A systems approach to green operations strategy

Breno T.S. Nunes, Duncan A. Shaw, Naomi Brookes, David J. Bennett

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputConference publication


The objective of this paper is to present the potential contribution of systems thinking theory to the development of environmental strategies in operations. Environmental management practices have been establishing their place in business agenda over the last 40 years from, for example, end-of-pipe solutions in the 70s, pollution prevention in the 80s, and environmental management systems in the 90s. 2000s and next decade might emerge as an exciting era for environmental management and its contribution towards
sustainability of organisations. Although a lot has progressed in the identification, implementation and monitoring of environmental practices; nevertheless, there still is a gap to the extent of selecting technologies or practices, and mainly, in developing environmental strategies. Thus, this paper brings a systems model as tool to develop environmental strategies. The systems model presented in this paper intends to contribute to the green operations literature and practice, mainly, in respect to environmental
decision making. Systems thinking methodology was used to turn the green operations framework (1unes and Bennett, 2008) into a systemic tool. The model is now composed of three phases, namely: (A) Problem identification or objective definition, (B) Development of alternatives, and (C) Selection of alternatives, implementation and management. Phase A brings together 5 activities, which include defining strategic objectives, key elements, performance measures, assessment of status quo and classification of
environmental elements. Phase (B) refers to the identification of relevant areas for improvement, the evaluation of existing practices, and the consideration of innovative alternatives. Finally, phase (C) analyzes the alternatives and their contribution, defines an implementation plan, and the management post-implementation. In order to test the model a pilot study was used in a real
environmental decision making situation. The model is currently being applied within several environmental decision making teams in the automotive industry. The methodology used is case research and the main research method is focus group. The model was applied in the design of a green research strategy for a university. The coordinators of the research theme were first interviewed and then participated together in a focus group, which took about 2 hours. From the pilot study, the participants considered that the model increases consistency of decisions by its process and the visible link between objectives, criteria, measures and actions. Further application in different industry would be important to better define the terminology used in the model in order to easy the facilitation process in its utilisation. Moreover, the elements of environmental strategy, measures of environmental performance and possible
alternatives raised in the focus groups are in the context of the participants; therefore, they may not apply for other companies even in the same sector. The results of its application are not intended to be generalised; in instead, the authors aimed at the generalisation of the process of environmental decision making in operations. This work supplements previous research in the field of
environmental management, more specifically to its interface with operations management. Its systems approach avoids prescriptive solutions and fosters the pursuit of innovative solutions. This reveals original to the development of environmental operations strategy. Thus, the contribution of this paper for the Management Technology resides in its model as a tool in the choice of green
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationManaging Green Technology
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of 18th International Conference of the International Association for Management of Technology
EditorsY. Hosni
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Duration: 5 Apr 20099 Apr 2009


Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • environmental strategy; systems thinking; decision making; operations management


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