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Themes and challenges in making supply chains environmentally sustainable

Maisam Abbasi (Division of Packaging Logistics, Department of Design Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden and Center for Complexity in Operations and Logistics Management, Lund, Sweden)
Fredrik Nilsson (Division of Packaging Logistics, Department of Design Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden and Center for Complexity in Operations and Logistics Management, Lund, Sweden)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 3 August 2012

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this article is to explore themes and challenges in making supply chains environmentally sustainable.

Design/methodology/approach

The study began with a systematic review, and content analysis of articles in top‐ranking related journals from logistics, transport, sustainability and environmental areas, and ended with research propositions contributing to the further advancement of supply chain management.

Findings

The findings illustrate the major themes published in 18 journals concentrating on sustainable supply chains with special focus on environmental issues. From the systematic review five major areas of challenges for supply chain management are derived: costs, complexity, operationalisation, mindset and cultural changes, and uncertainties. From all of these areas synthesising discussions are provided and research propositions suggested. It is concluded that there is a great need for models and frameworks that consider the complexity involved, take holistic perspectives, and challenge the basic assumptions underlying most of the research published (i.e. reductionism, positivism and economic growth).

Research limitations/implications

Sustainability in this article is mainly related to environmental issues. Analysis of complex interactions between environmental, social and economic aspects might provide opportunities for future research.

Practical implications

The results presented in this paper provide a systematic structure for classifying issues related to logistics sustainability; something which will be beneficial for managers and policy‐makers when they approach sustainable supply chain management challenges.

Originality/value

This paper provides propositions for research based on the emergent outcome of challenges that can guide research, industry and policy‐makers in future sustainability efforts.

Keywords

Citation

Abbasi, M. and Nilsson, F. (2012), "Themes and challenges in making supply chains environmentally sustainable", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 17 No. 5, pp. 517-530. https://doi.org/10.1108/13598541211258582

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited