Smart Supply Chain Management to Achieve Carbon Neutrality: Risk, Challenges and Opportunities


Climate change has become a focal issue and posed significant challenges around globe. At the 2021 United Nations Climate Summit held in Glasgow, consensus was reached on key actions to address climate change. Many developed countries such as the USA, UK, EU, Japan, and Canada pledge to achieve net-zero emissions or carbon neutrality by 2050, while other developing countries such as China and India follow suit and aim to reach carbon neutrality or net-zero emissions by 2060 and 2070, respectively. To implement these noble goals, governments around the globe have been introducing diverse action plans. For instance, Germany proposes to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 55% by 2030 compared to its 1990 levels and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The UK aims to slash emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to its 1990 levels and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. China plans to reach carbon dioxide peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Japan promises to expedite its climate action by achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. 

To curb global carbon and other GHG emissions, significant innovation and changes are needed from the content to the mode of production. The traditional extensive economic growth mode focuses on the input of resource-based production factors without paying enough attention to the impact of production activities on the environment, leading to significant damage to the ecological environment and global warming and hurting healthy and sustainable economic development in the long term. Promoting and accelerating low-carbon transformation of global supply chains is thus a worthy and urgent research topic in this carbon neutral era.

Smart supply chain has attracted extensive attention from industry and academia (Wei et al., 2021). It can be defined as a self-organizing and self-optimizing system by using cutting-edge information technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), and big-data analytics. Smart supply chain presents unprecedented opportunities for achieving cost reduction and efficiency enhancement (Wu et al., 2016). For example, IoT and AI in different processes of a supply chain have assisted companies to achieve their sustainability goals. Recently, applications of blockchain in supply chains (Dutta et al., 2020; Giovanni, 2021; Mehta et al., 2021), and smart supply chain innovation (Wei et al., 2021) have attracted increasing attentions from the academic community and industrial practitioners.

A smart supply chain has the characteristics of digitization, visualization, traceability, and mobility. It helps the supply chain partners to obtain real-time information (Sardar et al., 2021) and reduce channel operation costs (Li, 2020), Intuitively, a better coordinated smart supply chain also contributes to reducing carbon emissions. For example, in urban distribution networks, adopting smart supply chain technology can reduce ineffective transportation, improve distribution agility and customer satisfaction, and minimize carbon emissions. The emergence of smart supply chain technology is inducing significant transformation in logistics and transportation nowadays (Chung et al., 2021) and it will improve the operation efficiency of the logistics industry and reduce carbon emissions by optimizing resource allocation (Pan et al., 2020). 

Nevertheless, it is arguable that adopting cutting-edge technologies in supply chains itself may result in unintended increase in carbon emissions. In a smart supply chain, a large number of electronic devices and sensors are used, consuming more power and other resources. Taking the blockchain technology in smart supply chains as an example, the annual power consumption of "mining" activities in the block-chain technology reaches an astonishingly high level of 121.36 TWH (1 TWH is 1 billion KWH). A recent study reveals that, without any policy intervention, the annual energy consumption of bitcoin blockchain operations in China is expected to peak at about 296.59 TWH in 2024. This energy demand will result in 130.5 million tons of carbon emissions, making it to the top 10 list among 182 cities and 42 industrial sectors in China (Jiang et al., 2021). The aforesaid divergent evidence suggests that we need to objectively assess the advantages and disadvantages of smart supply chain technology and their implications on curbing carbon emissions.

Given the challenges and opportunities in smart supply chain management and development, this special issue (SI) aims to invite academics, practitioners, and policy makers to present their new research and findings on the strategy, technology, and operation mechanisms of smart supply chains from carbon neutrality perspective, especially on how smart supply chains can contribute to the realization of carbon neutrality. It intends to solve practical problems in the development of smart supply chain by integrating operation management and information system research and using emerging digital technology and intelligent technology in the era of industry 4.0. The technologies include Blockchain, Additive Manufacturing (AM/3D-printing), Big Data Analytics (BDA), AI, IoT, Virtual Reality (VR), Cloud Computing (CC), Cyber-physical System (CPS) and others. 

Taking carbon neutrality as the key theme, this SI seeks contributions from the following topics and beyond. We especially welcome in-depth research using a variety of research methodology such as industrial data and information systems tools.

  • Strategic design of smart supply chains to achieve carbon neutrality with emerging digital technology and intelligent technology.  
  • Applications and development of smart supply chain technology to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Operation mechanisms of smart supply chains from the perspective of carbon neutrality.
  • The interaction among different digital technologies in Industry 4.0 to address the related issues of smart sustainable supply chains
  • Social responsibility of smart sustainable supply chains.
  • Intelligent closed-loop supply chain management.
  • Transformation of smart logistics operation processes from a carbon neutrality point of view.
  • Carbon reduction strategies and operation mechanism design of smart supply chains.
  • Interactions between digital supply chains and carbon emission reduction.


Submissions open: 6th October 2022

Submission deadline: 6th February 2023

Guest editors:

Professor Paul Tae-Woo Lee
Director of Maritime Logistics and Free Trade Islands Research Center,
Zhejiang University, China.
Email: [email protected]

Dr. Li Zhou
Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management
Faculty of Business
University of Greenwich, London, SE10 9LS, UK
Email: [email protected]

Dr. Kevin W. Li 
Professor of Odette School of Business
University of Windsor
Windsor, Ontario N9B 3P4, Canada
Email: [email protected]

Dr. Truong Van Nguyen (Jimmy)
Senior Lecturer in Operations and Information Systems Management 
Brunel Business School, Brunel University London, Uxbridge, UB8 3PH, United Kingdom
E-mail: [email protected]

Dr. Weihua Liu (Managing Guest Editor)
Professor of Department of Operation and Supply Chain Management, 
College of Management and Economics, Tianjin University, China.
Email: [email protected]


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