Trust, Power, & Cognitive Proximity: identifying critical factors for how stakeholders can collaborate for a more sustainable coffee supply chain
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Collaboration between interdependent stakeholders engaged in the delivery of refined products to an end user is necessary to address sustainability challenges that threaten the resilience of the global coffee supply chain network. However, relationship dynamics between stakeholders engaged in collaborative endeavours for more sustainable outcomes are underexplored. This research investigated how stakeholders in the coffee sector can effectively collaborate to contribute to a more sustainable supply chain network. It was found that stakeholders could collaborate through aligning towards a common vision and creating stakeholder specific commitments based on contextual capabilities and priorities (contextual position), which is facilitated by cognitive proximity. Contrary to existing literature, cognitive proximity seemed to be a more influential factor for successful collaboration than propinquity. Trust and sharing were found to be the most recurrent antecedents to collaboration and meaningful relationship dynamics amongst netchain stakeholders in the coffee sector. Conversely, the dependency and abuse of power seemed to negatively influence stakeholder’s willingness to engage in collaboration for sustainability. Furthermore, it was determined that stakeholders can successfully develop strategies for network collaboration by embracing emergent strategy formations in an iterative manner to account for the large amount of varied perspectives with regard to improved sustainability over time. Exploratory research was conducted using the coffee sector as a case study and two subcase netchains. A conceptual framework was proposed and used for interpretative analysis of the netchain subcases. A total of thirteen stakeholder organizations were split between the netchains based on engagements in a collaborative endeavour. Fourteen semi-structured interviews were conducted and documents were collected from each stakeholder organization which were complied into the netchain subcase datasets. Thematic content analysis and the use of an iteratively developed coding tree were used to interpret the qualitative dataset. The findings propose an extension to Mitchell et al.’s (1997) stakeholder classification and salience using proximity: propinquity, cognitive and structural. Future research is required in order to validate the framework and generalize findings to the broader academic literature on sustainable supply chain collaboration dynamics. This can be achieved by using higher sample sizes of netchains from varied cases of agri-food sectors.