Towards a Context-specific Roadmap for Sustainable Manufacturing: Evidences from Practices in Norwegian SMEs
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This thesis consists of an introductory overview and three research papers concerned with the topic of strategic sustainable manufacturing. The research has been conducted though a combination of case studies and extensive literature studies. In this work challenges, drivers, enablers and other key factors affecting the adoption of sustainability strategies and practices have been investigated within the context of Norwegian metal processing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The business outcomes of the practices have also been explored and discussed. One of the factors investigated is the sustainability impacts of environmental management systems in accordance with the standard ISO 14001 versus the simplified model Eco-Lighthouse. Other key factors considered are size, sector, location, the manager’s personal characteristics, and the company’s sustainability maturity as defined based on a combination of sustainability awareness, practices and strategies adopted. Based on the findings, a conceptual sustainability roadmap has been developed for the identification of applicable tools, depending on the company’s current sustainability maturity level. Suggestions for future research activities for refinement of the roadmap are also given. The performed work provides several contributions to the existing body of knowledge within the research field of corporate sustainability in SMEs. Firstly, the exploration of nine manufacturing SMEs’ experiences with the adoption of environmental management systems (EMS) in accordance with ISO 14001 or Eco-Lighthouse provides new perspectives to the academic discussion on challenges and opportunities associated with EMS adoption in SMEs. It also provides useful input to the ongoing research related to the development of effective guidelines and tools for corporate sustainability in SMEs. The experiences gained from those companies with no formal EMS certification complement the body of knowledge of EMS adoption even further. Secondly, the performed research provides an overview of sustainability practices within the context of fifteen Norwegian manufacturing companies, and link these practices to relevant challenges, enablers, disadvantages, and benefits. Thus, the research contributes to the current understanding of how contextual factors affect sustainability actions and outcomes of these. Thirdly, the research hypothesizes that; although appropriate tools may exist, SMEs rarely have the competence and time available to identify which tools are most applicable to their business context and capabilities, nor to undertake necessary customization of identified tools to fit their actual needs. The study further elaborates on how contextual factors related to size, location, business sector, manager characteristics, sustainability strategy and sustainability maturity, all influence the applicability of different sustainability tools. Lastly, a conceptual example of a context-specific roadmap for the identification of appropriate sustainability tools, using maturity level as main input, has been established on the basis of the experiences gained throughout this work.