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A framework and tool to support ecological embeddedness of manufacturers with regards to strategy formulation

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posted on 08.11.2021, 11:56 by Hana Trollman
The research presented in this thesis investigated the meaning and purpose of ecological embeddedness in manufacturing. The insights gained from this investigation were used to design and develop a framework for manufacturers that provides a systematic approach to strategy formulation for sustainability built on ecological embeddedness. A tool was then developed to support the implementation of the framework so that manufacturers are able to identify strengths and weaknesses in their strategy formulation in relation to current best practices and to enable comparison with competitors.
The research contributions may be divided into four distinct parts. The first part includes a review of literature on ecological embeddedness, state-of-the-art strategic approaches of manufacturers to embedding sustainability, shortcomings of current frameworks and tools for embedding sustainability, and expert perspectives on how embedding sustainability is positioned with respect to sustainable development. A clear link is established between the need for manufacturers to become ecologically embedded and the achievement of sustainable development. Although ecocentric approaches to business sustainability and the importance of ecological embeddedness in achieving strong sustainability are recognised in the literature, this research highlights a lack of understanding of what the implications are for manufacturers. The review concludes that a systematic approach to support manufacturers in formulating ecologically embedded strategy is appropriate to achieving a sustainability transformation.
The second part of the research defines the requirements for such a framework for use by manufacturers in formulating ecologically embedded strategy based on the findings of the review and additional research undertaken to understand the needs of manufacturers. A framework was developed that enables manufacturers to integrate corporate, business, operations, and sustainability strategies in a holistic and logical sequence incorporating feedback for continuous improvement. To support greater understanding of the framework, the causal characteristics of ecologically embedded products and the role of design of product, production and packaging are studied.
The third part of the research is concerned with the design and development of a tool to support the implementation of the framework by manufacturers. This tool combines the requirements of the framework and best practices identified in the study of product characteristics and design of product, production and packaging, established in the second part, with user requirements informed by consultation with industrialists. The tool was designed to provide an assessment of current manufacturer practices across corporate, business, operations, and sustainability strategy to provide specific support as needed.
Finally, the feasibility of the framework was demonstrated through two case studies based on manufacturers identified as being ecologically embedded. These case studies help to identify the benefits of ecologically embedded manufacturing. The tool was statistically validated through a survey of process manufacturers. The feedback from the survey of manufacturers who tested the tool highlights its perceived utility.
In summary, this research clearly identifies the need to provide support for manufacturers in becoming ecologically embedded. The tool provides manufacturers a means of assessing and improving their strategy formulation for sustainability through practical identification of best practices and approaches to developing ecologically embedded relations that benefit both the economic actors (manufacturer and consumer) as well as the environment. By utilising the tool, manufacturers may identify areas for improvement and the enabling best practices in advance of legislative changes or erosion of competitive capabilities.



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


Loughborough University

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© Hana Trollman

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A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.




James Colwill ; Alok Choudhary

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