The Social Sustainability of Global Supply Chains: A Critical Perspective on Current Practices and its Transformative Potential

Call for papers for: International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

The social sustainability of global supply chains:  A critical perspective on current practices and its transformative potential

Guest Editors:

Minelle E. Silva - La Rochelle Business School (France)
Morgane M.C. Fritz - La Rochelle Business School (France)
Stefan Seuring - University of Kassel (Germany)
Stelvia Matos - University of Surrey (UK)

There is no doubt that the number of publications on social sustainability in logistics, operations, and supply chain management (SCM) fields has increased (e.g., Bubicz et al., 2019; Yawar and Seuring, 2017). However, have scholars in our fields done enough to critically challenge current practices, and proactively drive real, transformational changes? There is still a limited use of a critical perspective on the social dimension in the sustainable supply chain management literature (e.g., Carter et al., 2019; Fritz and Silva, 2018). While the logistics, operations, and SCM literature investigate actions and supply chain strategies used by companies to address a set of social issues, the real impacts of intellectual outputs on real, transformative changes in the wider society remain unclear. We do not have a clear view on what type of actions and decisions can transform the current thinking and practices among companies such that they actively drive socially sustainable supply chains. The fields still lacks inclusiveness. The review of 142 academic articles by Yawar and Seuring (2017) reveals there are still limited efforts to understand inclusion of marginalized people and minority development, and the field still relies on a Western perspective with limited inclusion of authors from developing worlds where serious social issues arise. 

This special issue welcomes studies focusing on social sustainability transformation to show the real impacts of radical supply chain (re)design and (re)configuration for an improved social performance and practice, but also those studies that demonstrate how current supply chain configuration can address social sustainability issues without creating harm to their economic, environmental, governance or cultural environment (see Fritz and Silva, 2018).

We propose a more critical perspective of research in sustainable SCM, which goes beyond figuring out what are the main social sustainability issues/indicators/practices from a focal company perspective, but questioning how their current actions can be transformed or reconfigured to benefit the wider society and stakeholders. For example, we encourage solutions that embrace social inclusion (Hall and Matos, 2010). In addition to assessing a focal-company direct and indirect suppliers development strategies (e.g., Yawar and Seuring, 2018), we encourage studies from a supplier perspective (e.g., Huq et al., 2014; Marshall et al., 2019) and other stakeholders such as employees, communities and NGOs. We are looking for real-world case examples of poverty alleviation (e.g., Battilana and Dorado, 2010; Rodriguez et al., 2016), inclusion and diversity (Chin and Tat, 2015), or redistribution of powers (e.g., Hoejmose et al., 2013). We encourage extending existing efforts to understanding and demonstrating the roles of social entrepreneurship (e.g., Pullman et al., 2018), NGOs (e.g, Rodríguez et al., 2016), the concept of inclusive value chains (Harper, 2010), considering cultural and socio-economic contexts in developing worlds (e.g., Fritz and Silva, 2018; Huq et al., 2014). 

In addition, we encourage the development of new constructs (e.g., Mani et al., 2016). At the same time, we welcome inter-disciplinary research, which can make use of management, political  and other social sciences to investigate how social sustainability alone or combined with multiple sustainable development goals impact physical distribution, logistics, operations, and SCM. We encourage extending exiting theories, for example those that explain communication e.g., how managers cognitively construe the sustainability challenge (Crilly et al., 2016); paradigm shift e.g., the idea of sustain-centrism vs sustainability (Gladwin et al., 1995); managing conflicting goals, e.g., poverty elevation vs profitability (Battilana and Dorado, 2010), learning how social enterprises manage hybrid organizations (Pullman et al., 2018), and so on. 

Recommended topics:

We welcome a diversity of methodologies which include conceptual and literature reviews as well as empirical papers using quantitative or qualitative research. The use of multi-methods is well appreciated. We highlight that for qualitative research the use of non-traditional methods (e.g., action research, design science, ethnography) are valuable. The research is expected to have managerial-relevant theoretical and practical/policy implications and connected with the Sustainable Development Goals. It is encouraged to use/develop middle range theories (Stank et al., 2017) that explain social sustainability under specific contexts.

Topics of this special issues include, but are not limited to:

- Social sustainability in SCM: meanings, motivations and drivers
- Social sustainability in upstream and downstream supply chains
- Social sustainability from a supplier, employees, government, and NGO perspective
- Social supplier management (including selection, monitoring and development)
- Monitoring social issues in multi-tier supply chains
- Social entrepreneurship and social innovation in SCM
- Challenges of service supply chain to address social sustainability
- Social sustainability in omni-channel and multi-channel distribution
- Working conditions in logistics, supply chains, distribution, and last mile logistics delivery
- The impact of digitalization on SCM – consequences for social sustainability 
- The role of SCM in poverty alleviation, inclusiveness, and equality 
- New supply chain design for the base of the pyramid
- The redistribution of power for social sustainability
- The impact of social standards in social inclusion and exclusion
- The impact of supply chains on informality and local development
- Addressing gender equality and diversity in SCM
- Contributions of the Sustainable Development Goals to social sustainability in SCM
- The social dimension in circular supply chains and circular economy
- Ethical behavior and decision-making in global supply chains
- The role of third-party (e.g., NGOs) for social sustainability in SCM

Important dates:

Submission deadline: 30th September 2021
First review: November-December 2021
Second review: March-April 2022
Final decision: August 2022

Submissions to be made through the Scholar One Manuscript Submission portal for IJPDLM  the window will be open from 31st May 2021. Authors are encouraged to consult the author guidelines for the journal here


Battilana, J., & Dorado, S. (2010). Building sustainable hybrid organizations: The case of commercial microfinance organizations. Academy of management Journal, 53(6), 1419-1440.
Bubicz, M. E., Barbosa-Póvoa, A. P. F. D., & Carvalho, A. (2019). Incorporating social aspects in sustainable supply chains: Trends and future directions. Journal of Cleaner Production. 237, 117500.
Carter, C. R., Hatton, M. R., Wu, C., & Chen, X. (2019). Sustainable supply chain management: continuing evolution and future directions. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management. 50(1), 122-146.
Chin, T. A., & Tat, H. H. (2015). Does gender diversity moderate the relationship between supply chain management practice and performance in the electronic manufacturing services industry?. International Journal of Logistics Research and Applications, 18(1), 35-45.
Crilly, D., Hansen, M., & Zollo, M. (2016). The grammar of decoupling: A cognitive-linguistic perspective on firms’ sustainability claims and stakeholders’ interpretation. Academy of Management Journal, 59(2), 705-729.
Fritz, M. M. C., & Silva, M. E. (2018). Exploring supply chain sustainability research in Latin America. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management. 48(8), 818-841.
Gladwin, T. N., Kennelly, J. J., & Krause, T. S. (1995). Shifting paradigms for sustainable development: Implications for management theory and research. Academy of management Review, 20(4), 874-907.
Hall, J., & Matos, S. (2010). Incorporating impoverished communities in sustainable supply chains. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management. 40(1/2), 124-147.
Hoejmose, S. U., Grosvold, J., & Millington, A. (2013). Socially responsible supply chains: power asymmetries and joint dependence. Supply Chain Management: An International Journal. 18(3), 277–291.
Huq, F. A., Stevenson, M., & Zorzini, M. (2014). Social sustainability in developing country suppliers. International Journal of Operations & Production Management. 34(5), 610-638.
Malcolm, H. (2010). Inclusive value chains: A pathway out of Poverty. (Vol. 4). World Scientific.
Mani, V., Agarwal, R., Gunasekaran, A., Papadopoulos, T., Dubey, R., & Childe, S. J. (2016). Social sustainability in the supply chain: Construct development and measurement validation. Ecological Indicators, 71, 270-279.
Marshall, D., McCarthy, L., Claudy, M., & McGrath, P. (2019). Piggy in the middle: How direct customer power affects first-tier suppliers’ adoption of socially responsible procurement practices and performance. Journal of Business Ethics, 154(4), 1081-1102.
Pullman, M., Longoni, A., & Luzzini, D. (2018). The Roles of Institutional Complexity and Hybridity in Social Impact Supply Chain Management. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 54(2), 3-20.
Rodríguez, J. A., Giménez Thomsen, C., Arenas, D., & Pagell, M. (2016). NGOs’ initiatives to enhance social sustainability in the supply chain: poverty alleviation through supplier development programs. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 52(3), 83-108.
Stank, T. P., Pellathy, D. A., In, J., Mollenkopf, D. A., & Bell, J. E. (2017). New frontiers in logistics research: theorizing at the middle range. Journal of Business Logistics, 38(1), 6-17.
Yawar, S. A., & Seuring, S. (2017). Management of social issues in supply chains: a literature review exploring social issues, actions and performance outcomes. Journal of Business Ethics, 141(3), 621-643.
Yawar, S. A., & Seuring, S. (2018). The role of supplier development in managing social and societal issues in supply chains. Journal of Cleaner Production, 182, 227-237.