Horizontal cooperation in disaster relief logistics: benefits and impediments

Sabine F. Schulz (Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany)
Alexander Blecken (Heinz Nixdorf Institute, Paderborn, Germany)

International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

ISSN: 0960-0035

Publication date: 7 September 2010



The purpose of this paper is to further the understanding of opportunities involved in horizontal cooperation in disaster relief logistics. The potential and realized benefits of horizontal cooperation in disaster relief logistics, as well as related impediments are investigated.


Case study research into three cooperative humanitarian organization initiatives.


To a large extent, the same potential synergies exist in the humanitarian as in the private sector, but not all of the potential benefits have yet been realized. Humanitarian organizations focus less on cost aspects than on lead‐time and quality improvements. It is apparent that smaller organizations can benefit most from a cooperative approach. Four main impediments to a cooperative approach are identified. These concern: the perception of logistics as one of the organization's own core competences, cultural differences and mutual mistrust, a lack of transparency regarding the potential and existing benefits and inadequate relief capacities.

Research limitations/implications

Research on horizontal cooperation in logistics is strengthened. A service provider model is selected as the mode of horizontal cooperation and the findings are valid only for this model.

Practical implications

The presented benefits may be of assistance to humanitarian organizations assessing participation in a cooperation initiative. The indicated impediments may also serve as a guide for humanitarian organizations in horizontal cooperation considerations.


Research on horizontal cooperation in logistics is scarce in both the private sector and the humanitarian domain. It appears that no other rigorous and systematic empirical study comparing existing logistics cooperation initiatives exists as yet.



Schulz, S. and Blecken, A. (2010), "Horizontal cooperation in disaster relief logistics: benefits and impediments", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 40 No. 8/9, pp. 636-656. https://doi.org/10.1108/09600031011079300

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