Journal of Supply Chain Management 2021 Emerging Discourse Incubator: Managing Working Conditions in Supply Chains: Towards Decent Work

Decent work refers to “opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men” (ILO, 2019). The goal of decent work for all is enshrined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as SDG 8, “Decent work and Economic Growth”. Yet in many supply chains this goal remains elusive. For example, there is evidence that the supply chains of several prominent companies, such as Amazon, have not adequately addressed worker safety concerns in regard to the COVID-19 virus.

For decades, studies on decent work across disciplines like development studies, geography, political science, sociology and management have focused on various topics including barriers to decent work, causes of indecent work, and measures to improve and maintain decent work (e.g. Anker et al., 2003; Barrientos, 2013; Blustein et al., 2016; Grandey et al., 2015; Sehnbruch et al., 2015). Insights from these studies have informed policies and practices across the globe, many of them focused on the governance of global supply chains.

Research on working conditions in SCM is often conducted under the broader theme of sustainable supply chain management. Under this theme, research has focused on topics such as the supplier capabilities for social management (Huq et al., 2016), occupational health & safety (e.g. Cantor et al., 2017; Pagell et al., 2018), including that of emerging economy suppliers (Hamja et al., 2019), and the role of intermediaries in managing suppliers’ social practices (Soundararajan & Brammer, 2018; Wilhelm et al., 2016).

Nevertheless, a closer look at these studies suggests that decent work and SCM scholarship have had very little interaction. Therefore, this emerging discourse incubator encourages further attention to the interface of decent work and supply chain management. A key feature of such research would be that it accounted for the supply chain context, both within and between organizations. Within an organization, decisions about the composition and treatment of the workforce are often separate from supply chain decisions and these supply chain decisions often occur across multiple functions. Equally, supply chain decision makers often influence and are accountable not only for their own organization but also for what other organizations (often in other countries or in a remote supply chain tier) do. Guaranteeing decent work in a supply chain that is accountable to all of its stakeholders, including shareholders and managers, is highly complex, and research for this EDI should account for these complexities.

Research Opportunities

We seek high-quality empirical submissions that explore decent work in supply chains from diverse perspectives and that advance theory and practice in line with JSCM’s mission. While we are open to submissions using both qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as purely conceptual papers, submissions must make signification theoretical contributions. Authors are explicitly encouraged to incorporate insights from the two recent Emerging Discourse Incubators in the Journal of Supply Chain Management on “Research at the Intersection of Supply Chain Management and Public Policy and Government Regulation1 (Fugate et al., 2019) and “Research Where the Focal Actor in the Network is Not a For-Profit Firm2 (Pagell, Fugate, & Flynn, 2018; Pagell, Wiengarten, Fan, Humphreys, & Lo, 2018) and connect them to the topic of decent work in global supply chains.

Deadline: 31st January 2022

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Please direct any queries to guest editors Vivek Soundararajan ([log in to unmask]), Miriam Wilhelm ([log in to unmask]) and Andrew Crane ([log in to unmask]) or JSCM co-editor Mark Pagell ([log in to unmask])

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