Painting of the sustainable humanitarian cold chain

Sonja Saari*, Diego Vega, Andreas Wieland, Árni Halldórsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Humanitarian cold chains are especially vulnerable to disruptions that result from climate events. Simultaneously, humanitarian cold chains also have a negative impact on the environment. Sustainable practices and processes are one approach to overcome those disruptions whilst adapting to global warming, making humanitarian cold chains more resilient. However, sustainability and resilience are sometimes perceived as mutually exclusive, creating a bottleneck between keeping the chain both cold and green. Using Panarchy theory, this article aims to describe the sustainability narrative of humanitarian cold chains through resilience thinking and through outlier events at different panarchical levels.

With qualitative analysis from a focus-group study, this research argues the identified outlier events prompt changes needed towards including sustainable practices in humanitarian cold chains. However, the change will not materialize if a traditional interpretation of resilience as static and robust is upheld.

Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Covid-19, and Climate and Environment Charter are amongst the biggest events which have triggered humanitarian organizations to rethink their sustainability practices. Fundamental changes in humanitarian cold chain designs, however, have not happened, partly due to the way they are viewed: as closed and rigid systems. More advocacy from academia and practice is called for to rethink resilience and sustainability as mutually inclusive to promote a true change toward sustainability.

This research constitutes one of the first attempts to apply panarchy theory to the humanitarian logistics discipline. Findings demonstrate the need to rethink the concept of resilience in order to include more sustainable practices in humanitarian cold chains.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the NOFOMA Annual Conference 2023
Publication date16.06.2023
Publication statusPublished - 16.06.2023
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings
Event35th Annual NOFOMA Conference 2023: Logistics during global crises - Aalto University, Espoo, Finland
Duration: 14.06.202316.06.2023
Conference number: 35


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