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Production Planning & Control

For a Special Issue on

The Role of Technology in Improving Supply Chain Social Sustainability

Manuscript deadline
31 July 2025

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Fu (Jeff) Jia, University of York, UK
[email protected]

Lujie Chen , Xian Jiaotong Liverpool University, China
[email protected]

Yang Cheng, Aalborg University, Denmark
[email protected]

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The Role of Technology in Improving Supply Chain Social Sustainability


Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SSCM) has garnered significant attention both from academics and practitioners, as the need for sustainable practices continues to grow. Companies across the globe are actively redesigning their business operations to prioritize the creation of eco-friendly products and services, while also incorporating sustainability considerations into their supply chains (Anisul Huq et al., 2014). Particularly, there are mounting social issues that need to be addressed by companies in their production and supply chains, such as the fair treatment of workers, ethical labor practices, the well-being of local communities and optimization of resource usage (Agyemang et al., 2022; Chaudhuri et al., 2023). Consequently, the social pillar of SSCM has gained prominence among diverse stakeholders, compelling organizations to tackle with these pertinent social challenges (Grybauskas et al., 2022; Shet and Pereira, 2021). It is crucial to recognize that poor management of social sustainability can lead to damaged reputation, reduced employee morale and motivation, ultimately affecting efficiency and effectiveness (Golicic et al., 2020; Macchion et al., 2018). Against this backdrop, integrating social sustainability into SSCM becomes an appealing concept, offering strategic coordination within the traditional business framework to enhance the well-being of employees, suppliers, and all other stakeholders involved throughout the supply chain (Sodhi and Tang, 2018). By adopting a holistic approach encompassing social aspects, SSCM contributes to creating positive social outcomes, while aligning with sustainable business objectives.

Social sustainability takes into account the human aspect of sustainability, focusing on improving quality of life and compelling decision-makers to carefully consider the potential social impacts of their choices (Mani et al., 2016). It plays a vital role in attaining sustainable objectives within supply chains and enhancing competitive advantage (Grybauskas et al., 2022; Chaudhuri et al., 2023). Certain countries have taken significant steps to address socially unsustainable practices within supply chains through strengthened regulations. A notable example is the Modern Slavery Act 2015 in the UK and the California Supply Chain Transparency Act in the US, which aim to curb such practices (Han et al., 2022). These regulatory measures have had far-reaching effects, spurring other nations to respond as well. One noteworthy development is Canada's Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act, which recently receives royal assent and is scheduled to become law on January 1, 2024 (Phung and LeBaron, 2023). These regulations have created substantial pressure for companies to proactively address social risks within global supply chains, ensuring avoidance of issues like forced labor, unethical procurement, and illegal recruitment. Such attention to social risks is crucial in order to maintain ethical business practices and uphold the dignity of workers involved. By prioritizing social sustainability, organizations can foster equitable supply chains that reflect responsible and conscientious approaches to sourcing and production.

Meanwhile, as the discussions surrounding digital technologies and Industry 4.0 gain traction, researchers are increasingly examining the link between technology and social sustainability within SSCM (Bag et al., 2018). Scholars, such as Khan et al. (2021), suggest that incorporating emergent technologies, such as Big Data Analytics (BDA) (Roßmann et al., 2018), Internet of Things (IoT) (Song et al., 2019), RFID, sensors, social media (Orji et al., 2020), and Blockchain Technology (Kamble et al., 2020), into SSCM represents a natural extension from their existing application in the economic and environmental domains. Generally speaking, the integration of technology into supply chain management has demonstrated considerable value in fostering socially sustainable practices (Khan et al., 2021; Zhou et al., 2023). Past studies have identified various technology-enabled SSCM strategies focus on the social pillar, encompassing ethical sourcing, robust non-financial reporting, and responsible recruitment (Chaudhuri et al., 2023; Sharif and Ghodoosi, 2022). One such example is the adoption of blockchain technology by LVMH Group (the parent company of Louis Vuitton) to trace the origin of its luxury goods supply chain. By using blockchain, each step of the manufacturing process can be securely recorded and verified (Choi, 2023). This helps ensure that products are ethically sourced, which, in turn, improves the well-being of workers involved in mining or harvesting these raw materials. Furthermore, it is also contended that digital technologies can improve corporate social performance by enhancing working environments, preventing accidents, and facilitating remote work arrangements, particularly amid the ongoing pandemic (Ambrogio et al., 2022). Overall, leveraging these technological advancements holds great promise in promoting positive social outcomes while concurrently advancing sustainability objectives within supply chains.

Although numerous scholars have discussed the influence of technologies on SSCM, research on social sustainability is far less extensive than environmental and economic sustainability, indicating that this field remains in its nascent stages and requires more attention (Lim et al., 2021). Notably, most existing studies are exploratory and conceptual in nature, empirical evidence (e.g., real implementation case) that focuses on social sustainability are missing in the SSCM literature. Thus, there is a need to gain more insights regarding how to tackle with social challenges in SSCM through advancing the applications of emergent technologies.

Motivated by this consideration, the aim of this Special Issue is to bring together original research, conceptual, and review articles that highlight the role of technology in SSCM with a special focus on social sustainability. We welcome papers encompassing the full range of empirically based research methodologies including (but not limited to) surveys, and secondary data analysis (e.g., event study and panel data analysis) and experiments. Papers adopting mixed methodology are also welcomed. However, pure modelling and simulation papers or literature reviews including conceptual papers are beyond our consideration.

Potential Research Topics

Contributions are welcomed in various topic areas that include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • What is the role of various digital transformation (e.g., Gen AI, blockchain, IoT, RFID, cloud computing, machine learning) in enabling social sustainability in supply chain?
  • What are the roles of different stakeholders within the supply chain in enabling technology-related social sustainability practices?
  • What are the potential barriers and enablers for the technology adoption to achieve supply chain social sustainability?
  • Trade-offs between social sustainability and supply chain efficiency.


Agyemang, M., Kusi-Sarpong, S., Agyemang, J., Jia, F., & Adzanyo, M. (2022). Determining and evaluating socially sustainable supply chain criteria in agri-sector of developing countries: insights from West Africa cashew industry. Production Planning & Control, 33(11), 1115-1133.

Ambrogio, G., Filice, L., Longo, F., & Padovano, A. (2022). Workforce and supply chain disruption as a digital and technological innovation opportunity for resilient manufacturing systems in the COVID-19 pandemic. Computers & Industrial Engineering, 169, 108158.

Anisul Huq, F., Stevenson, M., & Zorzini, M. (2014). Social sustainability in developing country suppliers: An exploratory study in the ready made garments industry of Bangladesh. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 34(5), 610-638.

Bag, S., Telukdarie, A., Pretorius, J. H. C., & Gupta, S. (2018). Industry 4.0 and supply chain sustainability: framework and future research directions. Benchmarking, 28(5), 1410-1450.

Chaudhuri, A., Bhatia, M. S., Kayikci, Y., Fernandes, K. J., & Fosso-Wamba, S. (2023). Improving social sustainability and reducing supply chain risks through blockchain implementation: Role of outcome and behavioural mechanisms. Annals of Operations Research, 1-33.

Choi, T. M. (2023). Supply chain financing using blockchain: Impacts on supply chains selling fashionable products. Annals of Operations Research, 331(1), 393-415.

Golicic, S. L., Lenk, M. M., & Hazen, B. T. (2020). A global meaning of supply chain social sustainability. Production Planning & Control, 31(11-12), 988-1004.

Grybauskas, A., Stefanini, A., & Ghobakhloo, M. (2022). Social sustainability in the age of digitalization: A systematic literature Review on the social implications of industry 4.0. Technology in Society, 70, 101997.

Han, C., Jia, F., Jiang, M., & Chen, L. (2022). Modern slavery in supply chains: a systematic literature review. International Journal of Logistics Research and Applications, 1-22.

Lim, M. K., Li, Y., Wang, C., & Tseng, M. L. (2021). A literature review of blockchain technology applications in supply chains: A comprehensive analysis of themes, methodologies and industries. Computers & Industrial Engineering, 107–133.

Kamble, S. S., Gunasekaran, A., Kumar, V., Belhadi, A., & Foropon, C. (2021). A machine learning based approach for predicting blockchain adoption in supply Chain. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 163, 120465.

Khan, S. A. R., Zkik, K., Belhadi, A., & Kamble, S. S. (2021). Evaluating barriers and solutions for social sustainability adoption in multi-tier supply chains. International Journal of Production Research, 59(11), 3378-3397.

Macchion, L., Da Giau, A., Caniato, F., Caridi, M., Danese, P., Rinaldi, R., & Vinelli, A. (2018). Strategic approaches to sustainability in fashion supply chain management. Production Planning & Control, 29(1), 9-28.

Mani, V., & Gunasekaran, A. (2018). Four forces of supply chain social sustainability adoption in emerging economies. International Journal of Production Economics, 199, 150-161.

Orji, I. J., Kusi-Sarpong, S., & Gupta, H. (2020). The critical success factors of using social media for supply chain social sustainability in the freight logistics industry. International Journal of Production Research, 58(5), 1522-1539.

Phung, K., & LeBaron, G. (2023). Canada’s Modern Slavery Act is the start—not the end—of efforts to address the issue in supply chains [Online]. Available at: [Accessed on September 5, 2023]

Roßmann, B., Canzaniello, A., von der Gracht, H., & Hartmann, E. (2018). The future and social impact of Big Data Analytics in Supply Chain Management: Results from a Delphi study. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 130, 135-149.

Sharif, M. M., & Ghodoosi, F. (2022). The Ethics of Blockchain in Organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 178(4), 1009-1025.

Shet, S. V., & Pereira, V. (2021). Proposed managerial competencies for Industry 4.0–Implications for social sustainability. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 173, 121080.

Sodhi, M. S., & Tang, C. S. (2018). Corporate social sustainability in supply chains: a thematic analysis of the literature. International Journal of Production Research, 56(1-2), 882-901.

Song, Z., Sun, Y., Wan, J., Huang, L., Xu, Y., & Hsu, C. H. (2019). Exploring robustness management of social internet of things for customization manufacturing. Future Generation Computer Systems, 92, 846-856.

Zhou, X., Lu, H., & Xu, Z. (2023). A balance of economic advancement and social needs via improving supply chain traceability for future food sustainability: an empirical study from China. Production Planning & Control, 1-21.

Special Editorial Team

Prof. Fu (Jeff) Jia, University of York, UK is Chair Professor of Supply Chain Management at the York Management School, University of York. His research interests include supply relationship management in a cross-cultural context, global sourcing, supply chain learning and innovation, and sustainable supply management. Prof Jia is currently leading a project team investigating the adoption of new technologies in SCF. Prof Jia has an extensive track record of publications in supply chain management and logistics journals such as Journal of Operations Management, International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, International Journal of Production Economics, Journal of Business Logistics, International Business Review, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Journal of Cleaner Production, Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management and International Journal of Logistics Management. Prof Jia is also an Associate Editor and a Guest Editor of two special issues (The Role of Digital Transformation in Empowering Supply Chain Finance; The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Technologies’ Disruption on Operations and Supply Chain Management) of International Journal of Operations and Production Management. He also serves as an associate editor to Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, sits on the editorial review board of Industrial Marketing Management and serves as a regular reviewer for many leading OM/SCM and general management journals.

Prof. Lujie Chen, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China is a Senior Associate Professor of Management at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University and an Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Liverpool in the UK. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK and an expert in the fields of supply chain management and business analytics. Prof. Chen have published over 60 high-quality and impactful papers in top-tier journals such as the Journal of Operations Management (UTD 24), Harvard Business Review (FT50), International Journal of Operations and Production Management (ABS 4), British Journal of Management (ABS 4), and European Journal of Operational Research (ABS 4), among others. She has served as a guest editor for special issues of several respected journals such as International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Industrial Marketing Management, International Journal of Production Economics, and Journal of Business Research. She is currently serving as an Associate Editor for the International Journal of Operations and Production Management (ABS 4).

Assoc. Prof. Yang Cheng is an associate professor at Department of Materials and Production, Aalborg University, Denmark and a visiting professor at School of Business Administration, Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics, China. Dr. Cheng has an extensive research experience in global manufacturing/operations network, supply chain management, and knowledge transfer. In these fields, he has published more than 80 articles in academic journals, e.g., International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, International Journal of Production Research, International Journal of Production Economics; Production Planning and Control. Meanwhile, he is the Associate Editor for Production Planning and Control and Supply Chain Analytics, the editorial board member for International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Industrial Management & Data Systems, Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, and Journal of Digital Economy, and the guest editor for International Journal of Production Research, Annal of Operations Research, and International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management.

Submission Instructions

Submission and Review Process

Submitted papers must adhere to the standard author guidelines of the Production Planning & Control. Submissions must be made via the journal's submission portal (accessible via the journal homepage) indicating that the submission is for this special issue. Papers submitted to the special issue will be reviewed according to the normal procedure required by the journal.

The following deadlines apply to this Special Issue:

  • Submission system opens: October 31st, 2024
  • Submission system closes: July 31st, 2025

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article