Breaking bad: how can supply chain management better address illegal supply chains?

Mellie Pullman, Lucy McCarthy, Carlos Mena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This pathway paper offers research guidance for investigating illegal supply chains as they increasingly threaten societies, economies and ecosystems. There are implications for policy makers to consider incorporating supply chain expertise.

The authors’ work is informed by the team's previous and ongoing studies, research from fields such as criminology, investigative journalism and legal documents.

Illegality occurs in many supply chains and consists in multiple forms. Certain sectors, supply chain innovations, longer supply chains, and heterogeneous regulations and enforcement exacerbate illegal activities. But illegal activity may be necessary for humanitarian, religious or nationalistic reasons. These areas are under explored by supply chain researchers.

Research limitations/implications
By encouraging supply chain academics to research in this area as well as form collaborative partnerships outside of the discipline, the authors hope to move the field forward in prevention as well as learning from illegal supply chains.

Practical implications
Practitioners seek to prevent issues like counterfeiting with their products as well as fraud for economic and reputational reasons.

Social implications
Governments strive to minimise impacts on their economies and people, and both governments and NGOs attempt to minimise the negative social and environmental impacts. Policy makers need supply chain researchers to evaluate new laws to prevent enabling illegality in supply chains.

As an under-explored area, the authors suggest pathways such as partnering with other disciplines, exploring why these supply chains occur, considering other data sources and methodologies to interdict illegality and learning from illegal supply chains to improve legal supply chains.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-314
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited.

Structured keywords

  • Food Justice Network


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