GAME OF GREEN THRONES Interorganizational Tensions and Disempowerment Dynamics in Global Value Chains
To be addressed effectively social and environmental grand challenges require the coordinated effort of multiple and diverse actors. To understand how it is possible to successfully tackle these challenges in interorganizational systems, we investigate how the leather global value chain navigates the tension - arising among actors - deriving from the need to reduce its ecological impact. We found that the management and the outcome of interorganizational sustainability tensions is affected by power dynamics and by opposite ways to frame the challenge, with the consequence that - despite the best intentions and efforts of all actors engaged in the value chain - overall systemic improvements remain elusive. In particular, we show how the disempowerment of few actors in the chain results in a loss of collective capability to navigate sustainability tensions, thus identifying three mechanisms that explain the failure in improving the environmental sustainability of the leather GVC: misalignment of frames, (forced) alignment of action, and misalignment of outcomes. We contribute to paradox theory by explaining the role of power dynamics in the management of interorganizational tensions, and to the sustainability literature and practice, by showing the unintended effects of collective action in a context of power imbalance.
Keywords: Paradox Theory, Interorganizational Tensions, Disempowerment, Global Value Chains