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A learning and knowledge approach to sustainable operations

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  • Gavronski, Iuri
  • Klassen, Robert D.
  • Vachon, Stephan
  • Nascimento, Luis Felipe Machado do
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    Abstract

    Manufacturing's choice of environmental technologies is expected to be partly driven by the organizational context and receptivity to new ideas and innovation. More specifically, we hypothesize that the organizational learning and knowledge system of a manufacturing plant tends to favor the adoption of pollution prevention technologies and environmental management systems over pollution control technologies of that plant. The organizational learning and knowledge system is hypothesized to be split in two different stages, organizational learning antecedents and organizational learning processes. The choice of environmental technologies is hypothesized to be partially related to the organizational learning antecedents, and mediated by the organizational learning processes. Survey data exploring these relationships are presented from a sample of manufacturing plants in Canada. We found that the actual trade-off is not only between pollution prevention and pollution control, but also between pollution prevention and environmental management systems. The plant's social climate and external knowledge exchange are positively related to pollution control, while the stock of knowledge of managers, stock of knowledge of workers, and internal knowledge exchange are negatively related to pollution control. Environmental management systems had the opposite results. These results are counterintuitive, since we expected that all constructs from organizational learning culture would contribute to the choice of pollution prevention and environmental management systems. We found, however, no empirical support for the mediated model, and the organizational learning and knowledge system explained very little variance in the choice for pollution control. Our study makes three significant contributions. First, it explains, at least in part, the linkages between the stock of employee knowledge, knowledge exchange and managerial choices of environmental technologies in manufacturing. Second, it refined and validated scales that capture organizational knowledge within operations. Finally, this research highlighted the important role that plant-level social climate has on fostering a greater emphasis on pollution prevention. The managerial implications of this research are twofold. Managers, in order to promote pollution prevention and creating long term value with this kind of technology, should promote both the social climate and the external knowledge exchange in the plant. Managers also should craft their environmental management systems not as a bureaucratic process of documentation and regulatory compliance, or just to fulfill clients’ or parent company requirements, but as a source of process improvement and innovation.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal International Journal of Production Economics.

    Volume (Year): 140 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 183-192

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:proeco:v:140:y:2012:i:1:p:183-192

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ijpe

    Related research

    Keywords: Sustainable operations; Knowledge management; Organizational learning;

    References

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    1. Thomas P. Lyon & John W. Maxwell, 2006. "Greenwash: Corporate Environmental Disclosure under Threat of Audit," Working Papers 2006-07, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
    2. Andrew King & Michael Lenox, 2002. "Exploring the Locus of Profitable Pollution Reduction," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(2), pages 289-299, February.
    3. Wu, Lei-Yu, 2010. "Applicability of the resource-based and dynamic-capability views under environmental volatility," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 27-31, January.
    4. Fosfuri, Andrea & Tribø, Josep A., 2008. "Exploring the antecedents of potential absorptive capacity and its impact on innovation performance," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 173-187, April.
    5. Barla, Philippe, 2005. "ISO 14001 Certification and Environmental Performance in Quebec's Pulp and Paper Industry," Cahiers de recherche 0503, GREEN.
    6. Ingemar Dierickx & Karel Cool, 1989. "Asset Stock Accumulation and the Sustainability of Competitive Advantage: Reply," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 35(12), pages 1514-1514, December.
    7. Ingemar Dierickx & Karel Cool, 1989. "Asset Stock Accumulation and Sustainability of Competitive Advantage," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 35(12), pages 1504-1511, December.
    8. Choi, Tsan-Ming & Chiu, Chun-Hung, 2012. "Mean-downside-risk and mean-variance newsvendor models: Implications for sustainable fashion retailing," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(2), pages 552-560.
    9. Charles J. Corbett & Robert D. Klassen, 2006. "Extending the Horizons: Environmental Excellence as Key to Improving Operations," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 8(1), pages 5-22, March.
    10. Lee Cronbach, 1951. "Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests," Psychometrika, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 297-334, September.
    11. Adamides, Emmanuel D. & Pomonis, Nikolaos, 2009. "The co-evolution of product, production and supply chain decisions, and the emergence of manufacturing strategy," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(2), pages 301-312, October.
    12. Chaabane, A. & Ramudhin, A. & Paquet, M., 2012. "Design of sustainable supply chains under the emission trading scheme," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(1), pages 37-49.
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    Cited by:
    1. Galeazzo, Ambra & Furlan, Andrea & Vinelli, Andrea, 2014. "Understanding environmental-operations integration: The case of pollution prevention projects," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 153(C), pages 149-160.

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