Sustainable Operations

Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date


Publication Title

The Routledge Companion to Production and Operations Management




The emerging focus on sustainability can be traced back to several observations regarding the consumption and availability of natural resources. First, from an absolute perspective, the total consumption of these resources has grown substantially. This can be attributed to significant increases in world population (due to reduced mortality rates that stem from medical advances). Second, the increase in per capita incomes of individual consumers (driven in part by the fact that two of the largest populated economies, China and India, have started to develop industrial bases) has also led to an increase in the consumption rate of these resources. Third, there is a finite supply of several natural resources, and this has led to die predictions on when the current consumption will exhaust the availability of these resources. Finally, even for natural resources that can be replenished, there are two issues of concern: either the replenishment lead times are very long, or the increase in availability can only be achieved through the adoption of approaches (e.g., fracking) that are not environmentally sustainable.