The influence of organisational practices on environmental performance: A screening of the organising of nodes in product life cycles in six test cases
Rapport, 2015

In the here reported on project, we have screened relations between product life cycle environmental performance and organising traced from technical processes that are nodes by having central roles in these cycles. Thereby, we have aimed both to further an already introduced method for this type of study by introducing an approach that is quicker to use than the thorough design previously deployed and to test it on a broader range of empirical domains. The method used combines life cycle assessment (LCA) and organisational studies, which are coherently integrated with each other using particularly the socio-material approaches actor-network theory (ANT) and action nets. The screening approach was applied to six test cases that covered six different types of services and physical commodities, and for each of these six comparisons have been performed between the organising traced empirically from at least three different nodes and their product life cycles environmental performance. The cases have covered the products and nodes listed in table S.1, further on in this summary. The test case on properties management was based on existing publications on a thorough study using the combination of LCA and organisational studies, while the other five test cases were performed as screenings applying this combination approach for the first time. A large number of practices of this organising have been indicated potentially to considerably influence product life cycle environmental performance. These organisational practices have been indicated to vary considerably between different activities both regarding the practices themselves and regarding the discernibility of their relations to each other and of their influence on environmental performance. The approach used in the project necessarily has limitations due to its screening characteristic, but these can be seen as prerequisites both for identifying the large number of organisational practices with indicated large influence on environmental performance and for reaching the overarching indications made through the project. However, even if no direct quantitative environmental differences were possible and feasible to present, the screening has at least shown that the environmental performances of the studied product life cycles seemed considerably to depend on organisational practices through not straightforward interplays between organising, technology and materials and energy processes. These organisational practices include the examples presented in Table S.2, further on in this summary. Table S.2: Bowling: Ceasing of business or not, Lunch provision or not, Additional games and similar activities degrees; Bread: Supply transport distance, Bread thickness and baking, Overproduction; Bus travel on intercity routes: Eco-driving training and discussions degrees, Number of routes served by the ticket offices, Seats organisation differences on the buses; Cement: Production permits renewal procedure differences, Production permit expiration criteria differences, Organisational practices for handling technical problems at and operation of the plant differences; Properties management: Types of windows related to the handling of cultural heritage requirements, Water taps replacement related to renovation and emergencies, system knowledge and operation and maintenance differences, Insulation differences due to fire protection differences; Road management (operation and routine maintenance of roads): Renewal or not of procurement contracts, Centralisation of contractors activities, Fragmentation of procurement governance. Regarding overall usefulness of screening and thorough nodal LCA organisation studies, respectively, generally the screenings were found to be considerably useful but instead performing thorough studies was indicated to provide considerable additional usefulness although the level and type of this addition were generally found to be difficult to predict. In relation to this, the results have also been discussed regarding whether and if so how they may point towards more overarching ideas on considerable reductions of society’s environmental impacts. This has covered internally driven environmental work within the organising connected to and along product life cycles, substantial amounts of assistance in such work from external experts, and an approach to focus of with a global coverage letting the local activities where the environmentally impacting resource use and emissions occur be monetary targeted. The actual feasibility of each of these approaches, however, have been found to be more or less limited and a uniting requirement seem to be a considerable pressure from the public. Finally, even if such considerable undertakings are made the project here reported on suggests that the environmental effects of a considerable share of actions still may not be possible or feasible to foresee.

case screening

life cycle assessment

environmental management

method development

life cycle thinking

organisational practices


Mathias Lindkvist

Chalmers, Energi och miljö, Environmental Systems Analysis

Henrikke Baumann

Chalmers, Energi och miljö, Environmental Systems Analysis


Hållbar utveckling



Building Futures (2010-2018)




Tvärvetenskapliga studier


Ekonomi och näringsliv

Övrig annan samhällsvetenskap

Report / Division of Environmental Systems Analysis, Chalmers University of Technology: 2015:14

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