The environmental significance of management practices: Exploring the eco-efficiency of 6 cases
Conference contribution, 2010
The starting point for this paper is the importance of understanding how humans interact with material and energy flows. Technical systems are vital to model for improving eco-efficiency, but they are always managed by humans. Daily maintenance of machinery and the process of planning a new warehouse are examples of these ordinary human actions, and such actions are seldom simple cause-effect chains. The purpose of this study is to continue investigating these human actions, through our research on Environmental Assessment of Organising (EAO).
A qualitative screening of environmental impacts through life cycles assessments (LCA) and the human practices influencing these impacts is carried out for six products and services: activities offered at bowling halls, bread production, bus travel services, cement production, properties management and road maintenance. Within each of these studies, at least three product or service chains are compared. LCA is combined with observation studies and interviews.
For each of the six cases, descriptions are presented of situations, where management practices are indicated to be significant for the environmental impacts. The environmental impacts are qualitatively assessed, and further studies are needed for fully describing the cause-effect chains and the size of the differences in environmental significance. For road maintenance, difficulties of determining a useful functional unit, makes comparison of different operators less feasible.
Concluding, many studies of technology, not least innovations, would benefit from including ordinary human actions. Such detailed and realistic socio-material understandings can be used for fruitful theorising and subsequent environmental improvements. As an example, innovation studies might become more efficient by including thorough investigations of the ‗ordinary‘ periods in between innovations.
managing product chains
life cycle assessment (LCA)