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Linking relation-specific investments and sustainability performance: The mediating role of supply chain learning

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Yan JiangORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Despite the growing interest in the role of relation-specific investments (RSIs) in superior firm performance, their impact on sustainability performance remains unexplored, as do the underlying mechanisms of such effects. Drawing on the relational view and resource orchestration theory (ROT), we propose that supply chain learning (SCL) mediates the link between RSIs and sustainability performance.A multi-method approach was adopted, combining a case study and survey. An exploratory case study of four Chinese manufacturing firms was first conducted to develop research hypotheses. A quantitative survey of data collected from 269 firms was then undertaken to test hypotheses.Property-based, knowledge-based, and personal-based RSIs positively impact firm sustainability performance and SCL. SCL fully mediates the relationship between knowledge- as well as personal-based RSIs and sustainability performance, and partially mediates the relationship between property-based RSIs and sustainability performance.The study unveils important practical insights and approaches for firms endeavouring to achieve sustainability performance through RSIs and SCL.The study extends the RSIs literature by linking RSIs and sustainability performance and differentiating the effects of different types of RSIs on sustainability performance. The theorized underlying mechanism advances the understanding of SCL in the link between RSIs and sustainability performance.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Yang Y, Jiang Y, Chen H, Xu Z

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Operations & Production Management

Year: 2023

Volume: 43

Issue: 8

Pages: 1329-1356

Online publication date: 28/03/2023

Acceptance date: 14/02/2023

Date deposited: 03/03/2023

ISSN (print): 0144-3577

ISSN (electronic): 1758-6593

Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited


DOI: 10.1108/IJOPM-07-2022-0463

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/wzja-zw74


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Funder referenceFunder name
Newcastle University Business School Research and Scholarship Fund