Decision making towards sustainability in process industry – drivers, barriers and business opportunities

Nani Pajunen

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


    The present economy is based on growth and technical superiority. In a market-based economy companies play a critical role in adoption of sustainable business practices by demonstrating economic benefits and sustainable competitiveness. Environmental impacts are connected to flows of materials and energy, with the most important flows, at least for manufacturing companies, being closely linked to products. Greening of production is forcing companies to reconsider sustainable sourcing and supplier relationships because their total environmental impact is strongly influenced by the supply chain. Social, economic and ecological thinking can be an opportunity for all actors in the production and consumption cycle where saving raw-materials, increasing energy efficiency, using by-products and reducing waste might be win-win situations for companies and their employees, shareholders, consumers, communities and the environment. Sustainable production and consumption is also one of the key aims of the European Union's environmental policy. Legislation is one of the main drivers in improving material efficiency, but it may also become one of the main barriers. Legal systems are effective in achieving their objectives once the most difficult step of determining the right objectives is achieved. On the other hand one must ask whether there is any other way to achieve the same objectives without legislation or of even defining the targets from a systemic point of view. In this respect it is often unclear at to which is the most optimum approach to control a system. The short-term thinking encouraged by normal financial reporting and the time horizons over which financial returns are generally expected and or are acceptable to businesses and investors, does not go easily hand in hand with life cycle thinking and sustainability. In research and development work the time frame is counted in years and not months. This goes for greening business benefits as well as progress towards sustainability. One of the most important practicalities is a question of our values: every decision should change the world towards a more sustainable future. The aim of this study is to bring out and assess existing, especially market-based, drivers for effective industrial material use and their influence on environmental friendly business strategy and decision-making, especially in process industry. The ambitious target is to determine positive incentives to change the everyday working culture in companies and in society towards sustainability with the idea that every decision has a consequence. In this study, the target is to show the importance of new ways of thinking and how to break the silos in our minds and in society. This study rests on qualitative material, based on co-operation with Finnish process industry companies.
    Translated title of the contributionDecision making towards sustainability in process industry – drivers, barriers and business opportunities
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor's degree
    Awarding Institution
    • Aalto University
    • Heiskanen, Kari, Supervising Professor
    • Watkins, Gary, Thesis Advisor
    Print ISBNs978-952-60-6359-1
    Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6360-7
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


    • life-cycle thinking
    • sustainability
    • management
    • drivers
    • decision making
    • industrial design
    • product development
    • circular economy


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