The role of collaborative relationships for product stewardship
This thesis focuses on the link between product stewardship, specifically end of life
product recovery, and collaboration in business relationships. The European Union
legislature has originated new regulations that affect product manufacturers and requires
that companies establish end of life product recovery processes. New responsibilities for
product manufacturers in tum lead to new business relationships that have to be
managed. Previous research suggests that collaborative relationships are important for
the success of end of life product recovery, and yet fail to describe how. Hence this
research asks how collaborative relationships for end of life product recovery can lead
to capabilities and, in tum, benefits for firms and society.
Based on empirical case analysis of six, recently established, collaborative relationships
across three industries, the research explains the role of collaborative relationships in
accessing and developing capabilities for end of life product recovery. The identified
capabilities are linked to organisational and ecological benefits. The analysis utilises a
conceptual framework and a number of theoretical lenses through which to explain the
process of collaboration.
The research contributes to theory by using a conceptual framework that is developed
into a conceptual model to predict the outcome of collaborative relationships for end of
life product recovery. The contributions specifically target two identified research gaps
relating to l) the role of collaborative relationships in accessing and developing
capabilities for end of life product recovery and 2) how the resulting capabilities lead to
specific benefits. The work concludes that collaboration leads to both access and
development of capabilities, with access more prominent in the relationships examined.
While capabilities can lead to organisational benefits, such as reduced inventory, and
ecological benefits, such as reduced landfill, this is not always the case. Furthermore,
previous theoretical conceptions of product stewardship capabilities may be at odds
with the competitiveness imperative.