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Thesis Defense
A critical perspective on collective arrangements tackling wicked problems in global supply networks:
The case of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

Liliane Cabrini Carmagnac - PhD candidate in the PhD programme ESCP

Liliane Cabrini Carmagnac, PhD candidate in the PhD programme ESCP, publicly defended her PhD thesis in Management Sciences.

6 November 2020
ESCP Business School Campus République


Deforestation, climate change and poverty have become some of the hottest topics of this century. Both scholars and practitioners recognize them as major societal grand challenges, with a growing number of academics referring to them as “wicked problems”.

Due to their complex, uncertain and controversial nature, wicked problems cannot be effectively handled by individual actors. Their magnitude calls for a collective governance approach, including a wide range of heterogeneous actors with a diverse set of expertise and background, each of them bringing a different perspective to the problem. The purpose of this research is to better understand the role of collective arrangements tackling wicked problems in the context of global supply networks.

This study is mainly framed within the field of sustainable supply chain management (SSCM). Although collective initiatives are the focus of a growing number of studies in the SSCM literature, scholars from the discipline still refer to these players as “nontraditional” supply chain actors. The political CSR (PCSR) theoretical stream complements the SSCM literature and provides a new perspective to shed the light on the effectiveness and legitimacy of collective arrangements in dealing with wicked problems in global supply networks.

This research adopts an inductive qualitative approach and explores collective arrangements through the case of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The findings are articulated around four papers, exploring the following issues: (1) the role of nontraditional actors in the governance of SSCM; (2) the mechanisms employed by a leading collective initiative to promote sustainability along the palm oil supply network; (3) the “dark sides” of these new forms of governance of wicked problems and; (4) the construction of a collective identity and a legitimate authority in tackling wicked problems. In contrast to the current normative approach of PCSR, mobilizing the discourse analysis methodology in the PCSR field to shed light on the political multivocal discursive construction of collective identities, contributes to the exposure of subtle and less-apparent power dynamics, underpinning the legitimacy construction of collective initiatives. By adopting a critical approach, the main contribution of this research to the SSCM literature is the shift from the traditional SCM assumptions of linearity (dominated by the focal-firm-centric perspective) to a more integrative logic at the supraorganizational level. In doing so, it is possible to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the role of collective arrangements in the context of supply networks and reveal their underlying political and power struggles in framing the different facets of wicked problems..



  • Ms Valentina Carbone,
    Professor, ESCP Business School
  • Ms Valérie Moatti,
    Professor, ESCP Business School


  • Mr Stefan Gold,
    Professor, Kassel University
  • Mr Gilles Pache,
    Professor, Aix-Marseille Université


  • Ms Corinne Vercher-Chaptal,
    Professor, Université Sorbonne Paris Nord
  • Mr Aurélien Rouquet, ,
    Professor, NEOMA Business School
  • Mr Frank Aggeri,
    Professor, MINES ParisTech