Production and operations management continues to change with market conditions, which prompts enterprises to adjust their business strategies, as well. Since the 1990s, the previous enterprise-centric strategy has been replaced by a customer-centric strategy, which derived a series of emerging production and operation management techniques and methods, including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), and Supply Chain Management (SCM). For instance, Gartner Group Inc. (Stamford, CT, USA), a renowned computer technology consulting and evaluation company in the United States, has summarized the development trend at 1990s, put forward a set of standards for enterprise management systems, and proposed ERP, which has been widely used all around the world (Powell, 2013 [1
]; Beheshti et al., 2014 [2
]). PLM is an important method to deal with the global product competition and uncertain market demand (Vezzetti and Alemanni, 2015 [3
]). When product development is more complex, PLM is helpful in achieving visualization of product project management (Samir et al., 2004 [4
]). Indeed, PLM has obtained an increasingly wide range of applications in the new product development process (Vezzetti et al., 2016 [5
As an important management ideology and method in production operation management, SCM is a long-standing concept. Most of the supply chain research starts with the manufacturing supply chain. Supply chain management
first appeared in 1982. SCM is used to describe the logistic management between organizations. Its development has gone through three stages: functional management, internal management, and external integration (Master, 1994 [6
]; Langley, 1992 [7
]). Some top journals started to focus on service operation management in the 1990s (Aleda and Larry, 2003 [8
]). Meanwhile, to deal with the problems in different scenarios, research on SCM has shifted to using a complex approach, instead of simply seeking to maximize profits or minimize costs. For example, SCM has integrated with the sustainable development concept to create many new trends in the academic field.
In 1987, the Brundtland report popularized the concept of sustainable development. (In 1983, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) convened by the United Nations was created to address growing concern about the consequences of the accelerating deterioration of the human environment and the natural resources. The outcome of the work by the WCED was the report “Our Common Future”. The report was quickly named the Brundtland Report in recognition of the chairman of the WCED, Gro Harlem Brundtland.) It identified the concept of sustainable development, which is meeting current development needs while not prejudicing our offspring to meet their needs. Since the Brundtland report was published, the concept of sustainable development has recently spread to various research areas, and the sustainable development of supply chain management has become a focus. With the continuous theoretical and practical expansion that began in the 1990s, green and environmental issues have begun to obtain widespread attention, and traditional supply chain management began to be evolved into the concept of sustainable development, forming sustainable supply chain management.
Sustainable supply chain management was proposed by Linton in 2007 [9
]. Afterward, many scholars carried out related studies. Some researchers have defined the term sustainable supply chain
from the level of management and economic profit, including Seuring and Mueller (2008) [10
], and Carter and Roger (2008) [11
]. Recently, research on supply chain management has also shifted from a reverse or close-loop supply chain to a green supply chain or sustainable supply chain management based on triple Bottom Line (TBL). TBL is an integration concept of economic bottom line, environmental bottom line and social bottom line. Nowadays, with the consideration of TBL, the focus of sustainable service supply chain management (SSSCM) has become to optimize the whole service supply chain’s economy, environment, and social performance.
At the same time, during the economic globalization process, the service industry has increased quickly, and its contribution to economic growth is increasingly obvious. Ellram (2004) [12
] has defined service supply chain
, which refers to a new supply chain, including information management, process management, competency management, service performance, and treasury management that occurs in professional services, from the upper stream supplier to the downstream customer. Nowadays, the definition of service supply chain has been extended, which includes Service Only Supply Chains (SOSCs) and the Product Service Supply Chains (PSSCs) (Wang et al., 2015) [13
]. In the aspect of SOSCs, Baltacioglu et al. (2007) [14
] define a service supply chain system as “a network of suppliers, service providers, consumers, and other supporting units that performs the functions of transactions of resources required to produce services; transformation of these resources into supporting and core services; and the delivery of these services to customers”. Demirkan and Cheng (2008) [15
] define an application service supply chain as a system composed of three parties: the service producer for infrastructure, the retail service provider, and the customer. In the real world, these kinds of service supply chains can be found in industries such as finance, telecommunication, Internet service, mobile apps, and tourism. In the aspect of PSSCs, many PSSCs manage physical products together with significant service considerations. Thus, there are both “services” and “physical products” in these supply chain systems. Arguably, there are more PSSCs than SOSCs explored in the literature. For example, we can find PSSCs in restaurant and food retail supply chains, product design and retailing supply chains, logistics service supply chain, and hotel supply chain (Sampson and Spring, 2012 [16
]; Wang et al., 2015 [13
]; Liu et al., 2016 [17
]). However, whether in PSSC or SOSC, a service integrator provides customized services to customer by integrating the service capacities of multiple functional service providers.
The global popularization of service outsourcing also has pushed the rise of the service supply chain (Hussain et al., 2015 [18
]; Baltacioglu et al., 2007 [14
]). However, due to the specific characteristics of service, including labor intensity, intangibility, and inseparability, subsequent problems have arisen. The constraints made by economics, the environment, and society, that is, the triple bottom line on the development of the service supply chain becomes increasingly prominent. The conflicts among environmental overconsumption, increasing social problems, and a low-profit operation model have restricted the sustainable development of the service supply chain. This situation is particularly evident in developing countries. Take the environment, for example: in a regional emission check of transportation vehicles in China’s logistic service supply chain, there were 17 logistics service providers and 78 logistics service vehicles in total that exceeds the emission standards. It accounts for about 10% of the total number of checked vehicles [19
]. These bad vehicles caused environmental pollution. As for the social aspect, in the hotel service supply chain, China’s hotel industry frequently reported some negative news in 2016, for example, the news entitled “Fast hotel washed out white bed sheets with caustic soda blending detergent”, has caused consumer concerns. This negative news indicates that the core firm of the hotel service supply chain has lost its social responsibility [20
]. From an economics aspect, consider the tourism service supply chain, for instance: in September of 2016, China’s well-known travel service integrator Youke tourism company filed for bankrupt, due to a default in the payment for suppliers about 17 million Yuan, which led to its capital chain break [21
]. Nevertheless, in November, another travel service integrator, the Chiyu tourism company, announced that its capital chain broke. One important reason for the capital chain breakage is that these service integrators’ management is too worse to lack the sustainability philosophy so that the companies’ profit is lower than the safe operation margin. The importance of research regarding the sustainable service supply chain becomes increasingly prominent, yet the related literature is rare, a framework of SSSCM is scarcer. This obvious gap is the motivation of our research.
Based on this, we review related papers in 2006–2015, use TBL to summarize those studies, propose a new framework for the SSSCM by combining existing supply chain research, and then provide a new research direction for future work.
We used the paper review method proposed by Mayring (2003) [22
] to summarize the existing research in 2006–2015, then we identified and chose papers based on this summary. The concrete steps are as follows: (1) source identification; (2) source selection and extraction; and (3) source evaluation and categories generation (Reim et al., 2015 [23
]; Agrawal et al., 2015 [24
]), as shown in Figure 1
The first step is source identification, which aims to select the literature related to our purpose and method. Therefore, this step should identify three main points: the source, keyword (if needed), and time distribution. Although the key words cannot fully capture all of the studies, the key words for obtaining the relevant areas of the main research is very helpful. According to the principle most relevant to this study, we used sustainable
+ supply chain
to search for headings and abstracts, but we must note that, even though some studies may show sustainable
+ supply chain
in the abstract or keyword section, the research topics of these studies are irrelevant and we removed them. For example, some research topics also discussed sustainable supply chain but focus on chemical reaction or design in supply chains in the research fields such as chemistry, electrochemistry, biochemistry, etc. so these studies have to be removed. The entire research process focuses only on journal articles, so conference papers, working papers, commentaries, and book reviews are not included (Reim et al., 2015 [23
]). In addition, the most commonly used academic databases are used during our study: Web of Science, Emerald, ProQuest Central, ScienceDirect, Wiley, and Taylor & Francis online (Reim et al. [23
], 2015; Agrawal et al., 2015 [24
]; Lotfizadeh et al., 2014 [25
]; Seuring, 2008 [26
]). These databases include multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed academic literature. In fact, these databases include mainstream research journals in the field of sustainable supply chains, in particular, top-level operational management journals, such as Omega, International Journal of Production Economics, International Journal of Production Research
, and European Journal of Operational Research
. At the same time, there are a number of journals that consider sustainability, such as Sustainability, Computers and Chemical Engineering
, and Sustainable Energy Reviews
, which have also been taken into consideration.
Although sustainability and supply chains both have a long history of research in their own fields, a crossover study actually began in the early 21st century. Carter and Rogers made a relatively clear definition of sustainable supply chain management
in 2008, defining it as the long-term economic benefits of the supply chain in which firms and enterprises are located, coordinating cross-organizational core business processes, and social, environmental, and economic objectives of the strategic and transparent integration and implementation. Based on our literature review, most of the studies on sustainable supply chain management have taken place in the last 10 years. As the first step, considering the goals of guiding future research and exploring new sustainable management frameworks, this paper selects papers published between 2006 and 2015, a total of 10 years, as the time span of our literature review. According to the source selection method shown in Figure 1
, Table 1
provides the number of original documents chosen.
According to Table 1
, three researchers read these original documents. If the topic or abstract of the literature has no obvious relationship with sustainable supply chain management, the document should be removed from the list. The excluded documents at this step are 2698 papers; the rest of the literature is comprised of 5203 papers.
The second step is resource selection and extraction. This step is designed to extract the target literature from the literature retrieved in the first step. Subject to the scope of the study, only studies with strong or direct links to the sustainable supply chain will be selected. Therefore, the inclusion criteria (Mayring, 2003 [22
]; Seuring, 2008 [26
]) are shown below:
It clearly discusses the sustainability of the supply chain including the explicit use of conceptual or empirical research to study the impact on supply chain sustainability. The explicit use means its theme has words “sustainable”, ”supply chain” or “supply network”, for example, Kannegiesse et al., 2015 [27
It implicitly discusses the sustainability of the supply chain, including implicitly articulating research on the value and perspective of supply chain sustainability. The implicit use means its theme does not have words “sustainable”, “supply chain” or “supply network” but the content are related with sustainable supply chain, for instance, Helin and Babri, 2014 [28
Three researchers spent 3 months reading the rest of the literature, in accordance with the above criteria. By checking the content in Table 1
, we further excluded 4405 papers that are unrelated, such as some chemical reactions (1977 papers), biological experiments (1065 papers), science and technology (873 papers), and other areas (490 papers). We eliminated articles that did not directly contribute to the sustainable supply chain management framework. The results are shown in Table 2
. The number of papers after elimination is 798.
The third step is source evaluation. Among the various definitions of sustainable development, the most central idea is that of the TBL approach, proposed by Elkington in 2002. The triple bottom line theory refers to the enterprise’s three responsibilities, namely, economic responsibility, environmental responsibility, and social responsibility. These three responsibilities constitute the bottom line of enterprise development. Economic responsibility
is the traditional corporate responsibility, mainly to improve profits, tax liability, and shareholder dividends for the shareholders. Environmental responsibility
refers to environmental protection. Social responsibility
is the responsibility to other stakeholders in society. Enterprises in the practice of corporate social responsibility must fulfill these three areas of responsibility. Most studies on SSCM are conducted based on TBL and many involve two or more bottom lines (Seuring and Mueller, 2008 [10
]). Therefore, our screening criterion also considers the TBL when we construct a sustainable supply chain management framework. As a result, 101 articles have been selected for our research; the spread of the database is shown in Table 3
. Those articles are distributed in major journals, as shown in Table 4
. It could be found that the total number of articles in Table 3
is 248, which is larger than 101, that is, the total number of articles in Table 4
. The reason behind this phenomenon is that one paper could be covered in different databases. Figure 2
shows the time spread of those papers. In Figure 3
, we can see that 91 of the ultimately identified articles contain environmental responsibility and economic responsibility, 23 contain economic responsibility and social responsibility, 21 contain environmental responsibility and social responsibility, and a total of 17 articles contain all three aspects of responsibility.
Sustainable development is the inevitable choice of the development of human society. Supply chain management will comply with the trend of sustainable development. Compared to the sustainability of the manufacturing supply chain, we find that some of the characteristics of the service industry, such as customer influence, immeasurability, and labor intensity, affect the implementation of the TBL in service supply chains. The existence of ternary relations in service supply chains will also affect the interaction of supply chain participants. Accordingly, from the perspective of ternary theory, we propose a framework for the sustainable operation of service supply chains. In this framework, the TBL has a close relationship with the ternary relationship of supply chains and has different effects at the strategic level and the operational level.
This paper reviews the literature on sustainable supply chain development based on the TBL in the last decade. The paper analyzes three typical sustainable development frameworks in the manufacturing supply chain, including the work of Ageron (2012) [70
], Amini (2014) [74
], Brandenburg (2015) [73
] and Seuring (2008) [26
], which exist in the service supply chain. The main features of these frameworks are combined. The main contribution of our research is that we propose a new service supply chain sustainable operation framework. Differing from Brandenburg (2015) [71
], who considered the sustainability of the supply chain from a single provider perspective, we believe that providers, integrators, and end users are interconnected in the context of a sustainable service supply chain system. Similarly, Seuring (2008) [26
] only builds a core business-oriented sustainable service supply chain management framework from the perspective of risk control and performance management. On basis of Seuring (2008) [26
], the strategic and operational considerations are added in our paper and a complete framework of SSSCM is obtained under the constraints of TBL. In addition, several new research agendas are proposed. We believe that the internal and external mechanisms of ternary relations are worthy of further study. Different from the agenda proposed by Roth and Menor (2003) [8
], we propose future research agendas at the strategic and tactical levels, from the perspective of the sustainability of the service supply chain, which will stand as a positive guide for future supply chain sustainability research.
The limitation of this paper is that we only study the sustainable service supply chain based on the ternary theory and TBL. However, the service supply chain may face many new external environments. New technical, managerial, and economic features will be included in the future studies. For example, under the influence of the global economy, emerging markets, and technologies, the sustainable management of service supply chains will become more diversified. The future research on sustainable service supply chain management and operations can combine with more external environment changes and new research opportunities to carry out more framework research in order to adapt to more realistic situations.