Call for Papers: The missing link between supply chain technologies and sustainability issues: advancing theory and practice
The emphasis on supply chain sustainability is greater than ever before.
Climate change, depletion of natural resources, and ever-changing customer demands present businesses in various industries with sustainability challenges (Negri et al., 2021; Agyabeng-Mensah et al., 2022). Building a sustainable supply chain ensures a balance between economic, social, and environmental performances, including improved assurance of human rights, ethical work practices, carbon footprint reduction, waste management, and resource efficiency (e.g., Mathiyazhagan et al., 2021). Not only can sustainability help companies enhance their reputation, giving them a competitive edge in this unprecedented era, but businesses that actively integrate sustainability principles into their operations can also benefit from cost reduction and the reduction of supply chain risk and vulnerability (Meixell and Luoma, 2015; Mir et al., 2021).
Previous research has demonstrated that digital technologies play a crucial role in the introduction of ethical, social, and environmentally-friendly supply chain practices (Saberi et al., 2019; De Vass et al., 2021; Kouhizadeh et al., 2021; Chaudhuri et al., 2022; Kayikci et al., 2022; Hettiarachchi et al., 2022; Schilling and Seuring, 2022; Queiroz et al., 2022):
- Technologies such as IoT, machine learning and AI can assist in optimizing production processes and minimizing waste, resulting in more efficient and sustainable operations. The same technologies can be used to predict when equipment will fail, allowing businesses to schedule maintenance prior to a breakdown and reducing downtime and waste.
- RFID, GPS, and blockchain technologies can provide real-time information about the location and condition of products, enabling businesses to make more informed decisions regarding their supply chain.
- The environmental impact of the supply chain can also be reduced by employing advanced technologies. For instance, businesses can use predictive analytics to optimize transportation routes and reduce fuel consumption, or they can use 3D printing to reduce the need for transporting goods.
- Cloud computing and digital platforms can facilitate collaboration and communication between various parties in the supply chain, leading to more sustainable practices.
While digitalization and advanced technologies can bring many benefits to supply chain sustainability, there are also a number of potential negative effects to consider. The production, use, and disposal of these technologies can have an environmental impact. For instance, the production of electronic devices necessitates the use of materials such as metals and plastics, and the disposal of these devices can result in additional pollution and e-waste. Automation and AI may result in job losses, especially in industries where routine tasks are automated, which may have negative social and economic repercussions. Adoption of advanced technologies can exacerbate disparities between companies and nations, as smaller or less developed companies or nations may not have the same resources or expertise to implement these technologies. The use of certain technologies, such as IoT, can raise ethical and social concerns because they can be used to monitor and control workers, which raises privacy and human rights concerns. IoT, Machine Learning, and Cloud computing technologies generate a large amount of data, which, if not handled properly, can raise concerns regarding data privacy, security, and ownership.
While the SCM literature has made a number of significant contributions to the understanding of the complex relationship between technologies and sustainability, we identify four areas where SCM research could potentially advance the theoretical and practical understanding of this relationship.
Different technologies, different implications. Regarding supply chain digitalization and advanced technologies, there is a vast array of available technologies, including (but not limited to) big data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the internet of things, blockchain robotics and automation, additive manufacturing, and 3D printing (Frank et al., 2019; Bai et al., 2020). Existing empirical research appears to have studied the relationship between technology and sustainability using a blanket approach, i.e., either by considering a specific group of technologies (e.g., Belaud et al., 2019; Bai and Sarkis, 2020) or a "general" approach, i.e., by assuming that all technologies have the same benefits (e.g., Dwivedi and Paul, 2022). Potentially interesting questions to investigate in this area include (but are not limited to):
- Do all of these technologies impacting supply chain sustainability share the same characteristics, functionalities, and interoperability?
- Do different technologies require different supply chain/organizational capabilities for implementation and achievement of sustainability goals?
- What combinations of technologies result in different sustainability outcomes?
- Which technologies are better suited to achieving environmental sustainability outcomes, and which technologies are better suited to achieving social sustainability outcomes?
- What factors cause businesses to view one technology as more valuable than another in terms of sustainability?
A more “dynamic” perspective on drivers and barriers. Several authors have proposed drivers and barriers for companies to consider when evaluating the sustainability outcomes of digital technology adoption. This includes both internal and external factors (such as government support, supply chain information sharing, and supply chain integration). While valuable, these existing frameworks are limited in that they either focus on factors that are relevant to specific empirical contexts and industries (e.g., Luthra et al., 2022; Strandhagen et al., 2022) or they are constructed as a list of factors as a result of literature review efforts (e.g., Hastig and Sodhi, 2020; Bag et al., 2021). There appears to be little distinction between the drivers and barriers for adopting technologies to specifically improve sustainability aspects and those for adopting technologies in the supply chain (Stentoft et al., 2021). To improve aspects such as gas emissions, waste, working conditions, and circularity, however, it may be necessary to consider specific and additional factors. In this area, it is necessary to distinguish between these drivers and barriers, as they are subject to change as technologies mature, new technologies are introduced, organizations learn, strategies shift, and new policies are enacted. We encourage the development of theoretical frameworks that, on the basis of empirical evidence, aid in the comprehension of such dynamic changes triggered by external factors.
Potentially interesting questions to investigate in this area include (but are not limited to):
- What additional drivers and barriers should businesses consider when adopting technologies to achieve sustainable outcomes, and how do these technologies evolve and adapt in response to internal and external circumstances? What theoretical lenses and perspectives can aid in theorizing the nature and role of these dynamic changes?
- What is the connection between drivers and obstacles? Can policy/management actions affect and alter these relationships?
- Do some drivers and barriers (and corresponding dynamic shifts) only apply to technologies with particular characteristics? Can we build a framework that relates the specific characteristics of technologies to the importance of particular drivers and obstacles in achieving sustainable results?
- What are the obstacles to the relationship between supply chain technologies and sustainability outcomes? Why do these barriers exist?
The role of risks and uncertainty. Investing in technologies is a risk for businesses and their supply chains because it may help them reduce some sources of risk, but it can also generate new risks and uncertainties (Birkel and Hartmann, 2020). A similar argument applies to sustainability: while sustainability is a potential order winner for businesses and supply chains, it also increases internal and external relationship complexity and uncertainty (Negri et al., 2021). The characteristics (and risks) of technologies can amplify environmental unpredictability, causing organizations to become more risk-averse. As a result, they may observe a reduction in the benefits of technology investments on sustainable outcomes, or they may decide to limit their investments to prevent the proliferation of new sources of risk. Regarding the relationship between technology and sustainability, the current literature has overlooked this risk management perspective. Potentially interesting questions to investigate in this area include (but are not limited to):
- When adopting technologies to achieve sustainability outcomes, what risks and uncertainties must be considered?
- How do supply chains modify their structure and/or strategy to better support the introduction of technologies to obtain sustainability outcomes?
- Are sustainability outcomes (following the adoption of technologies) clearly different for firms exposed to varying degrees of risks and uncertainties?
A more holistic view of supply chains. Collaboration and coordination among supply chain members are always necessary for the successful introduction of new technologies and the achievement of sustainability objectives (e.g., Cai et al., 2016; Benzidia et al., 2021). By examining the research scope of existing empirical studies, it appears that the focus is typically on the perspective of the focal company (or the single company), whereas there is a dearth of studies that take a more holistic approach to the topic, examining the supply chain as a whole and how the decisions made by different supply chain actors contribute to technology adoption and sustainability performance. We are especially interested in studies that consider not only the focal firms and their (innovative) suppliers from the existing supply base, but also other players in the innovation ecosystem, such as technology companies, start-ups, technology research institutions, national/regional technology infrastructure, financial institutions, etc.
Potentially interesting questions to investigate in this area include (but are not limited to):
- What skills and abilities must manufacturers and suppliers acquire and deepen in order to successfully adopt technologies that enhance the sustainability of the supply chain? How can these capabilities be disseminated by collaborating with various supply chain participants, such as technology firms and start-ups?
- How do organizations address trade-offs between economic and sustainability objectives when contemplating investments in new technologies?
- What role do technology providers play in achieving supply chain technology benefits and overcoming obstacles to sustainability?
This call for papers seeks contributions that have the potential to advance the theoretical and practical understanding of the strategic use of digital technologies for enhancing the implementation of supply chain sustainability strategies and practices in one or more of the aforementioned areas. We are seeking contributions that meet three criteria in this regard.
Novel focus. First, as the SCM literature has already provided numerous theoretical and practical evidence of a positive relationship between technology and performance, papers will only be accepted if they go beyond a simple analysis of the linear relationship between technology and sustainability (or other) performance. Focus should be placed on how to realize sustainability benefits through learning, testing, and/or implementing specific technologies, or how to avoid hypes that increase risks and uncertainties.
Novel theories. Second, in accordance with the scope of the IJPDLM, we seek contributions that address these research issues empiricistically while offering novel theoretical perspectives and insights. Existing literature predominantly employs abstract and conventional theories, such as resource-based view (and dynamic capabilities) theory, contingency theory, and information processing theory. What novel theories can be used to answer one or more of the previous research questions? In this regard, we recommend reviewing the articles by Gligor et al. (2018) and Toubolic and Walker (2015) for potential supply chain management and sustainable supply chain theoretical lenses.
Novel methodologies. Thirdly, due to the abundance of previously published review contributions (see, for example, Manavalan and Jayakrishna, 2019; Jabbour et al., 2020; Kamble et al., 2020; Bag et al., 2021; Birkel and Müller, 2021), pure literature reviews, mathematical papers (simulation and modeling), and conceptual papers are not considered suitable for the call. Traditional empirical methodologies (e.g., surveys, multiple case studies, and experimental approaches) are welcome, but we are especially interested in empirically-focused submissions that may involve innovative and less-common methodologies, such as action research, longitudinal studies, behavioral studies, and configuration analysis, which may lead to the development of new theories. We recommend reviewing the articles by Carter et al. (2020) and Flynn et al. (2020) for a better understanding of innovative methodologies for theory development in the field of supply chain management and supply chain sustainability, respectively.
While the Guest Editors do not have a specific deadline for abstract/proposal submission, due to the particular nature of the call, the authors interested in submitting to the call are strongly encouraged to send their proposal and/or research idea to the Guest Editors to receive feedback before full paper submission. Proposals should be around 1,000 words (excluding references, tables, and figures), and they should clearly highlight
• which of the areas included in the call do they aim to address and
• how the research can fill the gap between digital technologies and sustainability in a novel way.
All the proposals should be sent to the Managing Guest Editor, Dr. Andrea Patrucco.
Manuscripts should comply with the scope, standards, format, and editorial policy of the International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management.
All papers must be submitted through the official International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management submission system with clear selection indicating that the submission is for this Special Issue.
Before submission, authors should carefully read over the Journal’s “Author guidelines”. Particularly, we advise authors to adhere to the journal's word limits for initial submissions (10,000 words). Additional research materials for the review process can be included as "Supplementary materials."
Authors should select “SI: Supply Chain Technologies and Sustainability”, from the “Choose Article Type” pull-down menu during the submission process. All contributions must not have been previously published or be under consideration for publication elsewhere.
Papers submitted to the Special Issue will be subjected to the normal thorough double-blind review process.
Submission open: 30th June 2023
Submission close: 30th December 2023
Expected final decision outcome by: December 1st, 2024
Andrea Patrucco, Florida International University College of Business - Managing Guest editor
Andrea Patrucco is an Assistant Professor of Supply Chain Management in the Department of Marketing and Logistics at the Florida International University College of Business. His research interests are in the field of management of buyer-supplier relationships in both the private and public sectors. Andrea is the Managing Editor (and the Editorial Assistant at IJPDLM) and can be contacted by email.
K. Mathiyazhagan, Thiagarajar School of Management
Dr. K. Mathiyazhagan is working as a Research Centre and Associate Professor, at Thiagarajar School of Management, Madurai, Tamil Nadu. He is an associate editor in Management Decision (Emerald) and Environment, Development and Sustainability Journal (Springer). He has published in numerous journals, including IJPE, IJPR, PPC, IEEE TEM, JCP, RCR, IJAMT etc. His research interest includes Green Supply Chain Management; Sustainable Supply Chain Management; Multi-Criteria Decision Making; Third Party Logistic Provider; Sustainable Lean Manufacturing, Public Distribution System; Lean Six Sigma.
Stefan Seuring, Chair of Supply Chain Management, Universität of Kassel, Germany
Stefan is Professor of Supply Chain Management in the Faculty of Economics and Management. His research interest are in sustainable supply chain management, emerging economies and circular supply chains.
Samuel Fosso Wamba, Department of Information, Operations and Management Sciences,
TBS Education, Toulouse, France
Samuel Fosso Wamba is Associate Dean for Research at TBS Education, France. His current research focuses on the business value of information technology, blockchain, artificial intelligence for business, business analytics, and big data.
Andrea Appolloni, Department of Management and Law, University of Rome Tor Vergata
Dr. Andrea Appolloni is Associate Professor in Operations Management and Sustainability at Tor Vergata University in Rome, Italy. In the same University he completed his Ph.D in Business Administration. He is Permanent Visiting Fellow at Cranfield University (UK) and Research Associate at the Italian Research Council. His teaching areas focused on Operations, Supply Chain and Procurement Management and Sustainability courses at undergraduate and executive level.
References and relevant literature
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