Individual Competences for Sustainable Purchasing and Supply Management (SPSM): A Literature and Practice Perspective

Heike Schulze, Lydia Bals, Thomas E. Johnsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

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Purpose: Implementing sustainability into global supply networks remains a challenge for companies. Purchasing and supply management (PSM) interacts closely with supply network actors, thus influencing how the firm’s value creation is delivered. While previous sustainable PSM (SPSM) research has shed light on how to manage sustainability on an organizational level, the individual competences PSM professionals require are less understood. The paper aims to discuss this issue.
Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted a systematic literature review to determine the current research coverage of specific competences and knowledge required to implement sustainability. The authors complemented this with data from 46 interviews with practitioners. From coding the data with NVivo, a first comprehensive competence overview for SPSM was developed.
Findings: The literature review results, complemented with interview data, highlight that functional-oriented, cognition-oriented, social-oriented and meta-oriented competences form part of a comprehensive SPSM competence model. We propose a framework that includes these, and integrates two behavioral moderators on the organizational level, i.e. situational enabling, as well as empowerment and obligation.
Research limitations/implications: While the proposed framework provides a basic first systematization of SPSM competences, further research is needed to extend it. There is ample opportunity to shed further light on both individual and organizational-level factors that influence the application of SPSM competences, and therefore SPSM behavior.
Practical implications: The results have implications for higher education and professional training programs in companies. The framework provides an overview of competences needed for SPSM. The discussion highlights the need to apply education and training methods for different types of competences that are suitable for conveying implicit knowledge apart from explicit knowledge.
Originality/value: Adressing a current research gap in sustainability-related competences in PSM, the overall framework highlights SPSM competences of interest to both scholars and managers alike.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)287-304
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Competences
  • Sustainability
  • Systematic literature review
  • Interviews
  • Skills
  • Purchasing and supply management

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