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Humanitarian logistics: the role of logistics service providers

Diego Vega (NEOMA Business School, Reims, France)
Christine Roussat (Clermont-Ferrand University and CRET-LOG, Clermont-Ferrand, France.)

International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

ISSN: 0960-0035

Article publication date: 5 May 2015




In recent years, logistics service providers (LSPs) have become important players in the humanitarian field, providing support for NGOs and governments when they respond to major disasters. However, the academic literature on humanitarian logistics has not really explored the roles that LSPs play in relief supply chains. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of LSPs in humanitarian relief.


The research uses a two-stage exploratory approach: first, it systematically reviews the humanitarian logistics literature to see the extent to which LSPs are taken into account. Then it analyses the web sites of leading LSPs to examine how they communicate about their role in humanitarian relief.


This research produces some surprising findings. While the academic literature seems to neglect the roles of LSPs in humanitarian logistics, some major third-party firms highlight their roles in relief networks. A number of research propositions are presented describing emerging roles for LSPs in relief supply chains.

Research limitations/implications

This paper focuses on academic humanitarian logistics literature; a review of practitioner articles and the LSP literature might also be relevant. The web site analysis is based on corporate communication which may contain bias. Further research should add to this work with NGO/government perspectives and produce primary data in order to demonstrate the external validity of the research propositions.

Practical implications

The research identifies different roles LSPs could play in humanitarian supply chains, suggesting opportunities for new business lines.


The main contributions of this paper are to explore the roles LSPs could play in humanitarian logistics and to bring a new perspective to humanitarian logistics research.



The authors would like to thank the reviewers and NOFOMA’s scientific committee for their comments and suggestions to improve the paper. They also want to thank Professor Nathalie Fabbe-Costes for her constant support, guidance and inspiration.


Vega, D. and Roussat, C. (2015), "Humanitarian logistics: the role of logistics service providers", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 45 No. 4, pp. 352-375.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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