An Assessment Framework for Managing Corporate Sustainable Manufacturing
Abstract: This research aims to support the manufacturing industry in the endeavour of achieving the seventeen sustainable development goals by 2030, with “sustainable production” (the 12th goal) being the key one it should achieve. The output of this research is synthesised into a framework comprising assessment methods and tools which translate both economic and environmental sustainability factors into information for a specific set of company management decisions. These decisions are supported by the three guiding functions of the framework: 1) alignment between sustainability strategy and operations through the definition of core organisational capabilities, 2) assessment of the environmental impacts of R&D technology for production systems, and 3) improvement of the sustainability performance of existing production systems’ operations. Thus, the framework encompasses sustainability assessment methods and tools from a low level of analysis (machine tool) to a higher one (organisational). For the first function, an organisational “sustainability readiness” tool was developed with six companies. For the second function, an indicator for environmental break-even analysis of R&D technologies aims to pre-emptively minimise any undesired backfire effects. For the third function, an energy-based version of the known overall equipment effectiveness indicator diagnoses energy inefficiencies in production. By highlighting a red thread between the three functions and by providing assessment solutions in each of them, the proposed assessment framework aims to support management in their task to measure sustainable manufacturing. The use of the framework would also mitigate the strategy-operations misalignment that sometimes affects corporate sustainability management. The overall qualitative nature of the framework makes it suitable to be considered by industrialists and academia as a conveyer of a mindset which leverages management’s capacity to improve sustainability performance. Unfortunately, the validity of this statement could not be tested. What has been validated to various extents though are the methods and tools within the framework itself. The author suggests that future research would enable manufacturing companies to quantify the long-term sustainability impacts of product life cycles and production systems. If this could be encouraged, it would help to focus on eco-effectiveness performance, perhaps by taking an approach similar to Science Based Targets. Interventions such as these can contribute to a safer future that remains environmentally accountable at all levels of business operations.
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