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Supply chain sustainability: learning from the COVID-19 pandemic

Joseph Sarkis (Foisie Business School, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA) (Hanken School of Economics, Humlog Institute, Helsinki, Finland)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 4 December 2020

Issue publication date: 24 December 2020




This paper, a pathway, aims to provide research guidance for investigating sustainability in supply chains in a post-COVID-19 environment.


Published literature, personal research experience, insights from virtual open forums and practitioner interviews inform this study.


COVID-19 pandemic events and responses are unprecedented to modern operations and supply chains. Scholars and practitioners seek to make sense of how this event will make us revisit basic scholarly notions and ontology. Sustainability implications exist. Short-term environmental sustainability gains occur, while long-term effects are still uncertain and require research. Sustainability and resilience are complements and jointly require investigation.

Research limitations/implications

The COVID-19 crisis is emerging and evolving. It is not clear whether short-term changes and responses will result in a new “normal.” Adjustment to current theories or new theoretical developments may be necessary. This pathway article only starts the conservation – many additional sustainability issues do arise and cannot be covered in one essay.

Practical implications

Organizations have faced a major shock during this crisis. Environmental sustainability practices can help organizations manage in this and future competitive contexts.

Social implications

Broad economic, operational, social and ecological-environmental sustainability implications are included – although the focus is on environmental sustainability. Emergent organizational, consumer, policy and supply chain behaviors are identified.


The authors take an operations and supply chain environmental sustainability perspective to COVID-19 pandemic implications; with sustainable representing the triple bottom-line dimensions of environmental, social and economic sustainability; with a special focus on environmental sustainability. Substantial open questions for investigation are identified. This paper sets the stage for research requiring rethinking of some previous tenets and ontologies.



Sarkis, J. (2021), "Supply chain sustainability: learning from the COVID-19 pandemic", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 41 No. 1, pp. 63-73.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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