Sustainability governance of chains and networks: a review and future outlook

Bush, S.R.; Oosterveer, P.J.M.; Bailey, M.L.; Mol, A.P.J.


This paper reviews the extent to which sustainability governance has been integrated into the literature on sustainable chains and networks. The analysis brings together four main approaches to chains and network studies – supply chain management (SCM), global commodity chains (GCC), global value chains (GVCs) and global production networks (GPNs) – to examine how and the extent to which sustainability and sustainability governance are conceptualised and incorporated into their analytical frameworks. The results point to a shift in this combined literature from conceptualising the formation of global chains and networks as sites of inequality under conditions of globalisation, towards a renewed vision on the potential of chains as a site for social and environmental reform. Overall, however, we conclude that the literature on global chains and networks has not adequately conceptualised distinct modes of sustainability governance. In response, we offer an amended typology for identifying how firm and non-firm actors govern sustainability in chains, of chains and through chains in globalised commodity production and consumption. The paper finishes with an exploration of the research frontiers, challenges and continuing potential of chain and network studies to understand the governance of sustainability and a call for further academic debate on the kinds of integrated governance arrangements necessary for future sustainability reform through hybridised public-private economic practice.