Drivers and barriers for adoption of a leading social management standard (SA8000) in developing economies

Mieneke Koster, Bart Vos, Wendy van der Valk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this study is to identify drivers and barriers for adopting SA8000, a leading global social management standard.

Design/ methodology/ approach –The approach involves combining insights from Institutional Theory with a focus on economic performance to study SA8000 adoption by suppliers operating in a developing economy (i.e. India). Data collection involves interviews with adopters and non-adopters, social standard experts and auditors, and archival data on local working conditions.

Findings – This study confirms that customer requests are the major reason for adopting SA8000 in order to avoid loss of business. It is noteworthy however that those customer requests to adopt SA8000 are often symbolic in nature, which, in combination with the lack of a positive business case, hinders effective implementation.

Practical implications – The findings imply that symbolic customer requests for SA8000 adoption induce symbolic implementation by suppliers, a “supply chain effect” in the symbolic approach. Substantive requests in contrast lead to more substantive implementation and require customer investment in the form of active support and an interest in the standard’s implementation, context, and effects.

Originality/ value – This study is original in that it addresses social sustainability from a supplier’s perspective, using the lens of Institutional Theory. The value lies in demonstrating the “supply chain effects” that arise from the “quality” of customer requests: a purely symbolic approach by customers leading to symbolic implementation versus the merits of substantive customer requests which stimulate substantive implementation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-551
JournalInternational Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management
Issue number5
Early online date11 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Supply chain management
  • social certification
  • SA8000
  • workplace conditions
  • management standard
  • adoption
  • developing economies


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