Blockchain technology and supply chains: The paradox of the atheoretical research discourse

Qingyun Zhu*, Chunguang Bai, Joseph Sarkis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


Blockchain technology has seen increasingly important practical applications. The literature has expanded greatly in the past four to five years. One area that has seen significant application and growth is in supply chain management—which includes transportation and logistics. The growth of this literature has also resulted in several literature reviews—each has specific scope and emphasis. Of the growing number of literature review and bibliometric analysis studies, the focus has ranged from understanding application cases, themes, trends, and methodologies. Theoretical developments and theorizing have been limited for supply chain management in general and even more limited for sustainable supply chains. Arguably, much of the current research has been relatively atheoretical—a lack of theory development and theory application. Hence, we conclude the existing blockchain research discourse has been centered around application and less around the theory. As a sub-discipline, the nexus of blockchain and supply chain management is still in the early developmental stages. Using a critical synthesis review of the literature, this paper focuses on the most popular theories that have been applied to explain blockchain adoption and implementation within supply chains—how each theory explains the motivations, formalizes the organizational process around the acceptance of blockchain technology, and predicts the outcomes of blockchain-supported business models. Current theoretical gaps and potential future theorizing are discussed. Potential theories that have been used for other technologies (i.e., the internet of things) which have not been applied to the blockchain context are provided and discussed. The comprehensive and systematic theory review has important theoretical and managerial implications for both academia by advancing multiple academic disciplines and practice with insights into actual acceptance and usage of blockchain and other disruptive technologies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102824
Peer-reviewed scientific journalTransportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review
Publication statusPublished - 07.2022
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Blockchain technology
  • Literature review
  • Supply chain management
  • Sustainability
  • Theory building


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