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Environmental and social sustainability priorities: Their integration in operations strategies

Annachiara Longoni (ESADE Business School, Ramon Lull University, Barcelona, Spain)
Raffaella Cagliano (School of Management, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




Environmental and social sustainability are becoming key competitive priorities for companies, but the way in which they are integrated in operations strategies remains an open issue. The purpose of this paper is to determine whether established operations strategy configuration models (i.e. price-oriented, market-oriented and capability-oriented models) are modified to include environmental and social priorities and whether different operations strategy configuration models are equally successful in the short and long term.


Analyses were performed using data from the International Manufacturing Strategy Survey (2009), including companies in the assembly industry in 21 different countries. According to previous studies, cluster analysis of competitive priorities and ANOVA analysis of the business strategy and short- and long-term performance were performed.


The results show that traditional operations strategy configuration models are slightly modified. Market-oriented and capability-oriented operations strategies are complemented by environmental and social sustainability priorities. These operations strategies are adopted by companies with a differentiation and innovation business strategy. Moreover, capability-oriented companies, which are the most committed to environmental and social sustainability, perform better in both the short and long term.

Practical implications

This research shows to companies that traditional operations strategies focusing on specific competitive priorities (e.g. low price) are being replaced by more holistic strategies that include sustainability priorities. However, environmental and social priorities contribute to competitive advantage when complementing capability-oriented operations strategies.


This paper extends operations strategy configuration models highlighting how environmental and social sustainability priorities can be deployed together with traditional competitive operations priorities.



Longoni, A. and Cagliano, R. (2015), "Environmental and social sustainability priorities: Their integration in operations strategies", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 216-245.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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