Evaluating sustainability in materials management – case mobile handset manufacturers

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School of Economics | Master's thesis
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Manufacturers? materials management strategy is increasingly highlighted as a source of competitive advantage and, at the same time, is under stakeholder pressure to become more environmentally sustainable. Restricting legislation on substance use and extended producer responsibility (EPR), such as the RoHS and WEEE directives in the EU, increased consumer awareness in sustainability and environmental issues and improvements in the performance of competitors in terms of more environmentally friendly products being launched onto the market are forcing manufacturers to re-evaluate and develop their operations related materials management. This study sets out to identify the strategic elements of a sustainable materials management strategy by studying relevant operations management and environmental management literature and to develop a model for evaluating the sustainability of materials management strategy. Metrics for evaluating the sustainability of the identified strategic elements will be produced as part of this model. Another objective for the study is to use the model empirically to evaluate the level of sustainability of materials management strategy in five mobile handset manufacturing companies operating in the European market. The data used for this research is extracted from the companies? published reports and other external published sources and compiled in the form of case studies focusing on the companies materials management activities. Sustainable sourcing, product eco-design and product recovery and end-of-life management are identified as the strategic elements of sustainable materials management in this study and used as the basis of the qualitative evaluation model. Simplistic metrics for each of these elements are provided in the form of checklists of selected issues for evaluating company involvement in the identified strategic elements. The model produced is a three dimensional evaluation model incorporating the results of each metric checklist on their own axis. The position of the subject company on each of dimensions determines the level of sustainability of the company?s materials management strategy. The empirical application of the model shows that there is relatively high involvement in sustainable materials management in the mobile handset manufacturing industry. Companies proved to be most involved in product eco-design whereas product recovery and end-of-life management operations are still rather limited to companies participating in the collection and recycling of end-of-life products without reintegrating materials back into the forward channel.
materials management, sustainable development, reverse logistics, environmental management, eco-design, end-of-life management, product recovery, sustainable sourcing, mobile phone industry
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