Global Supply Chain Management Issues in Bottom-of-the-Pyramid Markets

Special issue call for papers from International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

Submission Deadline: December 31, 2017

Guest Editors:

Wendy L. Tate, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management, University of Tennessee
Lydia Bals, Dr., Professor of Supply Chain & Operations Management, University of Applied Sciences Mainz - School of Business,
Donna Marshall, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Management, UCD School of Business, University College Dublin,


A remaining conceptual and practical challenge is how to integrate sustainability into global supply chains. For example, the availability of clean water is lacking and negatively impacts approximately 783 million people globally (UN Water, 2013). Technology-based solutions along the supply chain may address the economic and environmental side of clean water conservation and distribution, but these solutions may not be accessible to those most vulnerable. Therefore, a major challenge lies in overcoming such tradeoffs and designing supply chains in ways that deliver on triple bottom line (TBL; Elkington, 1998) objectives, specifically in emerging or developing economies.

This is a fruitful area for research as it is estimated that by 2020 about $500 billion will be allocated to impact investment initiatives (World Economic Forum, 2013). Coined after a Rockefeller Foundation meeting in 2007, impact investments could present a new asset class in future, requiring new social business models (J.P. Morgan, 2010). Additional insights into how sustainable supply chains can be created in emerging markets is central to maximize the TBL impact of these investments, e.g. there is a need to understand how supply chains can be designed to operate sustainably within the boundaries of this new asset class.

The focus of this special issue is on the emerging market context, i.e. emerging market communities that are facing severe economic, social and environmental constraints. These communities are at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) (e.g. Karnani, 2007; Hahn, 2009) that exist in levels of extreme poverty with limited access to goods and services. This special issue particularly addresses suppliers in developing countries (i.e. an overall emerging market focus); balancing trade-offs (i.e. a TBL orientation); multi-tier studies (i.e. supply and/or value chain focus); and the role of individuals (e.g. role of social entrepreneurs), areas which have been identified as particularly interesting for future research (Walker et al., 2014).

Potential Areas of Interest

Noting that the interface of environmental, economic and social aspects in supply chain management is not yet well covered (Seuring and Gold, 2013), this call particularly concerns BOP research that addresses the sustainability needs of the global poor (e.g. Karnani, 2007; Hahn, 2009). This special issue aims to show innovative cases, approaches and concepts in how to successfully implement all three dimensions of TBL sustainability, i.e. economic, environmental and social (e.g. Elkington, 1998; Gimenez et al., 2012; Griggs et al., 2013) into global supply and value chains focused on bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) issues.  BOP refers to “the world’s four billion consumers who live on $5 or less per day” (Fawcett and Waller, 2015: 233). While this area of research has largely focused on BOP population as potential consumers, some companies and entrepreneurs are searching for and identifying suppliers, producers, distributors and retailers in the BOP segment, which is posing challenges (Sodhi and Tang, 2016).

Particularly in BOP contexts, companies face many resource constraints (Sodhi and Tang, 2016; Bendul et al., 2016). BOP contexts therefore offer an opportunity to further explore the idea of constraints, how supply chains are designed under such circumstances (e.g. Bals and Tate, forthcoming) and also how to include impoverished communities (Hall and Matos, 2010). Even beyond the BOP context, research can offer insights on the design and performance of sustainable supply chain management in the 21st century in the wake of increasing disruptions, such as political unrest or global climate change, and how particular functions such as purchasing and supply management can help mitigate these issues (e.g. Bals, 2012). Following the logic of a broader societal focus (Autry and Whipple, 2013), deliberate sustainable supply chain design (Bals and Tate, Forthcoming) and also more broadly deliberate shared value chain design (Bals and Tate, 2016) warrant further research.

However, supply chain risks may also bring opportunities including developing new products and services and creating new markets (Nidumolu et al. 2009). Research can explore the types of risks to be exploited and the ways in which companies can capitalise on sustainable supply chain management.

Another area of particular interest, when thinking about BOP contexts concerns impact investing and supply chain management. One area of such investments can be into the establishment of social businesses. For example, additional insights into how (social) businesses can successfully build TBL-effective supply chains for BOP communities will play an increasing role. Therefore, aspects such as what makes social businesses successful and what can be learned from failures holds tremendous potential for advancing this trend and encouraging sustainable BOP practices.

In this context, the role of individual capabilities can also be studied further, as the role of individual level resources and capabilities for establishment of sustainable supply chains in BOP markets should not be underestimated (Tate and Bals, 2016). Here cross-disciplinary research within business ethics, social entrepreneurship and the creation of sustainable business models is of interest.

From a methodological viewpoint, multiple types of theoretically-grounded research methodologies including synthesizing and integrative literature reviews, conceptual development, empirical studies, qualitative and empirically-grounded quantitative research, and case study research will be considered.

The list below is indicative, and by no means definitive, of the types of papers sought. Topics for this special issue may include:

  • Creating customer value in emerging markets through better management at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) and helping those with different needs
  • Trade-offs affecting BOP suppliers
  • Trade-offs in supply chain management affecting BOP markets
  • Supply chain design and management in the wake of increased disruption (e.g. political unrest, climate change) particularly at the BOP.
  • Supply chain design (material, information and financial flows) under TBL (economic, social, environmental) objectives at the BOP
  • Emerging business models and supply and value chain design at the BOP
  • Highlighting new practices implementing TBL sustainability (e.g. across multi-tier chains) at the BOP
  • Viewing SSCM from different perspective e.g. NGOs, governments, not-for-profits at the BOP
  • Measurement and reporting TBL sustainability in supply and value chains at the BOP
  • Bringing social entrepreneurship and impact investing into supply chain management
  • Influence of impact investors on sustainable supply and value chains
  • Influence of social entrepreneurs on sustainable supply and value chains


Submissions to the International Journal of Physical Development and Logistics Management are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system. Registration and access is available at Please select the issue you are submitting to.


Due date for submissions in system – December 31st 2017

Approximate publication – End of 2018

References used in text

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Bals, L. and Tate, W. L. (2016), “The journey from triple bottom line (TBL) sustainable supply chains to TBL shared value chain design”, in Bals, L., Tate, W. L. (Eds.), Implementing Triple Bottom Line Sustainability into Global Supply Chains (pp. 1-12), Sheffield, Greenleaf Publishing, UK.
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