Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Stephan Vachon


This dissertation consists of three essays on sustainable operations management. The unifying theme in this work is the focus on sustainability-related risks originating from an organization’s internal operations or its supply chain, operational-level initiatives for managing such risks, and the determinants and subsequent outcomes of those initiatives.

The first essay focuses on safety and environmental risks and looks into the role of a safety-oriented culture in effectively managing them. Building on the safety culture literature and organizational support theory, a conceptual model is developed suggesting that a safety-oriented culture enhances an organization’s financial performance and sets the stage for successful implementation of environmental and safety practices, which in turn, result in improved environmental and safety performance. The hypothesized relationships are empirically examined and validated using the data collected through a survey of 251 Canadian plants.

The second essay is a conceptual paper focusing on supplier sustainability risks which materialize when buying organizations face their stakeholders’ negative reactions to their suppliers’ misconducts related to natural environment or society. The purpose of this paper is to explain the underlying factors of buying organizations’ operational-level responses to such risks. Drawing on agency/management control and resource dependence theories, a contingent conceptual framework is developed that explains how three major factors ─ i.e., supply managers’ perceived risk, dependence structure of buyer-supplier relationship, and the slack resources available to supply managers ─ interact to affect supply managers’ choice among four risk management strategies: monitoring-based or collaboration-based sustainable supplier development (risk mitigation), supplier phase-out (risk avoidance), and taking no actions (risk acceptance). This framework also suggests that these contingent risk management strategies improve buying organizations’ financial performance directly or indirectly through enhancing their organizational reputation.

Finally, the third essay presents a vignette-based experiment conducted with a sample of 200 U.S.-based supply managers to empirically test and validate a set of propositions put forth in the second essay. Specifically, this study investigates and confirms the effect of three factors, i.e., supply manager’s perceived risk, supplier dependence on the buying organization, and slack resources available to supply managers, and their interactions on supply managers’ choice among the four risk management strategies.