Humlog Blogs

By Christian Fikar, Assistant Professor at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business & HUMLOG Research Associate


As highlighted in various posts here on the HUMLOG blog, logistics activities can have a substantial impact on societies. As a Visiting Researcher at Hanken who works with topics concerning decision support systems for time-critical logistics operations, I was invited to hold a doctoral course this fall at Hanken titled ‘Societal Logistics’. Therefore, various topics are discussed, each one focusing on one of the pillars of sustainability (economic, environment, social).

Transport disruptions: In my home country, Austria, we do not have as many lakes and shorelines as Finland, however, we do have many mountains. From a logistics perspective, this creates various challenges. Probably the center of public discussion in this context is the Brenner Pass, which connects Italy and Austria. Located on the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), which coincidently starts here in Helsinki, it represents one of the heaviest utilized transit routes in Europe. This puts high strain on the local population and causes frequent delays for logistics providers, particularly due to extreme weather events. Such delays can have major consequences on supply chains and, consequently, require resilient operations.


© Universität für Bodenkultur Wien (*) Source below

Food waste: Around one third of all food produced globally is wasted. While clearly major improvements can be made at the field and by altering customer behavior, logistics providers can further play a crucial role to facilitate more sustainable operations. For instance, by optimizing transport routes and storage decisions, quality losses during storage and transport can be reduced. Better planning and tailored inventory management further can lead to major improvements as shown in various works. As according to the Flash Eurobarometer 425 nearly two thirds of all European Union citizens see retailers responsible for preventing food waste, improving logistics operations does not only enable one to reduce costs, emission and food waste, it further creates new market opportunities.

By Mikaela Gerkman and Mimmi Pöysti, Administrative Assistants at HUMLOG Institute.


Kristjana Adalgeirsdottir, Mikaela Gerkman and Mimmi Pöysti started their new positions at the HUMLOG Institute last week. Kristjana will work on project management and funding applications, whereas Mikaela and Mimmi will handle the administration of the institute.  


Kristjana was born and raised in Iceland and has experience of various project management tasks as well as international fieldwork related to emergency responses and reconstruction after disasters. She graduated as an architect in Norway and has been working on her doctoral theses at Aalto University, with research focuses on humanitarian construction, sustainable project management in emergencies and cultural sensitivity in reconstruction. 

For several years, Kristjana is also a member of the ShelterBox Emergency Response team as well as a Red Cross delegate. Earlier this year, she came back from an ICRC mission in Iraq on Cash for Shelter and Livelihood projects for returnees. With her foot currently set in Finland and at the HUMLOG Institute, Kristjana is excited to meet new colleagues from the humanitarian and research fields, share experiences and get involved in the institute’s interesting ongoing work.   

Mikaela first joined the HUMLOG Institute working as an assistant for the EurOMA 2019 conference and was inspired by its collaborative and down-to-earth spirit. “The HUMLOG Institute is an environment where you get to be your true self and where sharing - let it be knowledge, a helping hand, a new idea or an intriguing story – is a genuine act of care and interest for one another.”  

Mikaela is passionate about her master’s studies in Supply Chain Management and Social Responsibility at Hanken. She enjoys getting into the details of complex matters and will write her thesis about sustainability issues in coffee supply chains.  Mikaela’s interest in the humanitarian field and project management was strengthened by her volunteer work for the NGO Planet Drum Ecuador, which was set up to tackle the devastation caused by natural disasters in Bahía de Caráquez. Surrounded by the humanitarian community of the HUMLOG Institute, Mikaela hopes to gain new insights about research with a true societal impact.

By Hossein Baharmand, winner of the Best HUMLOG Doctoral Thesis Award 2019


I had the opportunity to conduct my Ph.D. at the Department of Information and Communication Technology at the University of Agder. I had Prof. Tina Comes and Matthieu Lauras as my supervisors and I did my Ph.D. in the context of Centre for Integrated Emergency Management (CIEM). The overall objective of my Ph.D. was to support humanitarian organizations to recognize and improve the network flexibility of humanitarian supply chains to respond to sudden-onset natural disasters more effectively and efficiently. The title of my dissertation was ‘’Designing Flexible Relief Distribution Networks for Sudden-onset Natural Disaster Response’’.

A relief distribution network (RDN), as a key part of the larger humanitarian supply chain (HSC), comprises connected entities and components that try to deliver items such as blankets, water, food, shelter, etc. to the disaster-affected people. As the RDN is often activated in uncertain, volatile and chaotic disaster affected contexts, it can be easily disrupted. For example, a road can get blocked due to an aftershock in an earthquake-affected region, and food packages cannot be forwarded to isolated areas anymore. Network flexibility can provide a capacity to avoid/address such disruptions and I define it as a multi-dimensional ability to efficiently adapt to changing external and internal conditions in disasters to maintain or improve HSC performance.

By Lisa Swinkels, winner of the Best HUMLOG Master's Thesis Award 2019


I had the great fortune to be able to write my master thesis at the INSEAD Humanitarianfoto_pasen.jpg Research Group. The group has over 20 years of experience in research in the humanitarian sector. Since 2016, we have been working with Marie Stopes International on research questions related to family planning. I got to continue this great work with my thesis with the aim to increase the effectiveness of mobile family planning units.

These mobile units that travel from village to village in developing countries to serve people with often no other access to family planning. Such results are now more important than ever. Contraception is still out of reach for 225 million women, while resources for mobile family planning teams are scarce and decreasing. This scarcity became even more pressing due to the reinstatement of the global gag rule by the US government in 2017. Consequently, family planning providers need to learn how to do more with less and this research can help with that.  

We developed guidelines for mobile units on how to divide the limited number of days available over the villages such that as many clients as possible can be reached. The effectiveness of policies in a practical context is illustrated by applying them to a case study for mobile teams of Marie Stopes Uganda. The analyses show that simple planning policies can increase the total number of clients reached by over 8%. Moreover, we estimate that such policies can also be effective under limited data availability. The results can assist policy makers in determining when to start basing the visit frequencies on data and which policies to use.

For my thesis I won the HUMLOG Best Master Thesis Award 2019. This prize reward is given each year to students who have been writing the best theses in Humanitarian Logistics. Thank you to the HUMLOG Institute for this great honour.

Lisa received her award at the EurOMA2019 conference in Helsinki from HUMLOG's Chairman of the Board Hannu Kari.

By Hanken students Claire Dubosc, Karoliina Ahtiainen, Sara Paananen and Juulia Orimus


During our first academic year, we (as Hanken’s Humanitarian Logistics students) had a project course included in our curricula. Our mission was to conduct a project for Finn Church Aid, which is focused on education in emergencies. The aim was to identify bottlenecks from the past to prevent repeating them in the future. We all agreed upon the fact that “the team makes the experience” and were very lucky with the cohesion both between us and with the organization. Within our core team we had trust, motivation and commitment with a bit of humour when it was needed. The project was effortless yet provided valuable insights about humanitarian activities at the field (and yield excellent grades from the course).

With this kind of large project, we felt we were able to learn many different things that influence all aspects of our daily life, such as new findings related to personal competences, team working and so on. Overall, we agree with the team that the most important learnings of the project are the practical things from the humanitarian field, which we had not explored to this extent until we started working with FCA.



Already, during the very first project meeting with our FCA mentor back in January, we received a great deal of new information. New things popped out during each step of our project, as we got new sets of data from FCA until the last weeks of the project. The documents we received were sent in different languages, which enabled everybody to take part into the project and cooperate to get a full understanding of the direction we were taking.

By Prof Joseph Sarkis, PhD, Professor at Foisie School of Business, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA and HUMLOG International Research Fellow at Hanken School of Economics, Finland



Solving problems and innovation requires creativity. Research requires problem solving and innovative ideas; that is, we seek to expand the body of knowledge.


I was watching a documentary called The Creative Brain.  It was produced by neuroscientist David Eagleman. The documentary offered ways for creativity to happen and some of lessons on creativity.  One creativity aspect that resonated is that creativity does not mean developing something out of nothing; that a new idea should never have existed before.


Creativity is using the known in unique ways. To be able to take existing concepts and bring them together through novel linkages.


Many of my studies seek to do this. This creativity element, from my perspective, is about interdisciplinarity. Acquiring concepts and ideas from various fields and areas of thought to advance the body of knowledge through yet unseen combinations is how creativity emerges.


This approach is what we did in our paper titled, “At the Nexus of Blockchain Technology, the Circular Economy, and Product Deletion” that just appeared in the open access journal Applied Sciences. We consider the nexus of Technology (blockchains), Society (a circular economy), and Business (product management).


By David Grant, Professor in Supply Chain Management and Social Responsibility, Hanken; Hlekiwe Kachali, Project Leader and Gyöngyi Kovács, Erkko Professor in Humanitarian Logistics, Hanken


#NotATarget is more than just a hashtag, it is the result of numerous attacks on humanitarians and humanitarian aid deliveries. Looking at the statistics of Aid in Danger illustrates the case: in 2018 alone 155 aid workers were killed, 171 were kidnapped, and 184 were arrested. Most of these incidents happen in conflict zones such as Syria, South Sudan, and Afghanistan.

The European Union H2020-funded iTRACK research project, of which the HUMLOG Institute was a consortium partner, developed technologies to ensure the safety and security of humanitarians and humanitarian aid deliveries in conflict zones. The conditions are dire enough from the conflict affecting people’s lives and livelihoods in these areas; seeing that humanitarian aid gets through to beneficiaries is very important and thus the safety and security of the personnel providing that aid is likewise important.



At the same time, deliveries in conflict zones are organised in a rather complex fashion. A common misunderstanding is that humanitarian organisations deliver everything by themselves all the way to the beneficiaries. They do in a way, but it is much more complex than that. The delivery process includes an array of options from humanitarian convoys with the humanitarian organisations’ own vehicles, to the use of numerous logistics service providers, the addition of even more vehicles at border crossings including loading and reloading, and entire supply chains of humanitarian organisations and their implementing partners on regional, national, and community levels. Understanding these logistical complexities is key to safely securing them.


So how did the HUMLOG Institute contribute to iTRACK? We investigated the users’ requirements for technologies to safely secure humanitarians, the workflows of humanitarian aid deliveries, and the complexities behind it all. Our great consortium partners in the project took on tasks from setting the specs for information flows to the ethics of the technologies, to in fact developing the tech.

By Joseph Sarkis, PhD, Professor at Foisie School of Business, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA and HUMLOG International Research Fellow at Hanken School of Economics, Finland



The advent of organizations managing environmental and social issues has been a concern since the beginning of corporations. Supplying jobs, goods and services to society, while maintaining a profit for their owners, has always been a goal of commercial organizations.

The expansion of this role has only relatively recently been experienced by organizations. Norms have always been shifting, sometimes in a cyclical fashion. But through various pressures, regulations, community norms, customer expectations, and even familial obligations, organizations have garnered greater interest in making sure that they do little environmental and social harm while meeting their economic obligations.

This is the premise that my latest edited book, “Handbook on the Sustainable Supply Chain” by Edward Elgar Publishing, is based.

The complexities of environmental and social sustainability have only increased over the past three decades. No longer can one single organization be considered a culprit in poor social and environmental performance. The organization is part of a larger ecosystem, which includes its partners that help to deliver its products and services.

Typically these partners are in the form of suppliers and customers; industrial and otherwise. Not only is there the complexity of managing the organization, but a number of organizations, and their relationships.  

There are also very many dimensions to consider. The complexities of relationships, the contradictory social contract goals, incomplete information, and dynamic values and norms, all point to supply chain sustainability management as the proverbial ‘wicked problem’.

Addressing such problems requires a holistic approach requiring systemic and cooperative resolution; a transdisciplinary effort. Transdisciplinarity requires government, industry, communities, and markets to work with academics to address these problems.

Although the vast majority of authors in this handbook are from business and engineering disciplines, the spirit of the book is to provide knowledge, fuel for action, to the transdisciplinary community.

Can one book do it all? Not necessarily, but it is an important snapshot as we reach 2020 to address issues of sustainable supply chains.  With 33 chapters we try to cover a large swath of issues.

By Olivia Iannelli, Research Analyst at Trilateral Research Ltd.


itrack1.jpgRecent years have seen an increase in the development and implementation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the humanitarian sphere.  Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international agencies, humanitarian organisations, governments, and private sector actors have in fact begun “designing, adopting, and employing ICTs including smartphone apps, remote sensing platforms such as satellite imagery analysis, surveillance drones and other forms of digital data collection and analytics, as standard components of sectoral and cross-sectoral responses to both the threat and alleged committal of mass atrocities in a variety of operational and geographic contexts.” [1] ICTs, have thus, become common components in the humanitarian sector [2] making up what is coined digital humanitarianism.
Although, they are created and deployed by humanitarian organisations with the best of intentions, these ICTs “are occurring in the absence of agreed normative frameworks and accepted theory to guide their ethical and responsible use.” [3] There have been instances where the presence and use of such, often experimental, ICT tools and technologies, could cause more ‘harm’ than good. [4] For instance, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh fear that "smart cards" with biometric data (fingerprints iris scans) will be shared with their persecutors in Myanmar. [5]
Social and cultural differences are considered as related to the habits, beliefs and traditions which characterise a society. Such necessary considerations include: gender issues, social impact, liability, trust, and religious and cultural issues.


Although, there is a large amounts of literature covering the topic of digital humanitarianism, there is no framework for understanding the nuanced social and cultural differences and according to Kristin Bergtora Sandvik from the University of Oslo and Nathaniel A. Raymond from Harvard there seems to be “a very weak community-wide interest so far in the ethical dimensions of ICT use for mass atrocity-producing contexts.” [6]


Amin Maghsoudi, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Tehran (UT) and HUMLOG fellow


Humanitarian response is currently hampered by a lack of real time, accurate data and information on needs with regards to the number of affected communities, areas prone to disaster, and aid supplies stored at the different points with different agents along the supply chain. This phenomenon is mostly escalated with lack of visibility and accessibility to the required data, information and goods in event of a disaster. According to previous report by Hamideh in ArcticStrartup, about the 30% of aid supplies does not reach to the correct destinations due to corruption and lack of supply chain visibility on data, information and available aid supplies. Therefore, agents operating in the network of humanitarian response lack a complete picture of where the aid supplies are stored, what data are available and how to get the necessary data, who are the players and to whom coordinate with.

Climate change, population growth, urbanization and number of disasters including earthquake, flood, sandstorms, accidents, droughts are occurring with an increasing trend around the world. The most vulnerable ones are developing countries, like Iran and Syria with less improvement on their capacity and learning lessons from the pasts. The obvious examples are the Plasco collapse, Kermanshah earthquake, Sanchi explosion, just happened within a year with a significant number of casualties in the region, while there were chances of providing rapid delivery with less casualties. Number of factors interfere to not have an effective response, while lack of decentralized data management system to be shared among the involved actors can be one factor to impede such efforts.