Empowering the Transition Towards a Circular Economy: Empirically-Driven Research in Closed-Loop Supply Chains
• 大类 : 工程技术 - 2区
• 小类 : 工程：工业 - 1区
• 小类 : 工程：制造 - 2区
• 小类 : 运筹学与管理科学 - 1区
For a long time, economic growth has been driven by substantial depletion of natural resources and degradation of ecosystems, also resulting in adverse impacts on humans. Finding ways to implement production systems and supply chains inspired by alternative economic principles has therefore become crucial if the boundaries of environmental sustainability have to be extended. Such concerns have been pushing towards the transition from a linear to a circular economic model, in a bid to alleviate environmental impacts.
As a result, national and international bodies (such as the European Union) have announced ambitious initiatives. An increasing number of regulations and directives are aimed at closing the loop of product lifecycles through greater recycling, remanufacturing and reuse, with the objective of benefiting both the environment (by promoting energy savings, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and resource efficiency) and the economy (by creating green and sustainable jobs).
Within this context, the field of closed-loop supply chain management is gaining momentum both in the academic literature and in industrial practice (Battini et al., 2017). However, many scholars have argued that in economic contexts dominated by free-market ideologies, companies might have already captured most of the economically attractive opportunities to recycle, remanufacture and reuse. This leads them to claim that reaching higher levels of circularity may involve an economic cost many companies cannot cope with. For this reason, while environmental benefits of closed-loop supply chains are obvious, the implementation of such systems is often challenging from an economic perspective, as market dynamics and the lack of incentives may lead to higher cost of production (Genovese et al., 2017). As such, the transition towards a circular economy would be accelerated by a better synchronisation of environmental and economic gains of closed-loop supply chain practices.
Having said that, some cases of successful implementation of practices inspired by a circular economy paradigm can be identified. As an example, Hewlett–Packard used to consider consumer returns as a problem rather than an opportunity. Nowadays, this company efficiently integrates reverse flows of materials as a natural part of their business, and views remanufacturing as a strategic weapon (Atasu et al., 2010). Analogously, many other large companies, such as Xerox, Caterpillar and Toyota, have also incorporated circular economy principles in their operations, using them as a strategic tool to improve profitability (Zhou et al., 2017; Abbey and Guide, 2018).
Nevertheless, the advancement of closed-loop supply chain research and practice has suffered from a noticeable gap, as reported by several authors. For example, Guide and van Wassenhove (2009, p. 17) highlighted that “many assumptions […] are rapidly becoming institutionalized [in this area], and this can reduce modelling efforts to elegant solutions addressing non-existent problems”. In fact, the current lack of empirical focus in this research area may lead to erroneous conceptualisations and to research whose impact on real-world operations is quite limited. In light of these concerns, there is a fundamental need for empirically-grounded research (see e.g. Souza 2013 and Goltsos et al. 2018; Mokhtar et al., 2019). This requires researchers and practitioners to pose and investigate industrially-relevant research questions, thus facilitating knowledge-transfer for the development of environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable production and distribution systems.
The purpose of this Special Issue (SI) is to advance the limited knowledge of the practical problems arising in closed-loop supply chain settings and to suggest solutions for better managing such systems. We aim to publish high-quality research pieces addressing the opportunities and challenges associated with real-world closed-loop supply chain management issues.
This SI aims to attract contributions with a strong empirical basis. Submitted papers must be clearly motivated by practical problems and supported by real-world data and/or interaction with stakeholders involved in closed-loop supply chain settings (either in private or public sectors). The SI will be characterised by a pluralistic methodological stance. Submissions based on traditional empirical research, employing either quantitative or qualitative approaches, are particularly encouraged. Model-based papers are welcome provided they are strongly empirically grounded and have clear implications for practice. Also, contributions applying simulation and mathematical modelling frameworks to real-world case studies are welcome. In all cases, authors are required to provide a section specifically devoted to the managerial implications of their work, highlighting the practical impact of their contribution on closed-loop supply chain operations.
Potential topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:
Product acquisition management and design of an appropriate transportation channel for efficient closed-loop supply chain management
Pretesting, quality grading, and selection of the appropriate recovery option for the products collected from the market
Production planning of remanufacturing and recycling facilities and inventory control of recoverable inventories
Forecasting the quality and quantity of returns in closed-loop settings
(Re)marketing of remanufactured and recycled products, and the interplays with the demand of new products
Application of systemic paradigms, like Lean, and collaborative solutions, like CPFR, to the management of closed-loop production and distribution systems
Synchronisation and coordination of closed-loop supply chains, including incentive alignment considerations between the different partners involved
Implications deriving from the structure of the remanufacturing process (e.g., third-party centralized remanufacturing, hybrid manufacturing/remanufacturing systems, etc.)
Risk and relationship management in closed-loop supply chains and distribution systems
Supply chain coordination mechanisms for fostering the implementation of circular economy practices
Supplier selection in closed-loop supply chains
Economic, environmental and social assessment of closed-loop supply chains