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Lessons from benchmarking environmental performance at automobile assembly plants

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Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to better understand benefits and problems with different approaches to benchmarking environmental performance in manufacturing. Design/methodology/approach - This paper shares the experience of a research program developing environmental benchmarking measures for the automobile industry. Findings - In this paper, we categorize these options into four general categories: regulatory, gross emissions, efficiency, and life cycle. We found that firms emphasized different approaches to benchmarking depending upon regulatory context and company strategy. Product type, corporate and national culture, resource costs, stakeholder demands also all played a role in influencing their preferred benchmarking approach. Overall, the most robust environmental programs will incorporate elements of all four approaches. Research limitations/implications - The primary limitation of this study is that it draws its data from only one industry. Another limitation of this paper is that it is focused primarily on performance benchmarking. Additional research needs to be done to understand the factors that influence a firm's choice of benchmarking metrics, the relationship between the different aspects of environmental performance benchmarking, and the relationship between performance and managerial benchmarking. Practical implications - Firms must supplement strong environmental management systems with their benchmarking strategy. Using all four provides a more balanced benchmarking effort, and minimizes limitation that single measure of environmental performance present. Originality/value - For manufacturing firms, this paper offers a framework to think about the costs and benefits of a range of environmental benchmarking strategies. For researchers, it outlines a number of areas for future research.

Keywords: Automotive Industry; Benchmarking; Environmental Management; Pollution; Process Efficiency; Waste

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2005


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