This event has now finished.
  • Date and time: Wednesday 7 February 2024, 1pm to 3pm
  • Location: In-person only
    ATB/042 Lecture Room, Seebohm Rowntree Building (ATB), Campus West, University of York (Map)
  • Audience: Open to staff, students (postgraduate researchers only)
  • Admission: Free admission, booking required

Event details

This workshop aims to bring together academics from various disciplines who share an interest in complex systems and supply chain sustainability. Our objective is to facilitate in-depth investigations into multi-level interactions, such as the intricate relationships between ecosystems and supply chains. While the existence of these interactions is widely acknowledged, comprehensive studies in this area are still lacking.

We envision this workshop as a unique platform for collaboration, where participants can identify joint project ideas, explore research opportunities, and foster interdisciplinary partnerships to tackle the pressing challenges of supply chain sustainability.

In today's complex and ever-evolving landscape, evaluating the effectiveness of decisions regarding the reorientation and redesign of supply chains, particularly with an emphasis on sustainability initiatives, presents a formidable challenge. These decisions are influenced by a multitude of factors that span across businesses, supply chain stages, policy frameworks, the natural environment, political discourse, and geopolitical relationships, among other critical considerations. Such complexity is applicable not only to existing supply networks, but also to the transformative efforts aimed at shaping future supply networks that better align with the needs of society.

For instance, the transition to circular supply chains has ripple effects across various levels, including policy adjustments, supply chain structures, ecosystems, organisational practices, inter-organisational dynamics, product design and life cycles, and individual management strategies. While certain aspects of these issues have been addressed through within-level analyses, we believe that a more comprehensive approach is required to fully grasp the intricacies of these multi-level interactions.

We have witnessed significant advancements in individual research areas, such as organisation processes and business models, but the time has come to unite these disparate threads of knowledge. By fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange across diverse academic disciplines, we can unlock new perspectives and insights into the complexities of supply chain sustainability.

Theoretical background

Panarchy theory (Holling, 2001) offers a theoretical background for analysing multi-level connections based on within-level dynamics and developments. “A panarchy is a representation of a hierarchy as a nested set of adaptive cycles. The functioning of those cycles and the communication between them determines the sustainability of a system“ (Holling, 2001, p.396). Panarchy theory explains what dynamics can translate between different levels of analysis (upwards or downwards) and when these interactions create a significant effect on another level (Allen et al., 2014). 

Originating from the field of ecology, panarchy theory has seen relatively little application in supply chain management but offers potential for explaining effects across time, geographical distances, and levels (Wieland, 2021). For example, the theory can help explain how coffee growers in Vietnam are affected by decisions of coffee growers in Mexico through cross-level effects and interactions through global market demand (Adger et al., 2009). Applying the theory to supply chains requires methodological expertise that crosses qualitative and quantitative approaches, including modelling. 


Adger, W. N., Hallie Eakin, & Winkels, A. (2009). Nested and teleconnected vulnerabilities to environmental change. In Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (Vol. 7, Issue 3, pp. 150–157).

Allen, C. R., Angeler, D. G., Garmestani, A. S., Gunderson, L. H., & Holling, C. S. (2014). Panarchy: Theory and Application. Ecosystems, 17(4), 578–589.

Ciulli, F., Kolk, A., & Boe-Lillegraven, S. (2020). Circularity Brokers: Digital Platform Organizations and Waste Recovery in Food Supply Chains. Journal of Business Ethics, 167(2), 299–331.

Flygansvær, B., Dahlstrom, R., & Nygaard, A. (2018). Exploring the pursuit of sustainability in reverse supply chains for electronics. Journal of Cleaner Production, 189, 472–484.

Holling, C. S. (2001). Understanding the Complexity of Economic, Ecological, and Social Systems. Ecosystems, 4(5), 390–405.

van Boerdonk, P. J. M., Krikke, H. R., & Lambrechts, W. (2021). New business models in circular economy: A multiple case study into touch points creating customer values in health care. Journal of Cleaner Production, 282.

Wieland, A. (2021). Dancing the Supply Chain: Toward Transformative Supply Chain Management. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 57(1), 58–73.