Wholesaling and sustainabilty: An exploratory case study of the UK’s leading food and drink wholesalers

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Jones, Peter ; Hillier, David ; Comfort, Daphne (2015)
  • Publisher: Access Press UK
  • Subject: HF5419_Wholesale | HF5387_Ethics

A strategic concern for sustainable development has become an increasingly important corporate imperative throughout the business world. That said large retailers are, in theory, in a particularly powerful position to promote sustainability through their partnerships with their suppliers and through their daily interactions with millions of consumers. The majority of large retailers have been developing sustainability strategies, in pursuing sustainability programmes and in reporting publicly on how they are managing their impacts on the environment, on society and on the economy and their activities have attracted increasing attention in the business and retail literature (e.g. Durieu 2003; Richardson 2008; Kotzab et.al.2011; Jones, et. al 2013). While wholesaling is in some ways a less obvious element in the distribution system there is growing awareness of the importance of sustainability within the wholesale distribution industry. In 2011, for example, Neetin Datar, Senior Director for Industry Marketing at SAP, argued that wholesale distributors ‘should make sustainability a priority’ for ‘three main reasons.’ Namely that ‘resources that were once taken for granted-water, land, minerals and fossil fuels- will be limited and costly’; that ‘a heightened awareness of sustainability issues amongst customers and trading partners is beginning to affect buying behaviour’ and ‘global regulations for social and environmental compliance will become more numerous and stringent’(SAP 2011). However the role of wholesalers in addressing and promoting sustainability has received scant attention in the academic literature. With this in mind this paper aims to provide an exploratory review of the sustainability commitments and achievements publicly reported by the UK’s leading food and drink wholesalers and to offer some critical reflections on how these wholesalers are currently addressing and pursuing sustainability
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