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Purpose: Considering the last-mile delivery service supply chain as a social-ecological system rather than just a firm-based service system, this research exploit the COVID-19 pandemic disruption to investigate how the supply chain develops resilience from a viewpoint that integrates a social-ecological perspective with the traditional engineering one. 

Design / methodology / approach: This research adopt a multi-case study approach using qualitative data collected via semi-structured interviews with executive-level managers from nine leading UK last-mile delivery companies. Data analysis is guided by a research framework which is developed by combining the social-ecological perspective with the structure–conduct–performance paradigm. This framework aids the investigation of the impacts of external challenges on companies' resilience strategies and practices, as well as performance, in response to disruptions. 

Findings: The research identifies three distinct pathways to resilience development: stabilization, focussing on bouncing back to the original normal; adaptation, involving evolutionary changes to a new normal; transformation, involving revolutionary changes in pursuit of a new normal-plus. Three strategic orientations are identified as operating across these pathways: people orientation, digital orientation, and learning orientation. 

Originality / value: In contrast to the manufacturing supply chain focus of most current research, this research concentrates on the service supply chain, investigating its resilience with a social-ecological perspective alongside the traditional engineering one.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-165
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Operations & Production Management
Issue number1
Early online date17 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Last-mile delivery
  • Service supply chain resilience
  • Social-ecological perspective

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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