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Understanding environmental performance variation in manufacturing companies

Nancy Bocken (Department of Engineering, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)
David Morgan (Department of Engineering, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)
Steve Evans (Department of Engineering, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Article publication date: 28 October 2013

Abstract

Purpose

Sustainability is an area of increasing interest for industry and its stakeholders, and some companies now aspire to address sustainability issues (e.g. carbon emissions) at strategic and operational levels. As companies are exploring the issues, they attempt to embed sustainability in their planning and management systems. It is at this point that the domains of environmental concern and performance management meet. The research questions explored in this paper are: what is the size of environmental performance variation? What are the challenges for sustainability performance management in practice?

Design/methodology/approach

First, interviews in manufacturing companies were conducted to understand the size of environmental performance variation. Subsequently, a survey, interviews and a workshop were conducted with ten organisations to gain insight in environmental performance management in companies.

Findings

It was observed that, across three sectors, environmental performance between manufacturing plants differed up to 500 per cent between worst and best performing factories which make similar products using similar technology, all in well-run companies which have environmental management programmes in place. This means that learning within the company between different sites is important but can be difficult. Some initial success stories observed include a quid-pro-quo approach between factory sites (teach-learn-do-teach) and dedicated individuals (champions) in factories who strive to make year-on-year efficiency improvements.

Originality/value

The paper gives insights in the size of environmental performance variation, self-reported by internal company specialists in sustainable manufacturing, and sustainability performance management in practice.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was funded by the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Industrial Sustainability in Cambridge. The authors would like to thank Simon Roberts and Lampros Litos for their involvement in the Environmental Performance Variation Project and ongoing discussions on this topic.

Citation

Bocken, N., Morgan, D. and Evans, S. (2013), "Understanding environmental performance variation in manufacturing companies", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 62 No. 8, pp. 856-870. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPPM-03-2013-0042

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited