No Business Without Politics: Investigating the Political Nature of Supply Chain Management

Research output: ThesisPh.D. thesis


Supply chain management (SCM) is undergoing significant development in aca-demia and business, but also in the daily lives of many. At the same time, the in-creased pressure on the supply chains is revealing inherent flaws in the global sys-tems of trade, as sustainability issues are arising. Thus, it seems more relevant now than ever to research SCM. A rethinking of SCM is necessary to understand and navigate the complexity of global supply chains. This paper-based dissertation pro-vides such a rethinking by combining political thinking with SCM, ultimately an-swering the question: How does understanding the political nature of SCM alter the way in which researchers investigate it and practitioners approach it?

The five research chapters and the cape contribute to this rethinking in that various themes are explored using methods that are often used in political research. First, panarchy theory is explored, shedding light on supply chain complexity. Second, the political aspects of panarchy theory are investigated to provide reflections on social sustainability in SCM. Moving towards philosophy of science, the third re-search chapter deals with critical realism as a philosophy that can help us understand contemporary issues. Fourth, political mechanisms underlying the coffee supply chain are investigated. And finally, political philosophy is introduced to SCM in a novel thought experiment.

To conclude, the implications for research and practice are discussed. For research, five prerequisites for political SCM are explored. These prerequisites are related to the key aspects of research: epistemology, ontology, axiology, theory, and methods. For practice, the social, environmental, and managerial implications are discussed. Ultimately, the conclusion is clear: SCM can be understood as a political activity, which calls for changes among researchers and practitioners.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Copenhagen Business School
  • Wieland, Andreas, Supervisor, External person
  • Beske-Janssen, Philip, Supervisor, External person
Print ISBNs978-87-7568-167-9
Electronic ISBNs978-87-7568-168-6
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


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