Borrowing theories in humanitarian supply chain management
Journal article, 2015

Purpose Within the young research field of humanitarian logistics the use of theoretical concepts and frameworks to provide explanation and understanding of the phenomena under scrutiny is not yet well understood. There is still a lack of research on which theoretical approaches are used and to what extent this emerging field “borrows” theories from other disciplines. The aim of this paper is therefore to deepen the understanding of humanitarian logistics from a theoretical point of view by identifying and evaluating the use of theories in humanitarian logistics literature. Design/methodology/approach A literature review is conducted based on academic journal articles included in a well-recognized and publicly available bibliography on humanitarian logistics articles (Tatham, 2015). A content analysis is applied to the articles in terms of level of theory, research methodology, disaster management stages, disaster types and disaster name/region. Findings A trend towards using more established, “middle- range” theories, is evident. Nevertheless, the use of theoretical approaches is not evenly spread between the different phases of disaster relief. A strong emphasis on SCM as a background discipline is also mirrored in the choice of theories used, which indicates the solidification of humanitarian logistics as a primarily supply chain discipline. The lack of use of other theoretical perspectives and grand theories is, however, still evident, which provides an interesting research agenda for future research. Research limitations/implications The use of the bibliography limits the generalisation of the findings although some trends are evident. Originality/value This is a first review of theories used in humanitarian supply chain management. It provides an overview of the state of the art of humanitarian SCM research but contributes to the maturation of research in this field.


humanitarian supply chain

humanitarian logistics


Tunca Tabaklar

Hanken School of Economics

Arni Halldorsson

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Logistics & Transportation

Gyöngyi Kovács

Hanken School of Economics

karen spens

Hanken School of Economics

Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management

2042-6755 (eISSN)

Vol. 5 3 281-299

Areas of Advance


Subject Categories

Business Administration



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