Doctoral Dissertation Research: Supply Chain Governance in Supermarkets' Localized Sourcing Strategies

  • Hinrichs, Cynthia Clare (PI)
  • Bloom, Jessica J.D. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details



Cynthia Hinrichs

Jessica Bloom

The Pennsylvania State University

This research applies theories of governance to the Wal-Mart corporation?s efforts to increase localized produce sourcing as part of its current sustainability initiative. As the largest retailer in the world, Wal-Mart's corporate policies have far-reaching consequences, both in terms of its internal supply chains and external influence within the retail sector. Theories of governance outline the specific mechanisms that are used to manage supply chains, as well as the increased role that private corporations play in regulating the agri-food system. This theoretical lens highlights the effects of how resources, risks and benefits are distributed both within actual supply chains and at a wider societal level. This research poses three inter-related questions: 1) What explicit and implicit rules and practices are framed as ?sustainable? in Wal-Mart's localized agri-food supply chains?, 2) How are these rules and practices implemented as a form of supply chain governance, including the networks that emerge to help coordinate any new supply chain relationships?, and 3) How do these shifts in the framing and implementation of localized produce sourcing affect farmers? ability to participate as suppliers and consumers' ability to access affordable produce?

This research will use qualitative research methods to develop comparative regional case studies of Wal-Mart's local produce sourcing effort in the Southeast United States and Central Honduras. The approach includes analysis of how sustainability is framed and defined in Wal-Mart's publicly available documents; interviews with participating producers and the networks of organizations that form to facilitate the localized sourcing initiative; and spatial analyses to assess implications for consumer access to local produce in the study regions.

Broader Impact. This research advances sociological knowledge about the drivers, processes and impacts of change and restructuring in the agri-food system by focusing on how corporate discourse interacts with on-the-ground processes to determine the governance of localized supply chains. By opening up increased market opportunities for a diverse range of producers, providing environmental benefits because of transportation efficiencies and improving access for low-income consumers, supermarkets may be ideally positioned to facilitate a transition to a more sustainable local food system. The analysis that results from this research will illuminate the actual benefits and drawbacks of new local produce sourcing by large private corporations, thereby informing education, interventions, and policy more broadly directed at enhancing the sustainability of the agri-food system

Effective start/end date6/1/115/31/12


  • National Science Foundation: $10,000.00


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