Organizational challenges and solutions for practical implementation of life cycle improvements.
Conference poster, 2015
Life cycle management is still not fully integrated as a deliberate part of most companies’ product and business strategy operations. Seemingly promising solutions never reach implementation, or potential options are not explored. Many possible reasons for this can be found in the literature. Barriers could stem from gaps in knowledge, data, and tools for identifying and evaluating alternatives, but may also (and possibly to a greater extent) relate to established mindsets, organizational structures and internal and external incentives along the value chain. Implementation of life cycle thinking may challenge existing norms e.g. regarding distribution of values and risks in the life cycle, or conceptions of what technical system to be optimized. Formal and informal management procedures may also act as barriers, such as responsibility-schemes for environmental, energy-related and economic results.
While technical solutions for LCM can be found in LCA literature and managerial solutions in the management literature, this study add further insights on organizational challenges and possibilities based on organizational practices having life cycle implications. It explores promising solutions and potential options for mainstreaming life cycle improvements based on observed practices in large production companies.
Data is collected through a number of historic and ongoing examples of product and process changes associated with environmental implications in a life cycle perspective. Examples include both deliberate actions of life cycle management and actions with life cycle implications originally based on other rationales. The study focuses large multinational corporations in a range of sectors such as energy, estate, automotive, chemicals and consumer goods. All studied companies have own in-house competence in life cycle thinking. Data and experiences are collected through interviews and workshops with representatives from both the life cycle metric departments and other corporate functions such as sales and marketing, product development etc.
Enablers and barriers for mainstreaming life cycle management are described and categorized based on the nature and effects of observed practices. Ways to enhance promising solutions, and overcome identified barriers, are also further analyzed. It leads to a discussion about actual and perceived responsibilities for furthering life cycle improvements, among actors both internal and external to the organization.