Toward a paradigm shift within global supply chains: From ‘sustainability’ rhetoric to transformative action for environmental and social justice


Guest Editors

Minelle E. Silva  - Excelia Business School (France)
Lee Matthews - University of Nottingham (UK)
Jia Yen Lai - Monash University (Malaysia)
Marina D. Figueiredo - University of Fortaleza (Brazil)

Background and scope

Industrial activity has so transformed the planet that humanity has now entered the Anthropocene (Figueiredo, Marquesan and Imas, 2020), a new geological epoch characterized by climate instability (Steffen et al., 2015) and blighted by the Earth’s sixth great extinction event (Ceballos et al., 2017). It is increasingly acknowledged that the burdens of this planetary transformation will fall on those least responsible for it, the world’s poor (Kashwan et al., 2020). This fundamental unfairness has led to a ‘justice turn’ in public discourses on sustainability (Biermann and Kalfagianni, 2020), with sustainability movements calling for our global political economy to be transformed in line with social and environmental justice. This special issue on Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SSCM) echoes these movements’ calls for transformative action.
Sustainability has too often been understood as an efficiency problem to be solved through eco-efficiency and socio-efficiency strategies (Dyllick and Hockerts, 2002; Elkington, 2018), rather than as a call for justice (Ehrenfeld, 2005; Ergene, Banerjee and Hoffman, 2020). But there is an increasingly urgent need to respond to the multiple crises of the Anthropocene by transitioning towards transformative SCM trajectories that are consistent with the resilience of social-ecological systems (Silvestre et al., 2020; Sauer, Silva and Schleper, 2022) and social and environmental justice (Urzedo et al., 2022). This will require a paradigm shift from efficiency approaches to ‘sustainability’ to the transformative actions needed to create just, restorative and inclusive supply chains (Wieland, 2021).
From a socio-ecological perspective, addressing the multiple environmental crises of the Anthropocene requires interdisciplinary strategies and action plans that respect human rights and the rights of nature in order to deliver social and environmental justice (Joshi, 2021; Maryudi et al., 2020). Large number of studies on socio-ecological systems and political ecology have shown that, when local communities perceive decision-making or management processes as ‘unjust’, it can significantly undermine the effectiveness of any management plans (Suiseeya, 2014). However, while many studies recognize the importance of mitigating climate change impacts, further studies are necessary to demonstrate how environmental and climate justice should transform the logic of managing global supply chains.
Justice lenses will not be unproblematic for SSCM scholars to work with however. Besides being an essentially contested concept (Gallie, 1956), justice is often articulated through ‘grassroots concepts’, such as environmental justice, which have been developed within social movements by non-academics (Martinez-Alier et al, 2014). Articles refining such grassroots concepts for SSCM scholarship or explaining how SSCM scholars can work with such grassroots concepts would be useful.

For the special issue, we welcome scholars from all fields whose work contributes to transformative supply chain practice consistent with the principles of justice. We also encourage decolonized perspectives that question the sustainability solutions provided by Northern and ‘developed’ countries and provide alternative solutions grounded in different perspectives from the Global South and East (e.g. Myers et al., 2020). We are also interested in papers that surface and resolve tensions between justice and SSCM strategies, for example, see the concept of ‘circular justice’ that has emerged to ensure that the transition to a circular economy is consistent with social justice (Kirchherr, 2021).

To help contributors understand the types of submissions we are seeking for the special issue, the following exemplary texts are offered as an indication of the wide variety of types of papers that will be welcomed: 

  • Papers that use justice theories to expand the scope of SCM, such as New’s (1997) use of Rawls’ (1971) theory of justice, or to reinvigorate SSCM, such as Gold and Schleper (2017) drawing upon the social justice theorist Honneth’s (2008) ‘recognition theory’;
  • Papers drawing on novel conceptualisations of justice, such as ‘planetary justice’ (Biermann and Kalfagianni, 2020) and ‘energy justice’ (Jenkins, 2018); 
  • Empirical papers that explicitly adopt a justice lens, such as Chamanara, Goldtstein and Newell’s (2021) study of beef supply chains and environmental justice, or surface neglected injustices, e.g. Butt et al.’s (2020) study on the deaths of environmental defenders within the ‘supply chain of violence’; 
  • Submissions identifying the nexuses between social injustices and environmental destruction, such as the link between modern slavery and deforestation (Jackson et al, 2020).

Potential approaches and topics:

The call aims to stimulate critical and engaged scholarship using justice lenses to reinvigorate the study of sustainability in SCM (Touboulic, McCarthy and Matthews, 2020).  Additionally, we encourage a diversity of methodologies and epistemologies, including both conceptual and empirical papers using quantitative or qualitative research. We especially welcome qualitative research using non-traditional methods, e.g., action research, discourse analysis, design science, ethnography. The use of multi-methods and cross-country collaboration, especially from different regions of the globe, would be appreciated. Papers identifying new datasets and methodologies for research on justice within SSCM are also welcome, for instance, studies using novel datasets, such as the EJAtlas (Temper, Del Bene and Martinez-Alier, 2015) and satellite data (Jackson et al, 2019), to map injustices within supply chains.
Submissions are expected to have managerial-relevant theoretical and practical/policy implications, and authors may find it useful to connect their articles to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Reports from practitioners, whether working for  businesses, NGOs or social movements, on addressing justice issues within supply chains also are welcome. Submissions can be full papers or shorter ‘Impact Pathways’ papers. 

Topics of interest for this special issue include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • How justice frameworks and concepts drive sustainability within global supply chains;
  • Alternatives to Northern and Western perspectives on justice, sustainability and supply chains, especially decolonization perspectives, concepts such as decoloniality and decolonized philosophies such as ‘Buen Vivir’ and ‘Ubuntu’; 
  • Justice issues for commodity supply chains and the nexuses between them: modern slavery, the abuse of environmental defenders, land rights, land-system change, e.g. deforestation;
  • How supply chain management can simultaneously contribute towards thriving social-ecological systems and deliver justice outcomes for supply chain stakeholders;
  • The role of multi-stakeholder initiatives, social movements and governments in delivering environmental and/or social justice within global supply chains;
  • How circular economy initiatives deliver social justice as well as environmental sustainability;
  • How supply chain actors negotiate and overcome the trade-offs between efficiency and justice within global supply chains; 
  • The transformation of ethics to deal with supply chain injustices, such as human trafficking, corruption, discrimination, etc.

Key Dates: 

Submission open: 1st March 2023

Submission deadline: 30th June 2023

The submission process and papers must adhere to the normal author guidelines of the International Journal of Operations and Production Management, which can be found at:

Submission must be made via Manuscript Central with clear selection indicating that the submission is for this Special Issue. Papers submitted to the Special Issue will be subjected to the normal thorough double-blind review process.

Further Information: 

Webinar: What do social and environmental justice mean in a supply chain context?

When: 12th October 2022 - 2pm (CET)

How to join: for registration please email [email protected]

Webinar Link:

Paper Development Workshop

When: 24th March 2023 (2pm CET)

Deadline to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) for PDW: 31st January 2023

For further information please email [email protected]


Guest-editors biography 

Dr Minelle E. Silva: Associate Professor in Supply Chain Sustainability at Excelia Business School, France. I hold my PhD in Management with emphasis on Sustainability in Supply Chains at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Currently, the main theoretical lenses used are: Institutional (logic) theory, Social capital theory, Practice theories, and Organizational learning. These theories have been used to mobilize a set of different subjects such as sustainability practice and learning, social sustainability (including diversity and inclusion) and sustainable purchasing. I have publications in outlets including International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, International Journal of Logistics Management, Business Strategy and the Environment, and Journal of Cleaner Production. I served as co-guest editor in special issues on SSCM for the International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management (ongoing), Latin America Business Review (2021) and Supply Chain Forum: An International Journal (ongoing). I am an active member of EurOMA and developed some activities with Emerald as I integrated the judge panel of the Emerald and EFMD outstanding doctoral research awards 2021.

Dr Lee Matthews: Assistant Professor in Business and Society at the International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (Nottingham University Business School). He has a PhD from the University of Manchester in Sustainable Supply Chain Management and has published in this area in journals such as Journal of Supply Chain Management, Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, and Organization. Lee's main areas of research is Sustainable Supply Chain Management and Ethical Sourcing with a focus on environmental ethics and environmental justice. His ongoing projects include: Biodiversity and ethical sourcing; Environmental justice and supply chain management; Climate change strategies in corporate supply chains. He was co-guest editor in a special issue on SSCM at Latin America Business Review (2021).

Dr Jia Yen Lai: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Global Studies and the Research Lead of Migration of the Asia region at Monash University Malaysia. Her research interest is at the interface between land-use governance, rural livelihoods and justice. She is particularly interested in how market-based instruments and various state and non-state actors (e.g., NGOs, MNCs, World Bank, UN) affect rural land-use and land cover change, how any conservation and development policies affect forests and the livelihoods of forest-dependent people, especially those under-represented social groups such as women, indigenous people and landless people. Jia Yen is conducting a three-year’s research project on deforestation-risk commodity supply chains and environmental justice in Southeast Asia. Related topics include globalized market, land tenure conflicts, and community-based approaches. She is also a commission member of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP).

Dr Marina D. Figueiredo: Full professor in Organization Studies in the University of Fortaleza. I hold my PhD in Management with emphasis on Culture and Organizational Learning at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. I am currently interested in the implications of the susteincentric paradigm in management theory and practice, in the evidence of the Anthropocene. I have publications in outlets including Scandinavian Journal of Management, Journal of Cleaner Production, Journal of Workplace Learning and the International Journal of Management Education. I play a leading role in scientific associations in Brazil, such as the National Association of Postgraduate Programs in Management (Associação Nacional dos Programas de Pós-Graduação em Administração - ANPAD) and the Brazilian Society for Organizational Studies (Sociedade Brasileira de Estudos Organizacionais).


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