Humanitarian logistics and supply chain standards. Literature review and view from practice

Claudia Paciarotti, Wojciech Piotrowicz, George Fenton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose The paper is focused on standards in humanitarian logistics and supply chain. Standards,
implemented between organisations, allow improving the interoperability of humanitarian operations. The
paper aims (1) to review a state-of-the-art approach to the topic by the academic community, (2) to evaluate the
current use of standards among humanitarian organisations and (3) to investigate the perceived need for
further and specific standards.

Design/methodology/approach To achieve the aims, the literature was reviewed; then a survey on 227
professionals from the humanitarian logistics sector was conducted.

Findings Based on 227 responses, it is possible to conclude that most surveyed professionals recognise the
need for and the importance of standardisation in humanitarian logistics, especially in areas such as
procurement, distribution, medical logistics and logistics planning, which were perceived as critical areas that
require standardisation.

Research limitations/implications Practitioners and scholars were targeted via social media, through
mailing lists and via communication from the practitioner organisation – the Humanitarian Logistics
Association (HLA). While it provided good access to different groups of respondents, the response rate is not
possible to calculate.

Practical implications The findings confirm the high importance of standardisation, indicating areas and
functions that should be standardised first. Standardisation may improve cooperation between different
humanitarian actors, allowing better service provision for beneficiaries. Thus there are also potential negative
impacts, i.e. impact on localisation, which should be overcome.

Social implications Results do not have a direct social impact; however, they stimulate research and work
among practitioners on standardisation, which in turn could improve cooperation between humanitarian
actors, thereby enabling a better humanitarian response in emergencies.

Originality/value The majority of papers on standardisation use a qualitative approach. This paper applies
a survey among a large network of humanitarian practitioners, capturing their view on the topic and perception
of the need for standardisation. The work is descriptive; however, it could be used as a base for further studies
related to humanitarian standards.

Paper type: Research paper
Original languageEnglish
Article numberJHLSCM Vol.11No.3,2021
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)550-573
Publication statusPublished - 19.07.2021
MoE publication typeNot Eligible


  • 999 Others
  • Humanitarian logistics
  • Standards
  • Humanitarian supply chains

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoHP: Humanitarian and societal logistics


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