an integrative view from an agency theory perspective (2023)

1. Introduction

As the scientific literature has evolved, agency theory has become one of the most influential theories in the social sciences and has been applied to various types of relationships (Aßländer, Roloff, & Nayı, 2016). The theory has proven to be suitable for illustrating supply chain relationships and showing the implications for companies, but it is also capable of advising companies on how to implement and design supply chain relationships (Wiese & Toporowski, 2013). Theorists and practitioners therefore assume that suppliers always tend to circumvent buyers' requirements for environmental and social standards, especially if they impose additional costs on the supplier (Aßländer et al., 2016).

Agency theory is a useful tool for managers to diagnose and segregate their relationship portfolios and understand and mitigate behavioral insecurities (Fayezi, O'Loughlin & Zutshi, 2012). Both the principal(s) and the agent(s) tend to maximize their individual utility. The evolution of this principal-agent relationship was inferred by economists through the agent's bounded rationality, personal interest, and risk aversion (Fitri, Elmanizar, Nugraha, Yakub, & Cahyono, 2019). Relationships between one firm delegating authority to another are common in the supply chain, for example, For example, the principal-agent relationship exists in vendor-managed inventories or long-term purchase contracts with automatic inventory replenishment (Kros & Nadler , 2010). Control is a fundamental principle of transport management in logistics (Miller, Saldanha, Hunt, & Mello, 2013), alongside the need for information, control and incentive mechanisms related to moral hazard issues in the contractual relationships of service providers and service providers. Appropriate control mechanisms can prevent hidden actions and information (Kudla & Klaas-Wissing, 2012).

Higher demand for sustainable behavior is also associated with adverse selection agency issues and moral hazard in dyadic relationships. The adverse selection problem identified in relation to people with low reaction performance indicates the need for evaluation criteria and selection of adequate partners (Kudla & Klaas-Wissing, 2012). On the other hand, outsourcing introduces information asymmetries in the development of initial contracts, which can lead to lower performance than originally expected. In this case, the application of agency theory can improve long-term performance through the effective design of well-constructed contractual relationships (Sayed, Hendry, & Zorzini Bell, 2020). Relative to traditional forms of financial performance (eg, sales, profit), these goals tend to create horizontal agency issues, eg, B. in distributed networks in a franchise. In networks that use captive stores, vertical store issues can become the main non-compliance factor (Massimino & Lawrence, 2019).

The theoretical lenses offered by agency theory can support managerial decision-making and strategy formulation, particularly in relation to supplier and customer relationships (Fayezi et al., 2012). Offering improvement initiatives results in more collaborative buyer-supplier relationships, thereby lowering barriers to behavior-based approaches to managing supplier sustainability practices, as dictated by agency theory (Shafiq, Johnson, Klassen, & Awaysheh, 2017). Monitoring can help buyers deal with agent opportunism as an integral part of relationship management (Heide, Wathne, & Rokkan, 2007). However, in a production-to-order environment, neither severe external penalties nor frequent audits are capable of fully aligning the quality interests of the parties (Handley & Gray, 2013).

With the aim of stimulating new reflections, discussions and research, this review intends to answer the following research question: What are the absences and beginnings of international scientific production in supply chain management from the perspective of agency theory?

Among the types of systematic literature research, this fits as an integrative review, ie. H. as a literature review method with the aim of performing various analyzes to reveal the knowledge already acquired in previous research (Botelho et al., 2011). So, for example, the number of published articles, the number of citations, main authors and journals are analyzed. Depending on the type of review used, motivation and contribution go together, that is, the integration of different opinions, concepts, results and ideas of the selected articles. This study also enables the evaluation of studies using different methodologies, either quantitatively or qualitatively. The item databases were exported directly from the databases whenever possible and inserted into the treatment software to avoid possible errors due to incomplete information in the collection. Finally, the biggest challenge lies in presenting the discussion of the results and encouraging future research work, in which the analysis and synthesis of the most diverse sources, themes and methods have to be compiled in a complex work.

Only two other papers attempted to review the supply chain management literature that uses agency theory. While Fayezi et al. (2012) limited their search to relationships within the supply chain by analyzing 19 articles, Liu, Feng, Zhu and Sarkis (2018) focused on identifying the theories used in studies of green chain management and circular economy. As a result, 12 theories emerged from the exploratory study. Therefore, this research can be considered broader and unprecedented, as it conducts research without thematic limitations and without focusing only on theories or methods. Sheds light on the international scientific production on supply chain management from the perspective of agency theory. The objective is to present the publications and their particularities and, above all, point out potential future research. 43 articles were identified that contribute mainly to the understanding of the subject. Agency theory can help managers consider social, economic, political and behavioral issues when making decisions about their contracts through incentive mechanisms, information sharing and goal congruence (Fayezi et al., 2012). A still latent challenge for supply chain managers interested in managing sustainability risks is where and when to invest in behavioral approaches to suppliers (Shafiq et al., 2017).

The next section brings a review of the literature on the proposed topic. The following sections describe the methodological aspects, results and conclusions, as well as the research agenda proposed by the study.

2. Supply chain management and agency theory

Agency theory largely relies on two major areas of study, namely positive agency theory and principal agent theory. The first as a descriptive theory for understanding behaviors in the real world. The second, derived by economists through bounded rationality, individual interest and the agent's risk aversion. (Fitri, Elmanizar, Yakub & Cahyono, 2019). The final definition of an actor changes and may involve differences in institutional ownership within a supply chain. The agent is dynamic and is likely to be the manager, and at the same time there is a possibility that the traditional definition of the agent will be challenged (Byrne & Power, 2014).

The study of supply chain management phenomena can be enriched by providing theories from other related fields (Gligor, Bozkurt, Russo & Omar, 2019). Examining sustainable strategy implementation from the perspective of an internal relationship with the agency seems like a good place to start. Amazon has faced massive negative publicity for its supplier Foxconn's unethical and illegal work patterns. Adidas and Nike were exposed because a Chinese textile supplier was accused of dumping toxins in a river. Many organizations have requirements that are beyond their direct control (Juttner, Windler, Podleisek, Gander & Meldau, 2020). Purchasing teams and suppliers in companies should consider building a socially sustainable supply chain (Cole & Aitken, 2019). On the other hand, monitoring the supplier's sustainability practices also has a positive impact on the performance of the target company (Shafiq et al., 2017).

Due to the complexity of some supply chains, downstream companies can only monitor the relationship with their direct suppliers, but not with their suppliers (Wiese & Toporowski, 2013). From a retailer's perspective, they have every right to be suspicious when entering into category management relationships with key suppliers. Monitoring and the ability to punish opportunistic behavior are not necessarily effective safeguards. The opportunistic behavior of a key supplier provokes reactions from other suppliers and, additionally, has a direct negative impact on the retailer's performance. This dynamic also occurs in other industries, such as electronics and automotive (Morgan, Kaleka & Gooner, 2007). The threat of opportunism can lead companies to retain certain privileged information when sharing chain risk information with partners (Ciliberti, De Haan, De Groot & Pontrandolfo, 2011).

In the same scenario, the content of the contracting mechanism and its implementation (such as benefits, issues and success factors) were described and discussed using an incentive framework and agency theory. Assumptions include information asymmetry, diverging goals, and opportunism that should not be overlooked. To solve agent and risk-sharing problems in principal-agent relationships, agency theory prescribes two formal (and ideal) types of management mechanisms to govern these relationships (Rungtusanatham, Rabinovich, Ashenbaum, & Wallin, 2007). One of them is the results-based management mechanism. In doing so, top-performing agents reward agents based on measured performance outcomes (Ekanayake, 2004), regardless of how agents achieve them (Choi & Liker, 1995). The other management mechanism is behavior-based. Principals use behavioral controls to monitor the behavior and activities of agents unknown to them (Zu & Kaynak, 2012).

Two service providers (acting as intermediaries for the customer from a contractual perspective) are also most important to the customer and their business partners when it comes to service delivery, as the customer requires certain inputs to ensure service delivery (Selviaridis & Norman, 2014). The so-called “dual agency” role includes the responsibility of the first-tier supplier to act as an agent for the lead company in implementing sustainability in its own operations (e.g. for the operations of its suppliers (e.g. sub-function). , incentives are effective at both levels of government, but the importance of information transparency is greater at the secondary level of government (Wilhelm, Blome, Bhakoo, & Paulraj, 2016).

3. Method

Bibliographic research has received different names in the literature. This is an integrative review that is part of a systematic review of the literature (Whittemore & Knafl, 2005). Botelho et al. (2011) who mention that the method enables the production of state-of-the-art summaries, in addition to understanding the growing volume and complexity of information on a given topic. This study reviews the international literature on the use of agency theory in supply chain management articles. The two search terms were: "Supply Chain" and "Agency Theory". The terms were incorporated into the study, resulting from the reading of numerous articles, but only those that explicitly mentioned the two words were used.

The search was based on articles from the Scopus and Web of Science databases and examined all years available in the databases. In summary, Table 1 presents the general characteristics of the research, allowing other researchers to replicate the study. When entering the search terms, a total of 205 articles were found. Using Microsoft Excel software, the datasets were organized and selected by the following filters: the two search terms in the abstract, title or keywords; Journal articles and review and journal-only articles on (1) Business, Economics and Accounting, (2) Economics and Finance, (3) Operations and (4) Decision Science for a total of 124 articles. In a final analysis, with reading the title, abstract and keywords to validate the pertinence to the study topic, supply chain management and removal of duplicate articles between the databases, 56 relevant articles were selected and used for the analysis. The list of articles and their authors can be found in the appendix. A co-citation analysis was also performed using VOSviewer software version 1.6.16. The data comes from the two research bases (Scopus and WOS), without any manipulation. To this end, an analysis of the co-citation network of authors was carried out with the articles found in the databases, using as a criterion authors with at least 25 citations. The relationship graph of the terms that appear in the title and abstract of the selected articles was also developed. Terms that occurred at least 10 times were reported for this analysis.

The next chapter deals with the analysis and presentation of the results of the methods used. The following analyzes are associated with it: (1) evolution of research over the years, (2) journals that published research on the subject, (3) authors who published the most, (4) co-citation network of the respective authors, (5 ) analysis of the affiliation of the authors, (6) analysis of the keywords used by the authors in their articles, (7) the theories used by the authors, (8) the chosen themes, (9) relationship diagram of the terms of the Title and summary of the articles, (10) analysis of the method used by the authors and statistical analysis, for quantitative articles, (11) the geographic location of the empirical scope of the articles and, finally, (12) description of the five most cited articles, in relation to the question research, Findings and research gaps

4. Analysis and Results

This research began by describing the characteristics of the 57-item dataset. It was only from 2019 onwards that there was an upward trend in supply chain management publications from the perspective of agency theory, which lost strength in 2020, which may indicate that this is an atypical year. However, more than 50% of the articles were published in the last five years, between 2016 and 2021 (June). Figure 1 shows the historical evolution of the records of published articles. It is noticed that despite all the reluctance, there is a trend towards the development of research publication when looking at the period from 1996 (first publication) to 2019. However, in the last two years there has been a decline in research on the subject.

Table 2 shows the articles categorized by the respective publication journals where two or more articles were published. There are a total of 12 journals classified according to the criteria described. The International Journal of Supply Chain Management has the most articles with five publications, the same number as Supply Chain Management magazine. What is unique about this section is that the 11 journals combined selected only 25% of all articles for research analysis. That is, there is no unanimity of the academic journal for submission and consequent approval of the article selected by the authors of articles on supply chain management using the agency theory.

In the analysis of authors who publish on the subject, Jason W. Miller is the author who most published on supply chain management using agency theory, with four publications among those who published two or more articles ( Table 3 ). Three as first author and one as third author. Miller is an associate professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management at the Broad College of Business at Michigan State University. With four publications, Miller has 20 citations in his most cited article (Miller, 2017). The second most published author is Andreas Norrman from Lund University with three articles, two articles as first author and the third as second author. Two articles published in equal numbers follow: Asep Anwar, from Widyatama University, both publications as third author; Mohd SBA Razimi, Northern University of Malaysia, both publications as fourth author, and Lisa M. Ellram of Miami University, one publication as first author and the other as second author. It should be noted that, even adding the publications of authors with more than two published articles (nine articles), this corresponds to only about 20% of the total number of publications on the subject. There are indications of research dispersion among the authors and, observing the years of publication (Table 3), a moment of search for the consolidation of the themes.

Figure 2 shows the co-citation network of the authors of the articles under analysis. Three clusters were obtained, for the parameter at least 25 citations of each author. A total of nine authors are listed. Lisa M. Ellram (of Miami University) has 62 citations and leads. While with 61 citations is Kathleen M. Eisenhardt (from Stanford University). In third place, with the same number of citations, are Thomas Y. Choi (Arizona State University) and George A. Zsidisin (University of Missouri) with 33 citations.

Cluster one is marked in red. Kathleen M. Eisenhardt is at the center of this cluster, which is cited by eight other researchers. Despite Eisenhardt's unanimity, the other members of the cluster (Jan B. Heide (26), from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Thomas M. Corsi (26), from the University of Maryland College Park, and John T. Mentzer (25) from the University of Tennessee) relate primarily to research on transportation and logistics, business relationships, and supply chain risk.

Cluster two is represented in green. This was written by researcher Lisa M. Ellram, who has more citations. The congruent factor in this group, which also includes Thomas Y. Choi and George A. Zsidisin, are supply chain management strategies and study methods used by researchers in the field. The case study method also predominates in the publications of the two researchers.

Cluster three, shown in blue, consists of two researchers. Robert D Klassen (30) of Western University and Joseph Sarkis (31) of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The congruence between the authors resides in the theme of sustainability and in the study of green supply chain management.

When analyzing the geographical sample of the authors of the articles (Figure 3), a strong predominance of researchers affiliated with institutions in the United States of America (USA) can be observed, with 42 researchers. In second place, with a 45% smaller presence, researchers from the UK (23) and third researchers from Malaysia (16).

Table 4 shows the most cited keywords with two or more occurrences in the original form presented in the articles, that is, H. those chosen by the authors. A total of 158 keywords were collected. The most common keyword is “agency theory”, in more than half of the articles (51.16%). In second place with the most appearances is “Supply Chain Management”, which appeared 20 times (46.51%). While there is a filter for keywords that appear at least twice, there has been a dramatic drop from the third most popular keyword onwards, with the keyword Indonesia now ranking third in just five articles (11.63%) . From this it can be concluded that there is a great dispersion of alternative themes in the construction of research on agency theory in supply chain management.

The results also help to reveal a theoretical and multidisciplinary diversity of studies, with the number of appearances of theories underlying agency theory as shown in Table 5. Looking at theories with two or more phenomena, transaction cost theory with seven phenomena is the theory that is closest to agency theory with more than 16% of all studies. The second, the resource-based view, with four views. The third is network theory. Finally, with two appearances, another six theories were registered. The crux of the matter is that, together, these underlying theories appeared in about 37% of the selected articles. In other words, there is no dominance of theories underlying agency theory in supply chain management research.

Given the low occurrence of a secondary theoretical construct, it was also decided to classify the articles thematically (Table 6), presenting those with two or more occurrences. This makes it even clearer which of the topics the authors use most frequently when deciding to apply agency theory in supply chain management, given the dispersion presented above. The most common theme is performance, but only in eight articles (14.29%). The second topic “Risk in the Supply Chain” and “Sustainability” has the same number of items (five, 8.93%) among the 56 in the sample. In third place, with four participations each (7.14%), are the themes: dyadic relationship, corporate relationship and supplier management. Analytically, supply chain management research that uses agency theory as its baseline theory is predominantly related to performance (which can be financial, sustainable, safety, operational, logistical or chain). 🇧🇷

To substantiate the results, an analysis was performed using the term identification function, both in the title and in the abstract of the articles, with the VOSviewer software. Databases from Scopus and WOS were exported and had no intervention. After inserting it into the software, the term relationship diagram was created as a result (Figure 4). Terms that occur at least 10 times are reported, with the most common terms being study (90), relationship (71), and e-supply chain (66). Thus, three different clusters can be obtained in the diagram. The first cluster (red) deals with supply chain management issues, which are about the managers, the data they collect, and some theory to explain. In the second cluster (green) is the thematic connection in the supply chain, which includes buyer, supplier and result. Finally, the third cluster (blue), which deals with the supply chain with the company's risk and sustainability aspects.

As for the methods used by the authors of the sample articles (Table 7), they were divided into quantitative (using secondary data) and qualitative (and their approaches). The most used is quantitative and appears in 25 articles, that is, less than half of the 56 (44.64%). In addition, one sample item used a multimethod. With the qualitative method only 4 (7.14% of the total sample). However, when qualitative approaches were observed, the case study method was used in 18 articles (60%). The theoretical essay with six publications still appears with two percentage points (20%) within the qualitative approaches. The results of the methods used support the themes of the articles, since studies related to performance are generally carried out using the quantitative method. Thus, the thematic performance, being the most found, was possibly the main reason why the quantitative method was more registered in the analysis of the sample articles.

Given the domain of quantitative research, the data analysis techniques used by the authors were detailed. The most used technique is structural equation modeling, used in 13 of the 25 quantitative articles. Second, the regression on six articles. And third, the regression with panel data with two articles. Likewise, using the justification of the most common theme (performance) demonstrated in the example articles and the most common method (quantitative), it is noted that the authors analyze statistically, predominantly through structural equation modeling and data regression in panel and regression to explain Performance in supply chain management papers using agency theory. The results are consistent with performance studies as they attempt to causally explain the variables that explain variations in firm performance. Therefore, the techniques found are those commonly used for this purpose (see Table 8).

One of the highlights of this study is the analysis performed to identify the geographic identity of each of the sample items, as shown in Figure 5. There is a great predominance of research with data from the United States (13), followed by data from Indonesia (6 ) and after the European continent (5). It is important to emphasize that there were no studies with Brazilian data.

Finally, Table 9 identifies the five most cited articles, which can also be referred to as the five most influential articles. The research question, results and research gaps are presented in each case. When looking at the research questions, the most cited article and the third article can be grouped under the theme of supply chain risk. The second most cited in sustainability and the fourth and fifth most cited in relation to the supply chain. Looking at the gaps in the research, it is clear that the most cited article uses a cross-sectional analysis without being able to carry out a longitudinal analysis that could actually verify the impact of supply risk on performance. The same gap is observed in the third most cited, which uses longitudinal surveys to test causal relationships. A similar observation is also observed for the second most cited, which indicates the need for research at more than one level of the production chain. Of the latter, the fourth most cited article shows that the impact of relationships with a supplier needs to be further investigated and how much this relationship influences relationships with other suppliers. The fifth most cited article is more provocative and aims to encourage exploration of the assumptions of relationships in the supply chain.

5. Discussion of results

Based on the results obtained, it is important to collect what is being repeated and what is still in its initial stages. Therefore, it is clear from the sample of articles that some studies tend to focus more on discussing the antecedents and consequences of agency problems, while others tend to identify practices for dealing with agency problems. In this perspective, this article contributes by synthesizing and unifying contributions and limitations (potential future research) to create and clarify a platform for further research. As evidenced by the development of research on the topic, the field has been diminishing recently and, therefore, it is important that tools additional to those used by researchers motivated by their personal beliefs can be presented and used to conduct studies on facilitated and disseminated agency theory in the supply chain, especially in relation to management.

Two main challenges decision makers face when managing intermediaries: (1) objective mismatch, where the agent and principal may have wildly different priorities, and (2) incomplete or asymmetric information, where the principal has limited information about the activities of the agent (Figure 6) (Eisenhardt, 1989).

The first question for both challenges: are the agents capable of doing what they promise? Here arises the problem of alignment (Wallace, Johnson, & Umesh, 2009) or information asymmetry as a source of perceptual distance between collaborating parties (van der Krift, van Weele, & Gevers, 2021). In this case, to increase the efficiency of behavioral practices, i. H. To increase sharing of risks and rewards, companies need to have a low level of information asymmetry in the supply chain (Tse, Zhang, & Jia, 2018). As companies become more transparent and accountable, information asymmetries are reduced (Gong, Gao, Koh, Sutcliffe, & Cullen, 2019). However, when each function contains its own information and objectives, it is easy to hide information from other functions, especially when operating in a high uncertainty environment (Ellram, Tate, & Choi, 2020). In other words, a coordinated supply chain needs the exchange of relevant information and, therefore, long-term relationships and trust with partners (Wandfluh, Hofmann, & Schoensleben, 2016).

On the other hand, in an ex-post scenario, the second challenge: did the agents fulfill what they promised? Here the moral problem arises (Wallace et al., 2009). Agency uncertainties (e.g., sourcing risks) can be mitigated by applying the behavior-based method, promoting supplier information, integrity (trust), and quality assurance to reduce the likelihood of partner opportunism (Azmi, Musa, Chew , & Jagiripu, 2021) .

From the following paragraph, the themes found are listed and the most important aspects for the study theme are highlighted, based on the analyzed articles.

Dyads: agency theory can shed light on dyadic relationships between firms (Cragg & McNamara, 2018). While agency theory attempts to address a variety of different professional, social, political, and economic circumstances, in all principal-agent relationships there is unhesitating agreement that problems will arise (Shapiro, 2005).

A volume commitment can be a way to signal confidence in one's forecast as well as in a long-term relationship; This can increase trust and improve the relationship, which can make the supplier offer guarantee of supply in allocation situations, as well as lower unit prices (Norrman, 2008). Many supply chains are not linear in terms of contracts: there can be many formalized relationships between and between levels, making them very complex. A business cycle perspective could be included in the treaty (Norrman, 2008). While previous research on tracking opportunities has focused on two-way relationships between a buyer and a single supplier, many retailers sell products from multiple suppliers. Thus, much remains to be discovered about how monitoring functions work in the context of a supplier network (Morgan et al., 2007). However, monitoring is associated with negative effects on provider behavior and there is a cost implication (Uenk & Telgen, 2019), which agrees with the result of transaction costs theory as the main theory of agency theory.

When it comes to small and medium-sized companies, the asymmetric nature of their relationships (import companies) with international suppliers creates agency problems – putting them at a disadvantage (Cragg & McNamara, 2018). Much of the data from small and medium-sized companies resulted in limited informational content, reflecting only the performance of a small specific group. In contrast to small and medium-sized companies, companies that have more resources can more easily make their supplier companies participate in the initial manufacturing process and lead the task planning (Tse et al., 2018). As a solution, the use of partnerships and consortia together with better design contracts and greater information sharing can mitigate the asymmetry of power in the relationship (Cragg & McNamara, 2018).

Triads: In service triads, agency problems can arise due to goal mismatches between principals and agents stemming from assumptions about human nature (self-interest, bounded rationality, risk aversion) (Uenk & Telgen, 2019). Studies generally conclude that buyers need to monitor performance and implement the nature of contracts (Tate, Ellram, Bals, Hartmann, and van der Valk, 2010; Van der Valk and Van Iwaarden, 2011). Occasional service triads employ a maintenance partner (third party) who is in frequent contact with the end customer and therefore significantly influences the service performance of the main provider (Heaslip & Kovács, 2019).

In multiple contexts, studies confirm the need to monitor provider performance in service triads (Tate et al., 2010; Zhang, Lawrence, & Anderson, 2015). Monitoring can be directed at any supplier outcome or behavior (Uenk & Telgen, 2019).

Sustainability: The application of agency theory led to an in-depth analysis of sustainability approaches beyond dyads (Aßländer et al., 2016; Kudla & Klaas-Wissing, 2012). If the motivation for sustainability initiatives is to achieve personal goals, a more transparent environment should reduce sustainability and sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) as the company will not be willing to disclose these activities. However, if the motivation is to gain a competitive advantage, a more transparent path will encourage sustainability (Gong et al., 2019).

Agency theory helps to identify dual roles, i.e. H. an agent who reports to the customer and works with other agents to meet requirements (Forslund, Björklund & Ülgen, 2021) and to understand and investigate how companies in a ecoindustrial park work to establish relationships (agent) with third parties, commissioning services such as logistics or sanitation (Liu, Feng, Zhu & Sarkis, 2018). Still within the theme, the so-called dual agency makes the agent responsible for achieving goals in two ways: (1) implementing sustainability internally (main agency) and ii) extending sustainability standards to its suppliers (secondary agency) (Wilhelm et al . , 2016). In this context, the agency's vision is used to create barriers so that sustainable practices financed by managers' income are not diverted by executives who may choose to divert this income to socio-environmental initiatives of their personal interest (Gong et al., 2019 ). 🇧🇷

Distribution Channels: Multi-channel distribution is a strategic imperative across the industry and is related to agency theory, where channel alignment issues arise in the form of incomplete information and goal mismatch (Wallace et al., 2009).

Managers can increase their company's market coverage through delivery performance or profitability through multi-channel strategies, but these benefits come with the risk of serious agency problems – which can at least be improved with channel tracking (Wallace et al., 2009).

Risks: Common principal-agent relationship issues such as opportunism, differing goals and risks, and information asymmetry can undermine the effectiveness of supply chain risk mitigation practices. Differing goals and risk attitudes make it difficult for supply chain partners to reach consensus on role-sharing methods to mitigate chain risks and, more importantly, manage the consequences of those risks. (Li et al., 2015). The study by Miller et al. (2013) demonstrated agency theory, operant conditioning theory, and psychological reactance theory as complementary to provide an integrated perspective on the use of formal controls to influence driver behavior and thereby improve operational performance. According to Wilhelm et al. (2016), incorporating a behavioral perspective would improve understanding of the causes of providers who violate their dual agency role. In addition, the critical role of supplier management in regional subsidiaries points to the need for a change in culture and behavior in the purchasing function (Juttner et al., 2020).

Agency theory tools can help to avoid or not mitigate risks in supply chains (Wiese & Toporowski, 2013) and improvements in supply chain operational processes can reduce information asymmetry and reduce the tendency to moral hazard (Shafiq et al. al., 2017). 🇧🇷 It is a fact that the successful implementation of supply chain processes and activities can be ensured by fulfilling the specific conditions of the agent through a dynamic contractual relationship (Fayezi et al., 2012). An in-depth analysis of strategic collaboration alliances has also been noted (Lechler, Canzaniello & Hartmann, 2019), while risk mitigation techniques are considered behavior-based management efforts to protect the principal from destructive events (Shafiq et al., 2017 ).

Quality: The greater the increase in supply risk, the greater the regulatory burden to manage traceability (Azmi et al., 2021). Supplier integration allows buyers to clarify the capabilities, role and performance of their suppliers; In this way, purchasing companies can more easily design and implement effective risk sharing with their suppliers. Therefore, when the buyer shares the benefits and rewards of improving product quality with the supplier, goal alignment also occurs so that the supplier shares the buyer's goal of maintaining product quality. (Tse et al., 2018).

Reward sharing can be an effective practice to solve agency problems in buyer-supplier relationships (Zu & Kaynak, 2012). Giving customers (end customers) the ability to choose their (service) provider and facilitating provider switching can provide a completely different but powerful mechanism to avoid provider opportunism and improve or maintain service quality (Uenk & Telgen, 2019).

Third Sector: The power exercised by NGOs and certification bodies is not static; rather, they change with the role of buyer regulations and mandates (Wilhelm et al., 2016). The problem of hidden intentions requires a more detailed analysis (Wiese & Toporowski, 2013), as well as an investigation of entry barriers for strategic alliances (Lechler et al., 2019). However, the idea that valued trust can be developed and controlled through goal alignment suggests the potential for a deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying the principal-agent relationship (Byrne & Power, 2014).

6. Conclusion and future research

Agency issues were considered less severe when dealing with upstream partners (Cragg & McNamara, 2018). On the other hand, the effective management of agency relationships in the downstream channel is critical to ensure strategic and performance-related results (Wallace et al., 2009). Future research may focus on explaining how weak attachments can provide new avenues for accessing resources beyond triad boundaries and how triad actors institutionalize structural, relational, and cognitive embodiment (Vlachos & Dyra, 2020). Therefore, information and power are central to agency theory. Incorporating institutional differences into agency theory would create a more comprehensive theory that would be better able to explain some of the nuances that exist in supply chain relationships and principal-agent relationships (Byrne & Power, 2014).

The tension between voluntary compliance (e.g., specialized training programs or additional corporate support for small franchises) and mandatory compliance is an interesting trade-off and provides an interesting topic for future work (Massimino & Lawrence, 2019), such as examining the impact of the industry High-level e-points related to, but not limited to, carrier producer prices, driver turnover rates, job changes, average spot market rates (Miller, Bolumole, and Schwieterman, 2020). No studies have examined how control systems affect outcomes at the driver level, accounting in different ways for different levels of professionalism and attachment strengths among vehicle drivers (Miller et al., 2013).

As already mentioned, the analyzed articles do not contain any empirical data about Brazil in the geographic description. This highlights a future opportunity for research incorporating data from Brazilian companies into supply chain management studies using agency theory. Future research could include geopolitical and product factors in addition to sourcing factors to present an assessment of environmental factors that favor sourcing risk (Shafiq et al., 2017). New research could collect longitudinal data (Wilhelm et al., 2016) to test causal relationships in hypotheses (Li et al., 2015) and increase confidence in the causal nature of relationships (Morgan et al., 2007). 🇧🇷 Longitudinal studies can also be conducted to analyze when and what measures organizations take when a supply risk is discovered (see above) and how the supply risk is best addressed (Zsidisin et al., 2004). An in-depth study of the broader implications of supply risk, such as its impact on sustainability and supply chain practices, is still needed (Shafiq et al., 2017). Contexts of highly resolved developed markets in terms of sustainability are already known, so researching sustainability in a different geographic context will yield different and interesting results (Forslund et al., 2021). Methodologically, it remains relevant to carry out investigations of the research-action type, in which the proposals are effectively implemented and the real measurement of performance is made, mainly when there is a quantification of real changes in performance due to the use of communication and information technology ( Cragg & McNamara, 2018).

In the macro environment, purchasing has a potential agency problem in the form of a mismatch between the objective of developing new products and its responsibility for continuous cost reduction (Ellram et al., 2020). It makes sense to carry out studies with companies from bordering and emerging countries as buyers (Wandfluh et al., 2016). Different countries also have different views on risk management practice, which affects the outcome (Tse et al., 2018). Reduced to the dynamic business environment, the integration of business processes (such as in the supply chain and in the form of extended business collaboration) can be difficult to sustain, and stakeholder analysis is important to define the company's strategic position in a network of companies (Trienekens and Beulens, 2001). The use of coercion creates a relationship based on compliance rather than collaboration, pointing to the need for research that specifically examine instances of coercion in strategic alliances to identify their impact on relationships between organizations (Byrne & Power, 2014). Obviously, the extensions of stakeholder concerns to the interorganizational supply chain context still need to be explored (Juttner et al., 2020).

On the other hand, the effectiveness of new organizational forms can be examined, such as the establishment of sustainability development teams with regional business unit managers and selected suppliers (Juttner et al., 2020). Policy makers can support the development of sustainability incentives in dyadic relationships, support cooperations, transporters and logistics service providers and create awareness of sustainability among end consumers (Kudla & Klaas-Wissing, 2012). Therefore, it is important to note in transport supply chains that there are not only drivers, but also small freelancers who can be added as agents, adding even more complexity to the relationships between the chains. Role reversal – an agent becomes a principal – would be of great importance for further studies, especially longitudinally (Forslund et al., 2021).

With regard to the third sector, it remains to be investigated whether the involvement of NGOs has an impact on the development of trust and engagement in relationships upstream of the supply chain (Wilhelm et al., 2016). Risk and profit sharing mechanisms imply a new culture for buyers that previously only served to transfer risk to suppliers (Norrman, 2008). In addition to monitoring practices across service triads that address mechanism effectiveness and outcome, it is expected that further research will identify which procurement approach across service triads results in the best purchased quality relevant to service buyers to improve understanding of service triads. service triads (Uenk & Telgen, 2019).

Finally, a challenge for both the alignment of supply chain incentives and the congruence of internal objectives is the external and internal integration and impact of incentives (Norrman & Naslund, 2019). The integration of agency theory with other organizational theories such as TCE and relational exchange offers the promise of potentially offsetting its limitations (Fayezi et al., 2012). To explain why some buyer-supplier relationships are effective in promoting better performance at different levels, management theory may be more appropriate (Aßländer et al., 2016). Given the complexity of supply chain relationships, examining industry-specific chains can enhance the conceptual discussion (Fayezi et al., 2012). Likewise, to what extent do the services provided seem opportunistic due to the control instruments used (monitoring) (Uenk & Telgen, 2019).

This research therefore has several implications. First, a state-of-the-art synthesis of agency theoretical literature on supply chain management is offered. Analyzes were also carried out to understand the results found through descriptive analysis, co-citation network, word cloud and discussion of the main themes. Finally, a comprehensive agenda for future research based on gaps or emerging issues was presented. Second, research supports that agency theory is applied more than necessary when it comes to supply chain management. Whether facilitating chain relationships or protecting the agent's principal interests, whether in dyads or triads, in manufacturing or in the service sector. Although the lack of it is evident in some areas and the beginning in others, the use of agency theory to study supply chain management is the main argument of the research and serves as an incentive and starting point for future studies.

an integrative view from an agency theory perspective (1)
illustration 1
Timeline of articles

an integrative view from an agency theory perspective (2)
Figure 2
Author network (at least 25 citations)

an integrative view from an agency theory perspective (3)
Figure 3
Geographic description of authors' affiliation

an integrative view from an agency theory perspective (4)
Figure 4
Term Relationship Diagram (Title and Summary)

an integrative view from an agency theory perspective (5)
Figure 5
Geographic description of the item sample

an integrative view from an agency theory perspective (6)
Figure 6
Challenges of agency theory in the supply chain

table 1

Features of the integrative review

search terms“Supply Chain” AND “Agency Theory”
development dateJune 2021
SourcesScopus e Web of Science
FilterScope: 1960 to 2021 (June)
Web of Science: 1945 a 2021 (junho)
Only words contained in the title, abstract or keywords
Articles or review articles only
Only in 1) Management, Business and Accounting journals, 2) Economics and Finance, 3) Operations and 4) Decision Science

mesa 2

Journals with the most published articles

5International Journal of Supply Chain Management
supply chain management
4International Journal of Business and Production Management
International Journal of Production Economics
business logistics magazine
Business Management Magazine
3International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management
Planning and production control
2Enterprise information management journal
Purchasing and Supply Management Diary
Supply Chain Management: Ein internationales Journal

search data

Tisch 3

Authors with more publications

4Miller, J.W.
3Norman, A.
2Anwar, A.
Elram, L. M.
Razimi, M.S.A.

search data

Table 4

The most used keywords

25agency theory
22supply chain management
5Indonesia; sustainability
4case studies; Sustainable supply chain management
3Cooperation; Shopping; relationship with suppliers; outsourcing
2agency theory perspective; Agent; buyer-supplier relationship; Communication; Warning; corporate social responsibility; Europe; congruence of objectives; alignment of incentives; Integration; Literature revision; logistics services industry; engine assembly; Multilevel supply chains; network theory; Shopping; quality management; risk assessment; Risk management; Safety; service triads; SMEs; supplier monitoring

search data

Table 5

The most used underlying theories

7transaction cost theory
4resource theory
3network theory
2Collaborative approach; institutional theory; Principal Agency Theory (PAT); resource dependency theory; SCM; Sociological agency theory

search data

Table 6

The most used themes

5supply chain risk; sustainability
4dyadic relationships; relationships between companies; supplier management
3supply chain quality management; supply chain relationship
2service supply chains; socially responsible

search data

Table 8

Statistical analysis techniques used

Structural equation modeling1352
dashboard data28
difference in difference14
path analysis14
T tests14
No total25100

search data


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