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Paradoxical tensions in sustainable supply chain management Insights from the electronics multi-tier supply chain context

Managing supply chains (SCs) for sustainability often results in conflicting demands, which can be conceptualized as sustainability tensions. This paper studies sustainability tensions in electronics SC contexts and the related management responses by applying a paradox perspective.
A single case study on the electronics SC was conducted with companies and third-party organizations as embedded units of analysis, using semi-structured interviews that were triangulated with publicly available data. The study identifies tension elements (learning, belonging, organizing and economic performing) conflicting with general social–ecological objectives in the electronics SC. 

The results indicate a hierarchal structure among the sustainability tensions in SC contexts. The management responses of contextualization and resolution are assigned to the identified tensions. Framing social-ecological objectives with their conflicting elements as paradoxical tensions enables organizations and SCs to develop better strategies for responding to complex sustainability issues in SC contexts. The study contributes toward filling the gap on paradoxical sustainability tensions in SCs. Empirical insights are gained from different actors in the electronics SC. The level of emergence and interconnectedness of sustainability tensions in a larger SC context is explored through an outside-in perspective.

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