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Trust development and horizontal collaboration in logistics: a theory based evolutionary framework

Francesco Pomponi (School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK)
Luciano Fratocchi (Department of Industrial and Information Engineering and Economics, University of L'Aquila, L’Aquila, Italy)
Silvia Rossi Tafuri (Supply Chain Research Centre, Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, UK)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 12 January 2015




The purpose of this article is to provide academicians and practitioners alike with a theory-based framework regarding horizontal collaboration in logistics. The proposed tool is based on an incremental perspective, according to two main dimensions: mutual trust among partners and the extent of the cooperation.


This study used a “synthesising” approach to gauge potential contributions previously spread across different streams of research and disciplines that are now integrated into the framework. We conduct a deep literature review to characterise the horizontal collaboration phenomenon along two levels of analysis. In doing so, we examined relevant literature in the field of horizontal cooperation in logistics to critically appraise aims of, impediments to and existing models for horizontal collaboration. Additionally, we reviewed seminal literature of four organisational theories to assess their potential to contribute to the theoretical foundations of the growing topic of horizontal collaboration. Transaction Cost Economics, Social Exchange, Resource Dependence and Social Dilemma represent the theoretical foundations to cast light to how to design and implement inter-organisational horizontal initiatives.


The proposed tool organises horizontal collaborations within three steps for each of the two levels of classification: trust and extent of the cooperation. The organisational theories reviewed play different roles to help in different stages of the horizontal collaboration. Additionally, for each combination of trust/extent of the cooperation coherent pairs of aims of the collaboration and assets that are to be shared are defined.

Research limitations/implications

The article represents the first attempt to analyse horizontal collaboration from within the discipline itself and from the wider field of SCM through other well-established theoretical lenses. The proposed tool has shed some light into the black box of (un)successful horizontal collaboration, but it is theory based – which represents its main limitations – thus, requiring further testing of the research streams suggested in the paper.

Practical implications

The article not only gives insights into theoretical challenges of horizontal collaborations that needs further investigation but is also useful to companies involved in horizontal collaborations by helping define coherent assets that are to be shared to achieve specific goals. In its more theoretical underpinning, the framework can also inspire the partnership philosophy and help sketch a collaborative evolutionary path.


The lack of a theoretically robust landmark that could help understand, design and implement horizontal collaborations has been defined as a major theoretical and practical shortcoming. The article represents the first contribution aimed at filling that gap.



The authors would like to acknowledge the insightful feedbacks received by the reviewers and Giorgia Pecorari for the inspiration. This paper contributes to the knowledge created by the project Collaboration Concepts for Comodality (CO3) funded by the EU under the 7FP.


Pomponi, F., Fratocchi, L. and Rossi Tafuri, S. (2015), "Trust development and horizontal collaboration in logistics: a theory based evolutionary framework", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 83-97.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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