The concept of sustainable manufacturing and its definitions: A content-analysis based literature review
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Cleaner Production. 2017, 166 744-755. 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.08.006
The concept of sustainable manufacturing (SM) is becoming increasingly mature due to the focus on many of its research topics for a long time. This research has undoubtedly extended the body of knowledge, yet the numerous definitions of SM in prior art still indicate a lack of consensus on the true meaning of the concept. It is thus to be expected that these discrepancies will constrain further development and use of the SM concept in industrial practice. The goal of this paper is to analyze the different definitions of SM and identify the current understanding of what researchers mean by the concept. We use an inductive content analysis of definitions published from 1990 to 2016 in a variety of academic journals. A total of 189 articles including a manifest definition of SM and 89 original definitions were identified. Our analysis revealed that the most commonly used definition is the one proposed by U.S. Department of Commerce in 2008; 63% of the analyzed articles cite or slightly rephrase this definition, while 86% of the identified definitions are used in less than three articles. Although the majority of researchers seems to agree upon eleven subcategories of SM, a wide range of issues (67 sub-categories) associated with SM indicates inconsistency in the general understanding of the concept. It is proposed that the findings in this study can serve as a foundation for the development of a common language for SM in both research field and industrial practice.