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Mr Breno Nunes

Full-time Doctoral student

Operations & Information Management Group

Research Title

Green Operations in the Automotive Industry: An investigation of environmental decision making.

Research Description

This PhD thesis reports an investigation of green operations initiatives and environmental decision making.  It includes the analysis of the drivers for environmental initiatives, origin of ideas, decision making processes as well as the development, application, and evaluation of a system of thinking environmental decision making approach developed by the author.

Four research questions (RQ) were considered in this study:

  • RQ1:  In what way does the context play a role in the environmental decisions of companies?

  • RQ2:  What are the drivers for manufacturing companies to take environmental decisions?

  • RQ3:  Where do (environmental) solutions come from?

  • RQ4:  Does a structured approach contribute to effectively improve environmental decisions?

Due to the nature of the above research questions, the research methodology is predominantly qualitative.  Qualitative research will allow us to look in more detail at the reasons behind environmental initiatives as well as the driver for a particular decision and its sources of ideas.  The research strategy employed was case study, which accommodated the necessity of dealing with contemporary, complex and contextualised phenomena in environmental decision making within operations function.

Three distinct phases were established in this research project: (a) diagnosis and evaluation of green operations initiatives; (b) identification of drivers, origin of ideas, and environmental decision making processes; and (c) systems environmental decision making methodology - development, application and evaluation.

Six economic segments were involved in the research, namely:

a) Automotive: 9 cases,
b) Non-automotive: 5 cases - carpet, garments, food processing, chemical, and higher education.

The findings of the thesis show that companies that want to be in the environmental leadership will need to take environmental decisions beyond manufacturing processes.  Because the benefits (including financial gain) of non-manufacturing activities are not clear yet, the decisions related to product design, supply chain and facilities are fully embedded with complexity, subjectivism, and intrinsic risk.  Nevertheless, this is the challenge environmental leaders will face - they may enter in a paradoxical state of their decisions - where although the risk of going greener is high, the risk of not doing it is even higher.

This study contributes to both theory and practice of green operations and environmental decision making.  From a theoretical perspective, there are two main contributions.  Firstly, it has established a categorisation for green operations practices, which improves the understanding of topic within academic circles.  Secondly, the depth of the analysis on the drivers, origin of ideas, and environmental decision making process have brought to knowledge original and generalisable issues with regard to why and how the companies go green.  In addition, the link between green operations practices and the nature of the environmental decisions is unique in the field.

For practice, the contribution starts from the benchmarking of green operations initiatives in the automotive industry.  The benchmarking and analysis of green operations initiatives is useful for companies in the automotive sectors as well as for the companies in different industries.  Due to the maturity and awareness of its environmental impacts, the automotive industry can serve as an example for the green practices and concerns companies should consider when developing their environmental strategies.

Last but not least, this thesis offers a systems model, which aims at improving environmental decision making in organisations.  Since more and more companies will have to make important decisions in a near future, the model can be understood as both a theoretical and practical contribution.  The application and evaluation of the model in a real decision making experiment has brought insights that will also impact the theory and practice of environmental strategies.

Supervisors

Prof David Bennett and Prof Duncan Shaw

Education

  • 2006 - Present. Doctoral Researcher at the Research Degrees Programme of Aston University, Operations and Information Management Academic Group of Aston Business School.

  • 2005 - Master of Science Degree from the Industrial Engineering Graduate Program at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte - UFRN, Natal (RN) - Brazil.

  • 2003 - BS. Industrial Engineering - Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte - UFRN, Natal (RN) - Brazil.

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research