Chapter 17 Challenges for global supply chains and opportunities for social innovation
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Supply chains have become increasingly dispersed to the extent that some of the most popular products on the market are sold by companies that barely engage in the manufacturing process. Dispersed supply chains limit firms’ ability to monitor and control critical processes, thus creating many challenges around sustainability and social responsibility, such as detecting the identity of suppliers or implementing sustainability policies along their supply chains. Presently, the main themes of research on supply chain management are efficiency, coordination, and reliability. As for organization theory and strategy research, the main research topics include the economics of supply chains, the environmental and social consequences of outsourcing, and the consequences of regularity arbitrage and competition. The core problem for effectively implementing global supply chain social innovation is visualizing supply chains. Furthermore, the pressure to advance firms’ ability to fully understand their production process and vet their globally dispersed supply chains can come from various sources: regulatory actions, consumer demands, voluntary coordination among industry participants, activism by social entrepreneurs, employee pressures, and shareholder pressures. Avenues for global supply chain social innovations abound. The authors offer some promising directions for future research, such as investigating the implications for entrepreneurial opportunities that put improving supply chain visibility at the core of their business model, the interplay between different social innovators in the supply chain context, and the viability and compatibility of “going local” with global outsourcing.

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