Philosophy, Theory and Practice of Green Operations Management
Paper in proceedings, 2012
This paper proposes a more profound discussion of the philosophical underpins of sustainability than currently exists in the MOT literature and considers their influence on the construction of the theories on green operations and technology management. Ultimately, it also debates the link between theory and practice on this subject area. The paper is derived from insights gained in three research projects completed during the past twelve years, primarily involving the first author. From 2000 to 2002, an investigation using scenario analysis, aimed at reducing atmospheric pollution in urban centres by substituting natural gas for petrol and diesel, provided the first set of insights about public policy, environmental impacts, investment analysis, and
technological feasibility. The second research project, from 2003 to 2005, using a survey questionnaire, was aimed at improving environmental performance in livestock farming and explored the issues of green supply chain scope, environmental strategy and priorities. Finally, the third project, from 2006 to 2011, investigated environmental decisions in manufacturing organisations through case study research and examined the underlying sustainability drivers and decision-making processes. By integrating the findings and conclusions from these projects, the link between philosophy, theory, and practice of green operations and technology management is debated. The findings from all these studies show that the philosophical debate seems to have little influence on theory building so far. For instance, although ‘sustainable development’ emphasises ‘meeting the needs of current and future generation’, no theory links essentiality and environmental impacts. Likewise, there is a weak link between theory and the practical issues of green operations and technology management. For example, the well-known ‘life-cycle analysis’ has little application in many cases because the life cycle of products these days is dispersed within global production and consumption systems and there are different stakeholders for each life cycle stage. The results from this paper are relevant to public policy making and corporate environmental strategy and decision making. Most of the past and current studies in the subject of green operations and sustainability management deal with only a single sustainability dimension at any one time. Here the value and originality of this paper lies in its integration between philosophy, theory, and practice of green technology and operations management.