In the current business landscape characterized by globalization, rising customer expectations, entities are faced with the critical quest of streamlining the flow of products or services. Miller and de Matta (2008) argued that the effective approach to gaining efficiencies and eliminating or reducing non-value added steps in this landscape is to put an emphasis on logistics and supply chain management (L&SCM). While research exploring reverse logistics and green supply chain management practices in the United States has been on the rise, research that focuses on entities and environments globally has also gained attention. However, studies focusing on reverse logistics and GSCM have been few and the ones that do exist by and large only appear in nonmainstream journals. This paper will provide a broad and structured review of peer-reviewed reverse logistics and GSCM studies in a global context. Many prior studies have only offered a brief overview of reverse logistics as well as GSCM in a specific industry, country or continent (Gammelgaard, 2006).

This paper reviews several academic research studies covering reverse logistics and green supply chain management. Consciously, the paper does not restrict its analysis to specific journals in the SCM field and, hence, is able to capture various findings in lesser popular and potentially non-disciplinary journals. However, future research is needed due to the dynamic landscape of global L&SCM and the relentlessly changing playing field. Indeed, what is perceived as a competitive advantage today may not be competitive in the future.

Literature Review

Today along with the rapid growth of industries globally, the ecological and environmental impact of products has become a central issue (Srivastava, 2007). When businesses make self-serving decisions that only consider the economic impacts of business decisions and at the expense of their environmental impacts, this has a serious impact on all living things on Earth and results in toxic environments, natural resource depletion, and global warming. Therefore, considering the ecological impacts of business or industrial decisions plays a vital role in preserving the environment (Geng, Sarkis, & Zhu, 2005; Zhou, 2009). To that end, the most important step in this effort is to analyze the impact of products with a holistic approach. The universal approach includes the analysis of the supply chain or product lifecycle from the design to the point of its consumption. Considering this approach, environmental effects of every decision in the supply chain interfaces such as conceptualization, product design, manufacturing, raw materials processing, assembly, packaging, warehousing, transportation, reuse and recycling are measured and taken into account in product design and the related operations (Wang, Wang, & Sun, 2003).

Reverse or green logistics and green supply chain management is the main trend in global logistics and supply chain management (Jiuh-Biing, Sheu, Chou, & Hu, 2005). This is evident not only in developed economies but in emerging economies as well. While some of these efforts have been implemented voluntarily, most of them are being driven by marketing regulatory and competitive pressures. One aspect of green logistics and supply management, reverse logistics, is the focus of many papers. However, this initiative is propelled primarily by regulatory requirements for product reuse or recycling. It is expected that green behavior will be a standardized way of conducting business. In the same line, it is hoped that no or less external pressures are required to promote green behavior anymore.

Srivastava (2007) covers the literature on GSCM from its conceptualization, chiefly covering reverse logistics. The author uses a rich body of literature, including an earlier paper subject review marked with limited perspectives. A wide variety of sectors and countries have been investigated, including China, the U.S., and the U.K. Zhu and Sarkis’ (2004) investigated green supply chain management practices within China’s manufacturing sector. The outstanding theme of global L&SCM investigated by Zhu, Sarkis, and Geng (2005) is a green SCM. According to Zhu, Sarkis and Geng (2005), green supply chain management is the environmentally conscious and integrated flow of products and services through a supply chain and includes reverse logistics.

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Global logistics and supply chain management can result in increased supply chain (SC) investments. Jiuh-Biing, Sheu, Chou, & Hu (2005) reviewed green operations, green design, and green procurement and GSCM frameworks. They discussed some of the basic features of green SCM, including advantages, initiatives, and barriers. In line with Krumwiede and Sheu (2002), as consumers and clients become more aware of environmental issues linked to product development and distribution, they will continue to ask more questions regarding the products they purchase. Aside from environmental awareness, national and international legislation has forced entities to take responsibility for the impacts of their activities on the environment. Geng, Sarkis, and Zhu (2005), also noted that companies will have to address the questions about how green their supply chain and manufacturing processes are, recycling and carbon footprint. Pending legislation and consumer awareness have shed light on environmental issues, making it very important for entities to plan for “going green” (Srivastava, 2007). According to Jiuh-Biing, Sheu, Chou, and Hu (2005), the origins of green SCM can be understood by reviewing environmental management and supply chain management as the basis of green supply chain management. The supply chain (SC) has been conventionally referring to a unified manufacturing process where raw material raw materials are converted into final products and delivered to their intended customers (Zhou, 2009). Environmental management is described as the management of human interactions with the environment and the potential impacts of the interactions with the same environment.

Green supply chain management is strategic management concept in which, environment thinking is integrated into SCM, including manufacturing processes, material sourcing and selection, product design, product delivery and the management of the product at its end life (Beamon, 1999; Kamigaki, 2009; Zhou, 2009). According to Ho, Shalishali, and Tseng (2009), green supply chain management is a response to evolving demands posed by consumers, increasing fuel prices, augmented environmental consciousness by stakeholders, corporate social responsibility, and the mounting social accountability constraints linked to global warming. According to Ho, Shalishali, and Tseng (2009), there are numerous opportunities in green supply chain management, including cost-saving, improved company brand or reputation, and preservation of environmental resources. Hock (2000) agrees on nothing that proactive entities are benefiting in the form of favorable public opinion, cost-saving, and access to clean-energy subsidies. However, stragglers risk costly consequences. Additionally, smart companies or manufacturers have recognized that returned goods are valuable to their operations. In other words, intelligent entities are typified with the theme of product reuse and recycling (Zhou, 2009; Zhu, Sarkis, & Lai, 2007; Zhu & Sarkis, 2004). Zhu, Sarkis, and Lai (2007) assert that governments and international organizations are involved in promoting as well as developing GSCM practices.

A scrutiny of the literature on logistics indicates that there is limited scholarly information about reverse logistics. Regulatory entities that formulate and enforce regulations to achieve ecological and societal concerns to promote the growth of organizations and economy are also constrained by its absence. Reverse logistics has become one of the critical managerial trends in the last few decades (Wu & Cheng, 2006). This is attributed to the large share of logistical costs in the cost of the completed merchandise. Ninlawan, Seksan, Tossapol, and Pilada (2010) surveyed green SCM activities in the electronics manufacturing sector, precisely makers of computer accessories operating in Thailand. From the survey, significant GSCM pressure emanated from environmental regulations and export pressure. Intense competition, improved communication tools, environmental regulation, customer-orientation, and the shrinking product lifecycles are some of the reasons contributing to the importance of reverse logistics (Ninlawan, Seksan, Tossapol, & Pilada, 2010; Sarkis, 2003). Reverse logistics and green SCM has gained popularity within both industry and academia. Reverse logistics is defined as activities associated with products or services beyond their point of sale (Hock, 2000; Krumwiede & Sheu, 2002; Wu & Cheng, 2006). The central goal of green logistics is to optimize aftermarket activities, hence, saving environmental resources and money. Some of the activities common to reverse logistics include warehousing, e-waste, recycling, reverse fulfillment, and refurbishment (Sarkis, 2003). The definition of reverse logistics has continued to evolve and can be viewed as a scientific approach to departmental assets across all disciplines and industries. In other words, reverse logistics is applied beyond the supply chain system in technology-based industries, to also be applied to all industries and departments ranging from human resources to legal (Zhou, 2009).


The need to incorporate environmentally sound practices into SCM practice as well as research is mounting. Green SCM and reverse logistics are one of the key trends for entities globally. The review provides the foundation for any student, professional or researcher delving into the global logistics and supply chain management concepts. The review serves as inspiration for researchers to expand this interesting area of research, and draws attention from a variety of green SCM and reverse logistics studies conducted. The paper also helps readers to advance the field by drawing attention to less-researched sectors. The overview also offers an introduction to managers and practitioners to the content covered by academic research in the sphere of reverse logistics and green supply chain management. Practitioners and students can use this review as a foundation for selecting useful and relevant references for their study. For instance, practitioners and academics interested in using third-party (3PL) logistics can refer to the paper to ascertain the content that has been covered in the academic field. The review provides a valuable account of peer-reviewed studies and comprehensive insight to practitioners. In summary, the review is relevant to the study of the impacts of logistics in transport and logistical support in a way that offers an overview of the effects of reverse logistics or green supply chain management.

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