Ideas with Impact
UNB Faculty of Management

Towards sustainability: managing biomass supply chains effectively 

Author: Faculty of Management

Posted on Jan 20, 2023

Category: Alumni , Faculty

The goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 is easy to suggest, but it is incredibly difficult to put into action. To promote sustainable practices, many researchers and practitioners look to the environment-friendly use of biomass, plant material that is used as fuel to create heat and electricity. Finance professor, Dr. Azam Shamsi and quantitative methods professor Alireza Tajbakhsh with UNB’s faculty of management collaborated with their interdisciplinary master's student, Mona Jazinaninejad and former post doc fellow Mohammadreza Nematollahi, in a study that supplies insight into how industry can effectively manage biomass supply chains and make sustainability goals easier to obtain. Their research, Sustainable operations, managerial decisions, and quantitative analytics of biomass supply chains: A systematic literature review,” was published in Journal of Cleaner Production in November 2022. 

Their study involved a systematic review of 450 peer-reviewed papers and applied a rule-governed content analysis approach that included collecting, filtering, and categorizing the prior research on biomass supply chain management in a reproducible manner.  

They also classified the collected materials using deductive and inductive approaches to find various structural dimensions and associated analytic categories.  

“In the context of biomass supply chain management,” says Tajbakhsh, “we provide evidence that energy crops and forest-based biomass are the most addressed biomass feedstock types in the existing literature, while municipal solid waste sources could be explored further in future research. Additionally, from a sustainability development perspective, we show that the environmental pillar has attracted much more attention than the social aspect which accounts for job creation, safe workplace, food security, and consumer surplus.” 

Effectively managing and using biomass sources to produce energy can reduce CO2 emissions significantly. Tajbakhsh also notes, “Recycling biomass intakes could keep sizable carbon masses in manufactured bioproducts. For example, use of forest-agri-residues for bioenergy and biofuels generation could lead to environmental and social betterments including (1) improving the air quality by curbing greenhouse gas emissions traditionally discharged from mass burning facilities, (2) decreasing waste mass and saving landfill spaces, (3) diminishing fire risks through the collection of post-thinning residues, (4) creating new job opportunities in less-developed communities, and (5) reducing local and global dependency on fossil-based reserves.” 

To promote sustainable practices, many researchers and practitioners have championed the shift to using biomass. The authors of this study agree that biomass supply chain management can contribute to saving the planet, societies, and costs and has a high potential for sustainable development. Already, regulatory policies that incorporate tax and incentive strategies into decision-making processes has shifted biomass businesses toward greener practices.   

“Quantitative analytics propose primary tools for developing sustainability-driven decisions for biomass supply chains,” says Tajbakhsh.” However, the existing literature lacked a comprehensive classification of methodologies applied in this field that incorporate the role of policy mechanisms into managerial decisions. Our goal with this study was to fill this gap.” 

Since publishing their study, the researchers are planning to cooperate with biomass facilities and companies in New Brunswick to investigate the methods currently used in their biomass supply chain processes to discover how their quantitative tools and models might help to improve operations.   

PHOTO: Dr. Alireza Tajbakhsh collaborated with Dr. Azam Shamsi, Mona Jazinaninejad and Mohammadreza Nematollahi on a study that supplies insight into how industry can effectively manage biomass supply chains and make sustainability goals easier to obtain.

Learn more about Dr. Shamsi and Dr. Tajbakhsh. 

Learn more about UNB's faculty of management. 

Media contact: Liz Lemon-Mitchell.