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Paper info: Sustainable distribution networks - challenges and opportunities


Sustainable distribution networks - challenges and opportunities


Kajsa Hulthén
Chalmers University of Technology
Kajsa Hulthén and
Lars-Erik Gadde
Chalmers University of Technology
Lars-Erik Gadde

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 25th IMP-conference in Marseille, France in 2009.


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During the last decades sustainable development has gained much attention from companies. The aim of the paper is to explore the challenges and opportunities associated with this enhanced attention to sustainability. Our basic point of departure is that this will require changes in the distribution arrangements in the industrial network. However, these arrangements are simultaneously affected by other ongoing reorganizing ambitions within the network. Three other such changes are identified; increasing customization, increasing activity interdependencies, and increasing specialization. In order to analyse how these changes impact on sustainability, three sustainability dimensions are identified; material consumption, transportation work, and facility exploitation. Our analysis shows a complex interplay among the three changes and the potential impact on sustainability. Customization supports some of the aspects of sustainability at the same time as other aspects are constrained. The same conditions are valid for the potential impact of interdependence and specialization. Our main conclusion from this paper is that the analytical framework used has shown to be useful for analysis of the multifaceted relationship between sustainability and the functioning and dynamics of distribution arrangements.