This paper introduces a holistic approach to the study of sustainable development of global product chains. We first present a number of perspectives on this topic from disciplines such as economic geography, management science, sociology and environmental sciences. Each of these approaches brings in a specific focus: the consequences of geographical dispersion of economic activities, measurement of ecological and social impact, managing sustainability in supply chains, and power asymmetry among economic actors. Until now, these disciplinary research lines have remained unconnected. We argue that ecological economics provides a promising background for a more holistic conceptualization. To this end, we formulate five basic questions that serve to advance the study of sustainability throughout the product chain by connecting the foci of the identified scientific disciplines. The aim of advancing a holistic perspective has guided the selection of papers for this special subsection, which are introduced throughout the text.