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Reverse Logistics and Inclusive growth in circular economy, are we ready yet? (RDF23/MOS/MA)

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Dr Jie Ma, Dr Sadaat Ali Yawar, Dr Adrian Small  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Although most of the research on logistics and supply chain management has focused on forward logistics (e.g., Ma et al, 2022), the area of reverse logistics (RL, the supply chain process of moving products from the end customers to retain/recapture value) is gaining increasing attention and becoming more important in recent years (Govindan and Solemani, 2017). The research on RL has evolved from simply reversing the chains to flow the returns from the customers, to focusing on increasing recycles for better environmental and cooperative strategies.

The recent development of RL has focused on developing and designing an ecological business model for a closed-loop supply chain and sustainable value creation (Agrawal, Singh, and Murtaza 2015; Shabbir et al. 2021) – a model (see the technical model for circular economy below) that aims to better handle returned products, capture additional value and further integrating into supply chain activities (Guide et al., 2003). This arguably links to the conceptualisation of ‘inclusive businesses’ for an inclusive growth – a broad-based sharing model that aims to reduce poverty and inequality through rapid economic growth (Schoneveld 2020).

Reverse logistics by the virtue of selling recycled products, creating new jobs and consistent employability for low skilled populations, contribute to improving the overall quality of life (Sarkis, Helms, and Hervani 2010). However, defining the social aspects in RL has proven challenging and the area has remained unexplored, most of the existing research has rather focused on evaluating RL performance in general (Banihashemi, Fei, and Chen 2019). Therefore, it is a necessity to investigate social foundations of the sustainable RL and explore the relationship between RL and its impacts on inclusive growth.

Research Questions (RQ):

RQ1: How best can organisations implement a circular economy into the products and services they offer?

RQ2: How does the circular economy address and promote inclusive growth and sustainable development?

RQ3: What is the contribution of the circular economy to the key indicators of inclusive growth?

RQ4: What are the antecedents and barriers for the implementation of inclusive growth in the circular economy?

Research Methodology:

The research will start with a systematic literature review of topics relating reverse logistics, circular economy, sustainable supply chain management and inclusive growth. It will be followed by proposing a theoretical framework to understand the suggested causal relationships using the factors identified from the literature.

The framework will then be tested by structural equation modelling using primary data collected by empirical investigations (e.g., multiple case studies, focus groups and/or surveys). Secondary and Panel data can also be employed to compare and contrast the impacts.

The firms involved in this study can be in the manufacturing, remanufacturing or retail industry in the UK or other countries.

Expected Contributions:

The research will contribute towards a better understanding of the role of reverse logistics in inclusive growth and its impact on the proposed United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Further, it will contribute to both theory development and testing in the field of reverse logistics which is rarely done so far.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Dr Jie Ma, Dr Sadaat Yawar and Dr Adrian Small. For informal queries, please contact Dr Jie Ma [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions. 

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities). 

Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student. Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see  

For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc


Banihashemi et al., (2019). Exploring the relationship between reverse logistics and sustainability performance: A literature review. Modern Supply Chain Research and Applications.
Govindan & Soleimani (2017). A review of reverse logistics and closed-loop supply chains: a Journal of Cleaner Production focus. Journal of Cleaner Production, 142, 371–384.
Shabbir, et al., (2021). Closed-loop supply chain network design with sustainability and resiliency criteria.
Sarkis, J., Helms, M. M., & Hervani, A. A. (2010). Reverse logistics and social sustainability. Corporate social responsibility and environmental management, 17(6), 337-354.
Yawar & Kuula (2021). Circular economy and second-hand firms: Integrating ownership structures. Cleaner Logistics and Supply Chain, 2, 100015.

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