Supply Chain School

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Social Sustainability Action for Employees (SoSAFE) Project: Exploring the effectiveness of supply chain strategies in assuring good conditions for supply chain workers


Research Leader: Maeve O'Loughlin
Location: Middlesex University
Project Timings: Stage 1, October 2016 - December 2017


Sustainability practice is moving on to provide greater focus on social needs. Company practices must give greater focus to supporting vulnerable people and communities through decent jobs, regular incomes, apprenticeship qualifications, contracts for small contractors – this is what creates value, changes lives and has the potential to change the communities in which we live.

This research project explores whether current health and safety practice in contract supply chains may actually be limiting value creation for workers through constraining opportunities and capabilities in contracting organisations. It also examines if existing practices are failing to improve the management of severe risks due to an inadequate focus on what is important.

This research examines new safety theory and will assess whether the practices we follow to improve safety may actually be inadequate. New safety theory provides an alternative vision of what is currently practiced which requires looking out and up to the organisational or project context to associated relationships between the immediate workplace, people and overarching organisational influences in assessing risk and evaluating accidents. It advocates the creation of safety through focusing on a just culture, positive indicators and resolving the mismatch between work as prescribed or planned, and work as it must actually be undertaken.

The new view of safety highlights possibilities for assuring greater social value from human capital potential under the scope of social sustainability with its alignment to inherent sustainability values of equity, justice and fair treatment. 

As part of Supply Chain School funded research, this project explores whether this new view of safety is capable of translation to the contract supply chain context. The initial theory review phase is underway and the Supply Chain School members will be asked to provide valuable input to evaluate the existing assumptions and experiences that companies have in relation to supply chain health and safety practice. These outcomes will support further doctorate level research to determine whether we can challenge some of the issues in how we support worker safety in light of the new view of safety.


The findings of this study could have far reaching consequences for how we promote greater social value within the supply chain and improve safety and welfare practices. Would you like to be involved or have your voice heard? If so please contact: cathy@supplychainschool.co.uk