Building Up Resilience in Supply Chains

Project: Other projectResearch collaboration

Project Details


The overall aim for BURNS is to better understand and begin to theorise the factors that underpin resilient supply chains, whilst recognising the diversity of practice across chains, commodities and supply chain actors. In order to do this the project has the following objectives:

a) To set up an academic and practitioner network to share best practice in supply chain management from a variety of models from fair trade partnerships to corporate supply initiatives.
b) Critically analyse current understanding of resilience and sustainability in agricultural supply chains from a variety of theoretical, legal and stakeholder perspectives.
c) Collate and share examples of current conceptual and contractual approaches to resilient supply chains that include upstream stakeholders’ perspectives.
d) Work with practitioner partners (manufacturers, traders, processors, fair trade organisations, NGOs and Southern Producer Groups etc.) to identify key aspects of resilient supply chains and case studies/ data sets that could underpin future in-depth research.
e) To develop a major research grant proposal.

Layman's description

BURNS (Building Up Resilience in Supply Chains) is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the three White Rose Universities (University of York, University of Leeds and University of Sheffield). Our aim has been to see to what extent a focus on sustainability in agricultural supply chains can lead to more resilient supply chains. We have built an academic and practioner network to look at the main challenges, draw out the key tensions and then to model what should be the properties of a resilient supply chain.

Key findings

We have carried out a systematic literature review focusing on key search terms such as resilience, food and supply chains. A total of 251 relevant articles were found, the majority of which were in business journals, particularly in the areas of logistics and supply chain management, but also in sustainable business and food systems, as well as papers that engage with resilience from a socio-ecological perspective.

Our systematic analysis of the academic literature has highlighted a gulf in understanding of resilience in the context of agricultural supply chains between academic disciplines (e.g. logistics and supply chain management compared to socio-ecological studies). Most supply chain and logistics literature is concerned with the ‘focal’ firm rather than whole chain. Sometimes this literature relates to CSR and sustainability but in a sense of compliance rather than impact and it does not consider resilience in an ecological or community sense. Legal analysis follows supply chain and logistics view. Most of the sustainable supply chain management literature is similarly focused on ‘greening’ and compliance rather than systems (whether chain or eco-system). In contrast the socio-ecological resilience literature often has a focus on a specific location, though more recent literature refers to multi-level governance and may relate to climate change, but also natural disasters. There tends to be a limited application to economic issues. With the exception of a few articles, there seems to be a gap between the socio-ecological literature and the supply chain literature in terms of what ecological resilience along a whole supply chain may mean, especially for food chains, suggesting a large research gap.
Moreover, our engagement with practitioners via a full day workshop has highlighted a gap between published academic literature and commercial and NGO thinking and practice. Through our analysis of the literature and stakeholder engagement we aim to build up shared understanding of resilience in the context of agricultural supply chains and set an agenda for inter-disciplinary research that enhances ability to build up resilience in agricultural supply chains.
Our analysis raises issues regarding an what is an appropriate conceptual framing for better understanding resilience in the context of agricultural supply chains, including: the appropriate focus of analysis (resilience for whom, incorporating views and needs at the bottom of the chain as well as those at the top), the need to have a dynamic approach that how engage with non-linear processes of environmental (and societal) change and the need to incorporate governance and understanding of power relations.
Effective start/end date1/07/1330/06/14