistical data of immediate customers' fosters the occurrence of demand variations which are different from the actual demands at consumption node of the supply chain network as shown in figure 4 while the use of order batching such as periodic ordering and push ordering based on MRP (Material Resource Planning) / DRP (Distribution Requirement Planning) systems amplifies the Bullwhip effect (Lee, et al., 1997).
However, Lee, et al., (1997) further argued that the Bullwhip effect of supply chain networks is also driven by the impact of price variation due to promotions and discounted initiatives as well as the impact of Rationing Game due to customers' behavioural factors such as perceived future shortage, price difference et cetera. For example the case of HP Laser Jet III Printer Bullwhip effect which took place as its customers' placed excessive demand orders on the supply chain network that prompted HP to introduce an initial reseller supplier constraint on the product but later lifted the constraint due to failed attempt to ascertain real consumption demand information which in turn left HP with unnecessary overproduction and high inventory costs as most customers ended up terminating their placed orders after HP had successfully lifted its supply constraint (Lee, et al., 1997) thereby resulting in a Bullwhip effect as well as the case of Procter & Gamble's diapers Bullwhip effect which occurred as little sales variations at Procter & Gamble's retail outlets became amplified by the distributors demand orders which in turn amplified Procter & Gamble's material orders to its supplier 3M thereby creating a Bullwhip effect which resulted in inefficiencies, waste and costs in the entire supply chain network (Lee, et al., 1997).
Figure 4 - Causes of Bullwhip Effect Order Variation
Source: Lee, et al., 1997
Nevertheless, it has been argued that several companies fail to internalise supply chain demand information in their possession such that the amplification of demand order as they move upstream along the supply chain network results in the generation of "supply chain waste - wasted opportunity and wasted money" (Ireland & Crum, 2005, p.6). For example the previous costs implication statistics report in the retail industry from the US Department of Commerce which revealed that retailers were in possession of stockholding / inventory worth $1.1 trillion as against $3.2 trillion worth of sales with $7-$12 billion annual sales loss due to under-stocking as a result of poor supply chain network visibility and absence of internalisation of true demand information (Ireland & Crum, 2005). However, Rashid (2009) arguably noted that companies especially within the electronics industry could successfully minimise the occurrence of the Bullwhip effect by collaborating by way of sharing information in order to lower excess inventory and waste as well as reduction of total costs of ownership while improving the efficiency of the entire supply chain network.
But, Ireland & Crum (2005) argued that a host of modern companies currently strive for a collaborative strategic relationship in a bid to reduce the financial consequence of the Bullwhip effect in their supply chain network by promoting teamwork, vigilance, internalisation of consumer centric demand information rather than customer centric information as well as the use of realtime information sharing resources such as EPOS(Electronic Point of Sale) / CPFR (Collaborative Planning Forecasting and Replenishment) which in turn drives efficiency and improved revenue within the entire network. For example the case of Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble collaborative relationship that allowed effective information sharing between both partners through the use of CPFR (Collaborative Planning Forecasting and Replenishment) resources coupled with a consumer centric approach known as "first moment of truth" by Procter & Gamble that resulted in the minimisation of the Bullwhip effect of its chain network as inventory turn tripled in Wal-Mart outlets while Procter & Gamble's sales to Wal-Mart grew from $350 million to $4 billion between 1998 and 1999 (Ireland & Crum, 2005).
Nevertheless, it has been arguably noted that not so many companies in the supply chain network are willing to divulge critical business information to other participating partners as a result of lack of trust (Arabe, 2002) where trust has been argued to be "the willingness to rely, depend and be vulnerable to the actions of others" (Mayer, et al., 1995, p. 715 cited in Derek & Steve, 2008, p. 291). However, Wang, et al., (2007) argued that the issue of trust amongst collaborative partners in the supply chain network could be linked to the existence of conflicting business interests as well as variation in their organisational structure and culture. But, Mangan, et al., (2008) arguably noted that the dynamics of absolute trust in supply chain networks as modelled in the "Prisoners Dilemma" is relatively difficult to establish as it does requires a great deal of time to build absolute trust into either a vertical or horizontal strategic collaborative relationship.
Nevertheless, Emmett & Crocker (2006) has argued that the existence of lack of trust amongst collaborative partners fosters adversarial behaviours which in turn promotes lack of innovation with little or no focus on value adding activities in the upstream and downstream sides of the supply chain network as participating partners becomes more defensive through a win-lose or lose-win approach as shown in figure 5.
HighFigure 5 - Trust vs. Collaboration
Defensive (Win-Lose or Lose-Win)
Source: Emmett & Crocker, 2006
However, Ireland & Crum (2005) arguably noted that lack of trusts amongst collaborating partners in a supply chain network is very costly to the entire network as shown in the case of a given manufacture in the consumer goods industry that had problems with the accurate forecasting of its FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Good) product as future forecasted demand information communicated by its retailers where neglected by the manufacturer due to lack of information trust which in turn generated a Bullwhip effect that resulted in higher operating costs and waste in the entire FMCG supply chain network. But, Emmett & Crocker (2006) has argued that for companies to enjoy the benefits of true collaboration; they must first of all strive to build-in the element of trust into their individual organisational culture and then learn to trust each collaborating partners in the supply chain network. And that the establishment of absolute trust creates a synergy that fosters a win-win relationship as shown in figure 5 which in turn creates competitive advantage, promotes innovation and value adding activities within the network. A classical example is the case of Boeing in the aviation industry where the supply chain network recorded the most successful sales of the Boeing's 787 Dreamliner in 2007 with over 71 orders as a result of the existence of absolute trust between Boeing and its 70 suppliers / partners whom Boeing trusted to perform the detailed engineering and testing activities of most parts that were supplied for the airliner (Wisner, et al., 2009, p. 462).
Nevertheless, Wilson (2006) arguably noted that the establishment of absolute trust amongst collaborating partners in a supply chain network allows for supply chain visibility through information sharing thereby lowering market uncertainty risks which in turn encourages resource dependence based on Resource Dependence Theory. But, it was further argued that such dependence fosters a situation of power play as each collaborating partner struggles to gain dominance over the entire supply chain network (Wilson, 2006). However, Matopoulos, et al., argued that "dependence of one company on another means that the company will have power over the other" (Matopoulos, et al., 2007, p. 3). But, Hingley (2005) arguably noted that the existence of power imbalance in supply chain networks creates the "Gorrilla Factor" whereby collaborating partners engage in adversarial activities in order to gain influence over the entire network. For example the case of Wal-Mart and Procter & Gambler's adversarial relationship that existed in the 1980's where both collaborating partners were seriously engaged in a long time battle in quest for dominance over their retail product supply chain network (Ireland & Crum, 2005).
Nevertheless, Hingley (2005) argued that the issue of power imbalance in supply chain networks could be effectively managed by avoiding overdependence of one partner on the others in order to gain power symmetry which results in equal sharing of rewards / risks while ensuring long-term collaborative relationship sustenance in the supply chain network. For example the collaboration between Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble which demonstrates power balance between both partners after its adversarial relationship in 1980's was ended by Wal-Mart's Sam Walton's call for the need for a closer working relationship between both partners with a focus of leveraging the core strengths of both partners which in turn resulted in value adding activities and improved efficiency in the entire supply chain network (Ireland & Crum, 2005).
Thus, haven critically argued the concept of the theory of collaboration as well as the need for developing suppliers-customers collaborative relationships within a supply chain network, it could be argued in summary that collaboration entails a mutual relationship between two or more companies closely working together to achieve improved efficiency, reduction of cost / waste, competitive advantage and higher aggregate revenue with shared risks / gains under the platform of a win-win approach. And that absolute collaboration is built on the framework of five major critical interactive features for better relationship performance namely: information sharing; collaborative performance system; decision synchronisation; incentive alignment; and innovative supply chain processes. However, it also could be argued that modern companies continuously strive for the development of their customers-suppliers collaborative relationships because of its perceived positive performances which offers competitive advantage and allows for effective sharing of information that fosters supply chain network visibility thereby making it possible for the effective management of market uncertainty risks, reduction of bullwhip / reverse bullwhip effects, elimination of wastes / unnecessary costs while increasing aggregate revenue. But, it could be further argued that despite its positive performances, collaborative relationships also creates such negative performances like mistrust, overdependence, power symmetry and risks of business failure which in turn results in adversarial relationships rather than absolute collaborative relationships.
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In a global world of dynamic market systems and ever increasing industrialised activities with heavy reliance on the consumption of non-renewable energy resources resulting in environmental pressures and the need for a more corporate socially responsive attitude poses a critical challenge to all modern organisations and their supply chain networks in their pursuit for success under the platform of improving the environment while maintaining a sustainable robust business operation (Penfield, 2008).
Thus, this piece of work draws from a variety of professional and academic literatures in attempt to critically debate the ability to achieve green supply chain networks through the adoption of a structured sequence of presentation: defining the concept of green supply chain, followed by an in-depth exploration of the concept of green supply chain in terms of its pros, cons, barriers, drivers, sustainability and then a summary.
What then is Green Supply Chain?
Green Supply Chain has been argued to be a supply chain that incorporates practices aimed at safeguarding the environment through the various underlying activities which involves the flow of information, materials, funds and reverse logistics while ensuring customer satisfaction (Khiewnavawongsa & Scdmidt, 2007). But LMI Government Consulting (2005) argued that green supply chain is a process-system of all upstream and downstream activities which creates value by leveraging on available environmental roles as shown in figure 1. Figure1.Source: LMI Government Consulting, 2005
However, Srivastava (2009) argued that green supply chain is a supply chain that integrates environmental consciousness into core supply chain functions like: product design, manufacturing, procurement, distribution / transportation, customer satisfaction and reverse logistics. But, Penfield (2007) arguably noted that green supply chain is a system that converts environmentally friendly inputs into by-products which could be recycled or reused without compromising environmental issues.
Thus, based on the various definitions of green supply chain it could be argued, for the purpose of this piece of work that a green supply chain is a system that implements the use of eco-friendly measures at every link (from cradle to crave) in the supply chain network as shown in Figure2.
Figure 2 - Green Supply Chain
Source: Penfield, 2007
Are Green Supply Chains Achievable?
The impact of environmental damages such as toxic wastes, climate change and depleting energy resources has created the need for redefining business processes involving greening of supply chain functions of modern organisations with key drivers such as government regulations and policies, market pressure / competition, and organisation's culture (Khiewnavawongsa & Scdmidt, 2007). Thus, Yug (2008) argued that, in striving for a green supply chain, organisations must first of all build a green framework into their organisational structure and culture with the use of a top-down management approach that integrates a green mindset into the core corporate objectives of the organisation. However, Bowen, et al., (2000) arguably noted that supply chains could only be greened if an organisation perceives a number of economic gains and operational benefits.
However, LMI Government Consulting (2005) argued that organisations would be rightly positioned to greening their supply chains by adapting a green process improvement approach designed to: identify all channels of waste in their supply chains, evaluate the opportunity cost of identified wastes and then develop innovative measures to reduce such wastes. But, Esty & Winston argued that green supply chains could be achieved by "cultivating an eco-mindset to using eco-tracking and redesign tools" Esty & Winston (2009, p. 207). However, Tolson (2009) arguably noted that companies are most likely able to green their supply chains if they concentrate on every process in their supply chain network with much emphasis on investigating how the activities of 1st tier suppliers and 2nd tier suppliers - located in the primary industry of the upstream side of the network - does impact on the environment in order to identify and eliminate all forms of wastes and toxics associated with raw material extraction / product manufacture before further movement downstream. However, Vachon & Klassen (2006) argued that such an environmentally-friendly supply chain could only be attained only if there is an established collaborative relationship amongst the partners with certain binding regulatory policies and controls such as ISO 14001certifications. For example the case of Wal-Mart collaboration with over 1000 suppliers in the retail industry whereby all of Wal-Mart's suppliers activities are been investigated and compelled to demonstrate socially responsive practices that are compliant with environmentally-friendly standards or face the risk of losing their business relationship with Wal-Mart (Wailgum, 2008) and also the case of Ford Motors in the automobile industry where all its suppliers were mandated to be ISO 14001 certified (Zhu, et al., 2006). However, it has been argued that suppliers' compliance with laid down regulatory policies is not a guaranteed improvement of environmental standards (Bowen, et al., 2001a), as such compliance are linked to companies reactive attitude whose value chains lack the integration of absolute environmental mindset (Handfield, et al., 1997, p.306) while adherence to environmental regulatory controls in the form of ISO 14001 certification are seen as very expensive ventures by most organisations thereby deterring the effort of greening supply chains (Yang, et al., 2006).
Nevertheless, Penfield (2007) argued that product design is a critical contributing factor in an effort to greening supply chains as it dictates the nature of the constituent elements that the product would be made off, the type of production process that is suitable for the product manufacture, durability of the product, the type of packaging /handling it requires as well as its disposable and recycling nature. But, it has been arguably noted that designing products that are environmentally recyclable increases input savings as such products could be introduced as inputs for further production processes (Rao & Holt, 2005). And that investment on eco-designs generates products with little environmental burden which in turn creates a green supply chain multiplier effect (Bereketli, et al., 2009) but Bacallan (2000) arguably noted that such "design for environment" products increases the competitiveness of the supply chains. However, Blanchand (2009) argued that lack of awareness and sound knowledge of designing products with less environmental hazardous substances and risks constitutes a major barrier to greening the supply chain networks of most organisations.
Nevertheless, Carbon Trust (2006) arguably noted that, beyond the idea of product design, organisations that are determined to greening their supply chains must focus on the elimination of all direct emissions in their supply chain networks through the use of energy efficient technologies that cuts carbon intensity. But, Kosansky & Schaefer (2009) further argued that organisations are better opportune to achieve green supply chain networks if they could only afford a shift from their level of overdependence on the consumption of non-renewable energy sources such as oil to alternate sources such as renewable resources like wind, solar and landfill gases which in turn lowers operating costs while reducing the rate of environmental burden. Examples include the case of Johnson & Johnson in the pharmaceutical industry which is the US 8th largest green energy purchaser that utilises renewable resources from landfill gases, wind power, solar and biomass facilities which resulted in a significant reduction of the company's total greenhouse gas emission with huge savings (US Department of Energy, 2007) and the case of Tesco supply chain in the consumer retail industry which boost high energy efficient practices like the use of energy-saving lights, use of curtains on the doors of freezers, improved insulation installations, use of non-industrial water and substantial reliance on consumption of renewable energy resources like solar panels, biogas, wind which in turn has resulted in reduction of Tesco's greenhouse gas emission as well as total energy cost savings (Leahy, 2008; Finch, 2010). However, Zhu and Sarkis (2007) argued that green investments are costly and requires huge start-up capital which could be difficult to implement by organisations with financially challenged supply chain networks while Business Green (2008) arguably linked the possibility of supply chains failure to become green to poor awareness campaign of the potential gains of a green supply chain as well as lack of strict effective legislations and controls.
Nevertheless, Zhu, et al., (2007) argued that the existence of tougher global market competitions and increasing environmental pressures especially as evident in the supply chains of Chinese automobile industry fosters the achievement of green supply chains as affected organisations continuously struggle to brace up to the challenge of lowering production cost in a bid to ensure long-term business sustenance through the use of waste reducing approaches like lean production thereby cutting down on the amount of generated production waste, improvement of product quality with better lead-time while improving the performance of the environment simultaneously. But, Rao & Holt (2005) arguably noted that in attempt to gain market competitive advantage without compromising ecological standards, supply chains are driven green by redefining their production processes through the use of eco-friendly production inputs, utilisation of energy / costs saving cleaner production technologies, building in total quality management into every production stage, manufacture of quality products with reverse-logistical features and outsourcing of production operations that has high risk-assessments. However, it has been argued that green supply chains might not be achieved by organisations as the acquisition of cleaner production technological facilities are quite expensive (Tolson, 2009) and as such could result in possible short-term financial loss on investment while most manufacturers would possibly become reluctant about their environmental impact in the absence of pressures associated with market competition (Zhu & Sarkis, 2007).
Nevertheless, it has been argued that in a bid to lower the huge costs associated with supply chain inbound functions, organisations currently seek more efficient procurement strategies (Rao & Holt, 2003) as early identification and elimination of supply chain wastes are cheapest at the upstream phase compared to downstream corrective costs (Rutgers University, 2008). But, EcoBuy (2009) argued the quest for cost reduction, image reputation and avoidance of heavy environmental regulatory penalties facilitates greening of supply chains through the adoption of environmental preferable purchasing or green purchasing practices which involves factoring environmental thinking into procurement decision making processes for all goods and services of the supply chain. And that green purchasing offers substitute energy conservative products with re-usable / recyclable features which creates newer market streams for such eco-friendly products, less pollution in the supply chain, aggregate reduction of supply chain product disposable costs and improved competition in attempt to retain / grow market shares (Eco Buy, 2009). An example is the case of the small best fleet 2008 award winner - Commercial Group - in the UK materials supply industry whose green purchasing practices of sourcing bio-diesel and petroleum alternative cars reduced their CO2 emission rate by 50% (Guardian Online, 2009). But, Tice (2010) arguably noted that beyond the practice of green purchasing, green supply chain networks could be realised if organisations continuously strive for local purchases as buying global increases the level of environmental impact of supply chains. However, Eco Buy (2009) arguably noted that lots of supply chain networks might possibly fail in an effort of going green in respect of green purchasing due to inadequate holistic awareness of green purchasing approach, lack of effective eco-labelling indicators for measuring standards, lack of coercive buying regulations, incidence of green wash as well as challenge involved in changing dominant traditional procurement culture of supply chains to adapt new eco-friendly procurement strategies.
Nevertheless, Rao (2003) and Sarkis (1999) has argued that green supply chains are achievable due to perceived market shares, economic gains and improved environmental performance as organisations stands to benefit from massive elimination of costs associated with all supply chain outbound functions such as eco-friendly packaging, eco-friendly transportation / distribution as well as reverse logistics. But, Rao & Holt (2005) argued that packaging of products for easy handling, physical display and prevention of damage is a critical factor that could constitute environmental pollution in form of solid waste while incurring costs on the entire supply chain network. And that supply chains could be greened if organisations decide to adopt environmentally-friendly packaging practices which involve the use of biodegradable packaging materials, eco-labelling and non-toxic wraps which in turn reduces disposal costs (Rao & Holt, 2005). Typical examples includes the case of Marks & Spencer in the retail industry whose supply chain network decided to go green by introducing the usage of lighter and biodegradable packaging materials and with the elimination of the use of Azo dyes on its fabrics which was found to be a major source of environmental pollution within its supply chain network (Siegle, 2007) and the case of Texas Instruments whose green packaging practice for semiconductors generated a 20% savings of $8million per annum within its green supply chain (LMI Government Consulting, 2005). However, Green Flavour (2008) strongly argued that organisations might not be able to green their supply chain networks through environmentally-friendly packaging due to its negative performances like the consumption of large land mass required for decomposition of biodegradable packaging products thereby posing a threat to world food security as well as potential generation of greenhouse gas emissions when disposed on landfills.
Nevertheless, it has been argued that, as oil prices become increasingly volatile with future availability uncertainties due to rapidly progressive demand for oil and freight transport (Greene, 2007) coupled with "economic and environmental pressures that demands costs / emission reduction practices" (Freight Best Practice, 2009), supply chains of modern organisations are currently left with the option to explore all possible waste reduction, cost saving and efficient sustainable energy sources so as to ensure business continuity. But, Sakis (2003) arguably noted that supply chains could be greened if organisations decide to make environmentally-friendly decisions affecting the logistics functions of the supply chain network in terms of transportation of products as well its distribution to customers. And that such logistical decision entails "location of distribution outlets, modal transport choice, control systems and just-in-time practices" (Sarkis, 2003). However, Raconteur on Sustainable Transport (2009) argued that the decision to reduce transport running / overhead costs has driven a number of companies towards greening of their supply chain network as a great deal of underutilised vehicles / trucks are being withdrawn from the roads, thereby lowering the rate of emissions. And that the use of IT resources such as CPFR (collaborative planning forecasting and replenishment) / EPOS (electronic point of sale) based on consumer centric demand information pull ensures quick and regular product supplies as trucks are fully loaded before embarking on any planned journey thereby reducing the total number of journey millage covered due to fewer trips made (Raconteur on Transport, 2009). However, Sarkis (1999) has argued that waiting for trucks to be fully loaded before hauling results in delays that creates long-lead times which in turn compromises Just-In-Time operations thereby impairing the ability of greening supply chains. But, Raconteur on Sustainable Transport (2009) argued that the use of intelligent IT powered traffic management facilities eliminates traffic congestion and idling thereby increasing the speed of truck deliveries while generating fewer emissions. However, it has been further argued that green supply chains are achievable if organisations decide to adopt an inter-modal choice of transport system involving a shift from road freight to ship and rail freights with low emission rates (Raconteur on Transport, 2009) while maximising direct shipment to delivery points (Tice , 2010). But, Sarkis (1999) arguably noted that trading-off road freights is unrealistic in the movement of certain products such as chemicals due to the fact that the Chemical Manufacturers Association highly recommends transportation of chemicals by road freight thereby making it difficult to achieve a green supply chain network. However, it has been argued that greening of supply chains could be achieved by adopting the vehicle sharing practice (Raconteur on Transport, 2009) for example the sharing of vehicle space between PC World and Curry's in the retail electronics industry (Sustainable Life Media, 2008). However, Raconteur on Transport (2009) further argued that supply chains could by greened by cutting transport emission rate through the development of better fuel efficient driving skills, the use of vehicles / trucks designed with lightweight panels and aerodynamism. For example the case of Marks & Spencer whose supply chain was greened by the introduction of a Don-Bur aerodynamically designed lightweight teardrop vehicle that reduced its transport emissions by 10% with a n added 10% load capacity (Freight Best Practice, 2009). However, Khiewnavawongsa & Scdmidt (2007) argued that the use of petroleum alternative vehicles like hybrid and electric cars facilitates greening of supply chain transport functions as such eco-friendly vehicles reduces transport costs while running on cheaper fuel efficient sustainable renewable energy source. But, LMI Government Consulting (2005) arguably noted that the hybrid vehicles are associated with high cost of purchase and maintenance which could deter organisations from greening their supply chain transport functions.
Nevertheless, Raconteur on Transport (2009) has argued that the value-add offered by reverse logistics functions such as fuel generation from food wastes by anaerobic ingestion in the retail food industry propels greening of supply chains in quest for competitive advantage. But, it has been argued that reverse logistics saves supply chains the costs of generated wastes and disposal with minimum environmental impact (Rao & Holt, 2005) while retaining better customer loyalty on the platform of a green image initiative that offers incentives to customers on return of post-consumer products (Stock, et al., 2009). A classical example is the case of Tesco's Supermarket in the retail food industry whose supply chain is determined to be green by using a take-back initiative known as by-one-get-one-free in order to reduce post consumer wastes (Simms, 2008). However, Baker (2009) argued that the use of reverse logistics strategies like buy-one-get-one-free in organisations like Tesco's Supermarket indirectly creates additional consumer wastes as most free products might end up being disposed off due to consumers' consumption failure before the product expiration while an open free product redemption offer could result in overstocking of inventory due to consumers' unpredictable redemption behavioural pattern which in turn creates the propensity of bullwhip occurrence in the supply chain. And that reverse logistics creates uneconomical performances as certain recovered products are valued less than their corresponding recovery costs (Wu & Cheng, 2006) due to delays in re-processing such products (Guide, et al., 2006) while the absence of readily available market for such products affects revenue which in turn deters the effort of greening supply chain networks (Stock, et al., 2009).
Whence, haven critically explored the depth of the argument on the possibility of achieving green supply chain networks from the perspective of academic and professional literatures, it could be summarised that the achievement of green supply chain networks is driven by a number of factors such as coercive environmental regulations, perceived market share gains, company organisational structure / culture, market competition which creates the need for improve image reputation, economic pressures that creates the need for energy efficiency and reduction of cost and wastes as well as competitive advantage. However, greening of supply chains could be unrealistic given the fact that it demands huge financial investment costs which sometime constitute short-term financial losses while current wave of greenwashing, information unawareness on the implementation / benefits of green supply chains, absence of market competition, global food security threat posed by green packaging materials in terms of land occupancy and the challenges of changing the traditional / dominant unhealthy environmental business culture of most organisations as well as non-existence of coercive environmental legislations in some countries deters the effort of achieving green supply chain networks.