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Implementing industrial sustainability: the research issues in technology management

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This paper ties together issues in the implementation of industrial sustainability and the contribution that technology management research has to offer. The idea of sustainability seems to be slowly attracting more attention. Discussion occurs not only amongst world governments, academics and NGOs, but also in industry. Industrial sustainability now appears to be moving up the management agenda in many organisations. Corporate reputation and shareholder value may be at stake for organisations which cannot demonstrate a rational position on sustainability. However, despite this increasing awareness, in practice there are a number of barriers to the implementation of industrial sustainability ideas. For a start, it is unclear what industrial sustainability means in practical terms. The business case for implementation is often built on individual conviction or motivational case examples, rather than being grounded in solid theory with associated frameworks, guidelines and tools. Particular challenges facing organisations include the choice of appropriate product and process technologies, lifecycle valuation techniques, changing employee and other stakeholder mindsets, and possibly most importantly, creating a new business model altogether.

In light of these issues, this paper sets out to review the contribution that technology management research can make towards the effective implementation of industrial sustainability. Considerations include the cross-functional and cross-organisational issues of implementation – bringing together various business units and functions within a company, and the many players in a supply chain, with the goal of improving environmental, social and economic performance in parallel. There is a need to develop new methods for technology valuation which integrate the concept of triple bottom line accountability and existing technology strategy in organisations could be extended, to include the wider set of values that underpin the concepts of industrial sustainability. The critical research needs for this to be achieved are identified.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre for Technology Management, Institute for Manufacturing, Cambridge University Engineering Department, Mill Lane, Cambridge UK

Publication date: 2004-11-01

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