How do firms interpret extended responsibilities for a sustainable supply chain management of innovative technologies? An analysis of corporate sustainability reports in the energy sector

  • Eleonora Annunziata
  • Francesco Rizzi
  • Marco Frey
Keywords: end-of-life; extended responsibility; supply chain management; sustainability report

Abstract

Purpose of the paper: This paper aims to analyze how companies fulfill their responsibility in shaping sustainable supply chain strategies for innovative technologies. To this end, it describes a decade of evolution of Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) end-of-life management practices among leading energy utilities.

Methodology: Using GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database, a content analysis of 172 corporate sustainability reports of 16 European energy utilities was conducted.

Results: The content analysis provides a clear idea of the actual commitment to foster LIBs end-of-life management by highlighting that energy utilities are still far from taking lead responsibilities on this emerging -yet potentially critical- issue. Apart from minor initiatives, LIBs are crucial for building short-term business strategies that, however, overlook their relevance for the implementation of the extended producer responsibility principle.

Research limits: The main limitations are the use of publicly accessible web sites and corporate sustainability reports, which are concise and secondary data sources, and the lack of comparison of energy utilities with sustainability leaders from other industries.

Practical implications: The study helps managers to more fully comprehend environmental issues associated with emerging and soon to be widespread products and, thus, to better focus on the opportunities and problems of end-of-life management for innovative technologies.

Originality of the paper: The study is unique in its purpose to complement publicly accessible information from the Internet with sustainability reports to provide a systemic view on how crucial actors within the supply chain of innovative technologies implement specific environmental practices that might affect the future of these technologies.

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Published
2019-08-30