Environmental management practices and engineering science: A review and typology for future research



Current literature describes a number of environmental management practices and cleaner production methods that facilitate different industrial sectors to address their various environmental impacts. The high number of present practices makes their use especially difficult and complicated. This paper aims to shed light on this field by providing a typology of those environmental management practices (such as environmental management systems, environmental indicators assessment methodologies, and cleaner productions methods) and their limitations. It also describes the strengths and weaknesses of using such tools and thoughts for future research. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2014;10:153–162. © 2013 SETAC


Recent research in engineering science has introduced the concept of sustainable development. Byrne and Fitzpatrik (2009) consider that the challenges of sustainable development cannot be met only by technological evolution. Thus, “a new engineering paradigm is required, whereby sustainability becomes the context of engineering practice” (p. 51). Similarly, Clift (1998) states that despite the fact that the concept of sustainable development is a political invention, it could be classified in 3 separate components, techno-economy, society, and environment. In the same way, Ashofrod (2004) claims that engineering focuses more on the natural and social sciences because “the activities that drive the industrial state are generally rooted in engineering” (p. 239), and the effective achievement of sustainability goals needs the science of engineering to integrate aspects from the social, legal, and economic fields.

In this sense, engineering science examines the concept of sustainable development by focusing on the industrial and manufacturing sectors. To eliminate industrial impacts on the physical and ecological environment, a range of environmental management practices and methods have been proposed, such as cleaner production methods, environmental management systems, life cycle analysis, and environmental performance methodologies (Cooper et al. 2005).

However, the application of many of these methods and techniques is unclear, a fact that can result in confusion and make their use by industrial and manufacturing sectors complicated (Theyel 2000; Montabon et al. 2007). Many studies exist, based on different definitions and methods for each of these practices (Hoffman 2001; Montabon et al. 2007). Despite the attempt of a number of authors to improve the understanding of academics in the use of those practices, confusion still exists (Sharma and Ruud 2003). A range of typologies and classifications are proposed for environmental management practices such as the following: “proactive,” “reactive,” “pollution prevention,” “pollution control,” “product planning,” and “organizational practices” (Angell and Klassen 1999; Klassen 2001). For instance, Kolk and Mauser (2001) provide a typology about present corporate environmental management models, focusing on their strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, Angell and Klassen (1999) divide corporate environmental management practices into 2 main categories: those suitable for firms' operation and those that focus on corporate production processes. Hass (1996) classifies corporate environmental management practices in 2 categories according to the “(i) stages along a type of continuum/progression or (ii) categorical” (p. 60). To assist in the understanding of environmental management practices focusing on engineering, this paper provides a new updated review framework for classifying and analyzing the literature of this field. It also aims to identify the boundaries of such tools and to present some important strengths and weaknesses for each category. Finally, some thoughts for future research are presented.

Thereafter, this paper has been subdivided into 4 sections: 1) a typology for analyzing current literature, 2) an overview of environmental management tools, 3) the strengths and weaknesses of using those tools by the industrial and manufacturing sectors, and 4) conclusions.


Different definitions such as environmental technologies, management practices, environmental programs, and control technologies come under the term of environmental management practices. Klassen and Whybark (1999) state that environmental projects include different practices found within environmental technologies, management systems, and pollution control technologies. Peattie and Ringler (1994) classify management practices as “technical,” referring to the reduction of firms' pollution output, and “organizational,” encompassing soft strategies such as environmental training, the planning and control of environmental objectives, and top management commitment.

Sarkis (1998) placed environmental management practices in the category of environmentally conscious business practices, which include design for the environment, life cycle analysis, total quality environmental management, green supply chain management (GSCM), and Interactional Organization for Standardization (ISO) ISO 14001 environmental management requirements. Rickmann (1992) considers that firms need to develop an overall environmental strategy that includes a documented plan with an environmental policy, environmental management, and environmental programs. Garrod and Chadwick (1996) describe a number of environmental “tools” of firms such as environmental reviews, policies and audits, and life cycle assessment of products and process. Similarly, Theyel (2000) adds to the list of management practices with the following: “environmental audits, total quality management, pollution prevention plans, environmental training for employees, total cost accounting, life cycle analysis, hiring a designated environmental managers, R&D, environmental standards for suppliers and employee incentive programs for environmental suggestions” (p. 250). Focusing on various institutional factors as important motives, Delmas and Toffel (2004) point out that firms can implement environmental management practices such as environmental management systems, formal training programs, or routine environmental auditing to 1) comply with regulations and adopt standard industrial practices or 2) go beyond the law regarding their environmental responsibilities.

From a broader viewpoint, the term environmental management practices encompasses those used by firms to reduce environmental impacts in their day-to-day operations: examples may include life cycle analysis, environmental management services (EMS), industrial ecology, and energy management. However, confusion exists regarding environmental management practices and specifically in relation to issues of “what,” “why,” and “where.” The term “what” means the content of environmental management practices, “why” underlies the factors that affect the decisions of firms regarding whether to adopt environmental management practices, and finally, “where” shows the focus of each environmental practice on single or multiple environmental issues (e.g., water, energy, and waste management).

To help the discussion about such issues, some researchers have provided methodological frameworks to clarify management practices, methods, and techniques regarding industrial environmental management. First, methodological frameworks have been created to explain the reasons why firms adopt environmental management practices. Sharma and Vredenburg (1998) empirically tested the distinction between the reactive and proactive character of firms in adopting environmental management practices. Similarly, Aragon-Correa and Sharma (2003) determine proactive environmental strategies as systematic patterns of voluntary practices that go beyond regulatory requirements, whereas reactive environmental strategies are limited to regulatory requirements. Following this classification, some authors extended the stages of environmental responses of firms (Winsemius and Guntram, 1992; Seager et al. 2007). Winsemius and Guntram (1992) classify the environmental response of firms in 4 categories—reactive, receptive, constructive, and proactive—and Roome (1992) provides the following categories: noncompliance, compliance, compliance-plus, commercial, environmental excellence, and leading edge.

Secondly, a division of these practices in organizational evaluation and product process evaluation is presented (Melnyk et al. 2003). Kleiner (1991) considers that green firms implement environmental management practices such as product planning, disclosure policy, and pollution prevention programs. Klassen and Whybark (1999) provide the distinction of pollution control (e.g., remediation, end-of-pipe controls) and pollution prevention technologies (e.g., product adaptation and process adaptation). The former category includes environmental management practices that aim to keep pollution within specific limits after mainly regulatory requirements. The latter category focuses on resource reduction and prevention measures. Similarly, Christman (2000) classify the “best practices” of environmental management into 2 main categories: product-focused best practices (e.g., environmentally responsible products) and process-focused best practices (e.g., pollution-prevention technologies).

After these classifications, environmental management practices are divided into 2 main categories: the organizational process-based practices and product-based practices (Table 1). The first category involves environmental management practices, which help the organizational processes of firms to be less environmentally harmful. The second includes environmental management practices that help a company's products to be more environmentally friendly.

Table 1. A typology of literature review
Organizational process-based environmental practicesSingle organizational process-based environmental practicesMultiple organizational process-based environmental practices
Product-based environmental practicesSingle product-based environmental practicesMultiple product-based environmental practices

However, a number of authors in environmental management and engineering have suggested environmental management practices focus only on specific environmental aspects (e.g., water, waste management, and energy), and others refer to multiple environmental management aspects (Almato et al. 1999; Baumann et al. 2002; Azapagic 2003; Hitchcock et al. 2012).

Table 1 presents these 4 new categories of classification of environmental management practices. In the top left-hand quadrant are single organizational process-based practices such as energy-savings programs and air emissions control (Reyes-Cordora et al. 2008; Barros et al. 2007). The top right-hand quadrant includes multiple organizational process-practices that focus simultaneously on different environmental aspects such as life cycle analysis techniques that respond to different environmental management aspects such as water, energy, waste management, and air emissions control.

The bottom left quadrant involves single product-based practices that aim to reduce the environmental impacts of products. Finally, the bottom right quadrant encompasses multiple product-based practices that help production processes to be more environmentally friendly (e.g., eco-labeling, design for the environment, green chemistry, and cleaner production).


Multiple environmental organizational management practices

Multiple organizational environmental management practices include standard procedures and processes for assisting companies to address a broad range of different environmental aspects. Some categories of multiple organizational environmental management practices are presented in the following sections.


EMS refers to the multiple environmental aspects of firms such as solid waste, wastewater, air pollution, and the environmental training of the staff. A typical EMS includes the following standard procedures (Melnyk et al. 2003): 1) environmental policy; 2) planning, controlling, and monitoring of environmental goals; 3) compliance with legislative requirements; 4) designing environmental management practices to achieve the goals of the environmental policy; 5) preparing management and employee training environmental programs; and 6) identification of financial resources. This body of literature includes a number of empirical and theoretical studies aiming to identify the factors affecting firms in their decision to adopt EMS as well as the benefits that firms experience from EMS implementation (Melnyk et al. 2003). Quazi et al. (2001) identify 8 possible critical factors for firms to adopt EMS: cost-savings, senior management concern, employee welfare, meeting environmental regulations, meeting customer expectations, concern over trade barriers, following head office environmental practices, and gaining a competitive advantage. Some authors examine all of these factors in the context of different economic sectors as well as in different countries (Massoud et al. 2010).

Life cycle environmental assessment

Life cycle environmental assessment (LCEA) encompasses tools for the environmental management of companies including those of life cycle analysis, life cycle impact assessment, and life cycle costing. It is a methodology to evaluate the environmental impacts of products and services at various stages of the product life cycle. Singh et al. (2007) present the basic steps of the LCEA methodology as follows: 1) goal and scope definition, 2) life cycle inventory, 3) life cycle impact assessment, and 4) life cycle interpretation. This method can be based either on formal (ISO 14040-43) or informal standards.


Green supply chain management means that environmental concerns are introduced into the supply chain management (SCM) processes of companies through purchasing, logistics, material management, manufacturing, and distribution practices (Cote et al. 2008). The process of GSCM can cover multiple environmental aspects either internally, externally, or both. This review emphasizes the internal holistic environmental management practices. Relevant literature focuses on the benefits and barriers to incorporating environmental concerns in SCM (Zhu and Sarkis 2004).


Eco-efficiency combines the environmental effects and economic performance of companies. The World Business Council on Sustainable Development defines eco-efficiency as the product or service value per unit of environmental influence (Verfaillie and Bidwell 2000). The research of this scientific field focuses on defining the concept of eco-efficiency, improving its measurements, and empirically testing the proposed eco-efficiency indicators in different sectors such as the iron rod industry and petroleum sector.

Assessing environmental performance frameworks

Environmental performance frameworks proposes a range of indicators to evaluate the overall environmental and sustainability performance of companies. These frameworks are classified according to (Labuschagne et al. 2005): 1) the quantitative or qualitative type of indicator units; 2) the dimensions of sustainability that indicators measure; 3) national, community, or industry level; 4) formal or informal guides. Most of those frameworks focus on defining the multiple environmental aspects that should be measured and the appropriate relevant indicators.

Industrial ecology

Roberts (2004: p. 999) states that “Industrial ecology has the potential to improve the sustainability of manufacturing.” He defines some general characteristics of industrial ecology as follows: 1) appropriate location of industry in a way to handle the byproducts of other industries; 2) opportunities for waste and energy recovery practices in industrial systems; 3) synergies for ecological advancement in cleaner production, waste management, and sustainable industrial development; and 4) policies and incentives for industry for the collaboration and commercialization of new and improved product developments using materials, water, and energy surplus to production. Tudor et al. (2007) present a review that covers eco-industrial parks development and analyzes their major advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, they present the substantial economic and environmental benefits.

Single organizational environmental management practices

Waste management

Industrial waste production contributes over 80% of the total amount of waste. Of the 18 million metric tons of industrial waste produced annually, hazardous waste constitutes approximately 1.47 million metric tons or 8% of the total (Wei and Huang, 2001). To manage their waste, Reyes-Cordora et al. (2008) classify companies' waste minimization practices into 4 categories: 1) process design practices, 2) management practices, 3) operative practices, and 4) impact evaluation practices. Studies on this body of literature focus on examining mechanisms, management practices, and conditions that affect the development and implementation of waste management options in embedded industrial production systems.

Energy management

Companies adopt energy management to identify specific energy aspects and strategies to eliminate energy consumption. Some basic steps of industrial energy management are (Christoffersen et al. 2006): 1) the design of an energy policy, 2) the establishment of quantitative goals for energy savings, 3) the implementation of specific energy-saving projects, 4) the organization of energy activities, and 5) the training of employees in energy saving. The research on the energy management of firms has mainly focused on identifying the barriers to energy efficiency in different industrial sectors (Thollander and Ottosson 2010).

Air emissions control

Today, some countries fulfill their commitments of the Kyoto Protocol by adopting an emissions trading scheme for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for energy-intensive industries. The European Commission has proposed IPPC Directive 96/61/EC for integrating pollution control into companies' management (Barros et al. 2007). Furthermore, current literature examines firms' incentives to adopt those types of technologies and the effect of specific policies on the technological solutions (Hammar and Lofgren 2010).

Water management

Some types of industries and manufacturers consume a vast amount of water at the operational and production stages (e.g., the textile and sugar refinery industries). To reduce water consumption, a range of management practices and preventive technologies are used by different companies such as wastewater treatment, recycling, and reuse (e.g., ultrafiltration, physicochemical treatment, biological treatment methods). These techniques are classified into 2 categories: water use reduction (e.g., consumption control, improvement of the water management) and water reclamation (e.g., wastewater treatment, recycling, and resource).

Environmental reverse logistics

Environmental reverse logistics refers to the return flow of products, recovery, recycling, repairing, renovation, and reprocessing (Gonzalez-Torre et al. 2004).The basic activities of an environmental reverse logistics may be the return of bottling and packaging by customers. This research field is focused on issues such as recovery, production planning, and inventory control methodologies. It also may be subdivided into 3 categories: distribution planning, inventory control, and production planning (Kim et al. 2006).

Multiple product environmental management practices


Eco-label schemes include specific environmental criteria for the production of particular categories of products (e.g., food products, wood products) and multiple environmental concerns (e.g., water, energy, and raw materials). It allows consumers to select products with low environmental impacts, while assisting producers to produce environmentally friendly products. The basic trends of this research field include the examination of consumers' willingness to pay for eco-labeled products and how eco-labeled firms improve their economic and environmental performance.

Design for environment

Engineers recognize design for environment (DfE) or eco-design as a means to produce more environmentally friendly products. Some standard steps of this method are material provision and waste disposal (Michelini and Razzoli 2004). The current literature aims to identify the factors that motivate firms to incorporate eco-design and how its basic principles can be incorporated into corporate strategic management.

Cleaner production

Industries with cleaner production can put environmental criteria in their production procedures. In particular, Mijanovic and Kopac (2005) classify the basic characteristics of cleaner production as follows (p. 762): “a) reduction of produced waste quantity, or the avoidance of self-production; b) efficiency of energy and resources use; c) production of environmentally acceptable products and services; and d) less waste production, lower prices and higher profit.” Most relevant studies encompass data on factors influencing firms to adopt cleaner production strategies and how those practices are incorporated into firms' management strategies.

Green chemistry

Manley et al. (2008) defines green chemistry as the methods of designing and producing chemical products and processes to reduce the use and generation of substances hazardous to human health and the environment. Anastas and Warner (1998) propose 12 principles of green chemistry: prevention, less hazardous chemical syntheses, designing safer chemicals, safer solvents and auxiliaries, design for energy efficiency, use of renewable feedstock, reduction of derivatives, catalysis, design for degradation, real-time analysis for pollution prevention, real-time analysis for pollution prevention, and inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention. To this end, Anastas and Zimmerman (2003) provide a set of 12 principles of green chemistry suitable for green engineering and mainly for developing a “framework for scientists and engineers to engage in when designing new materials, products, processes, and systems that are benign to human health and the environment” (p. 95). The use of green chemistry can assist firms in using alternatives ways of production, and designing more secure chemical materials (Garcia-Serna et al. 2007).

Single product environmental management practices

Energy and water label

Certification of water and energy usage is a recent trend ensuring that a firm minimizes its impact in these areas. For example, a range of eco-labels ensures efficient energy and water usage during the production process.


A number of authors state that the use of single and multiple organizational process-based practices or single and multiple product-based practices has a number of strengths and weaknesses in different industrial sectors. For example, Azapagic (1999) suggests that the integration of life cycle thinking into the EMS process will change the overall perception of managers for the solution of corporate environmental problems. Specifically, he points out that environmental problems should be faced at a more global (various production stages) and multiple level (various environmental aspects).

To enhance the results of the use of those practices, many academics suggest a combination of these practices (Table 2). For example, the combination of LCEA with GSCM and environmental performance frameworks has been proposed (Bojarski et al. 2009). Similarly, Singh et al. (2007) suggest the combination of DfE with industrial ecology. They suggest that the combination of such practices may provide “deep insight about the environmental sustainability of industrial ecosystems and facilitate the development of the most eco-effective symbiosis for recycling, reuse and resource conservation” (p. 294).

Table 2. Studies regarding environmental management practices
AbbreviationsEnvironmental management practicesProposed combinationIndustrial manufacturing sectors case studiesSome representative authors
EMSMoral principlesOnly organizational solutionsEMS & LECAMining industryYang et al. 2010; Ammenberg and Sundin 2005; Zorpas 2010
 Financial benefitsDocumentation costsEMS & GSCMPetroleum industry
 Organizational risksTraining costsEMS & DfEElectronic and electric industries
  Disclosure costs  
LCEAEnvironmental performanceOnly organizational solutionsLCEA & IESteel and plastic automobile fuel tank systemsSingh et al. 2007; Bojarski et al. 2009
 Environmental risksMethodology complexityLCEA & GSCMMining industry
 Cost savingsDefinition of system boundariesLCEA & EcLCement manufacturing
  Difficult assessments  
GSCMCosts reductionOnly organizational solutionsGSCM & LCEAAutomobile industryKainuma and Tawara 2006; Zhu and Sarkis 2006
 Improved profitsMethodology complexityGSCM & LCEA & IEPower generating
 Better profileImplementation costsGSCM & EeFElectrical and electronic
  Different stakes among supply chain Furniture production
EeFBetter about environmental and economic performanceOnly organizational solutionsEeF & DfEFood and beverage industryHelminen 2000; Zhang et al. 2008
 Better information on societySingle solutionsEeF & IESteel industry
  Avoids third dimension of sustainabilityEeF & EMSPetroleum and petrochemical industry
  Calculate problems  
EPFSustainability performance measurementOnly organizational solutionsEPF & EMSSteel industryAzapagic 2003; Singh et al. 2009; Fizal 2007
 Improved environmental awarenessSingle-focused organizational solutionEPF & EeFFood production
 Provide quantitative informationAbsence of dataEPF & LCEAPetrochemical industry
  Problems in aggregating the indicators  
WasMBetter water managementOnly organizational solutionsWasM & EefPetrochemical industryAshley and Hopkinson 2002; Casani et al. 2005; Butcher and Jeffrey 2005
 Improvement of water consumptionOnly water measurementsWasM & EPFBeverage industry
 Better informationFocus only on different sectorsWasM & EMS (ISO 140031)Food industry
  Costs of measurements Sugar cane industry
EMImproved monitoringOnly organizational solutionsEM & LCEAFood industryMuller et al. 2007; Christoffersen et al. 2006; Onut et al. 2008
 Better process modelingSingle-focused organizational solutionEM & IEBeverages and tobacco industry
 Better simulation and optimization toolsCosts implementationEM & EMSChemical industry
  Technical problems Textile industry
  Training problems  
AECReduction in overall carbon emissionsOnly organizational solution;AEC & EMSSteel industrySouthworth 2009; Jones and Levy 2007
 Long term market opportunitiesSingle-focused organizational solutionAEC & LCEAConstruction industry
 New high-marginBureaucratic shortfallsAEC & EeFMining Industry
  Cost implementation  
WatMWaste minimizationOnly organizational solutionsWatM & EMSFood industryAlmato et al. 1999; Oliver et al. 2008
 Cost savingsSingle-focused organizational solutionWatM & CPConstruction industry
  Inability to exchange informationWatM & LCEAMining industry
  Different standards for classifying data  
  Monitoring, control and costing barriers  
EcLReduced product environmental impactsOnly production solutionsEcL & DfEForest industryBall 2002; Houe and Grabot 2009
 Elimination of asymmetric informationTechnological problemsEcL & EMSElectricity Industry
  Measurement problemsEcL & LCEA 
  Inability of environmental criteria definition  
DfEReduced resource consumptionOnly production solutionsDfE & EeFChemical industryKnight and Jenkins 2009; Baumann et al. 2002
 Economic benefitsComplexity of the productDfE & LCEATechnology industry
 Improved information systemsLack of efficient learning of the whole organizationDfE &GSCMElectronic industry
  High costs implementation  
CPBetter environmental performanceOnly production solutionsCP & EMSConstruction industryBaas 1998; Dahodwalla and Heart 2000
 Cost savingsCosts implementationCP & EeFMining and mineral industry
 Technical benefitsComplicated techniquesCP & LCEACement industry
  Absence of other environmental tools  
GCEnvironmental benefitsOnly production solutionsGC & DfEPolymer industryKirchhoff 2005; Manley et al. 2008
 Financial benefitsClean-up costs Pharmaceutical industry
 Technologies developmentCompliance costs Agriculture industry
ERLEnvironmental benefitsOnly production solutionsERL & GSCMGlass industryGonzalez-Torre et al. 2004; Mutha and Pokharel 2009
 Economic benefitsNew costsERL & LCEAHigh-tech manufacturing industry
IEEnvironmental benefitsOnly production solutionsIE & EMMining and mineral industryMutha and Pokharel 2009; Gibbs and Deutz 2005
 Financial benefitsSingle-focused product solutionIE & CPPhotovoltaic industry
 Technical benefitsCosts implementationIE & EPFMetals industry
  Technological barriers  

To be more comprehensive, the proposed combinations of environmental management practices may be classified according to the recommended typology as follows: combinations between single and multiple organizational process-based environmental management practices (Figure 1: area E) as well as between single and multiple product environmental management practices (Figure 1: area F). In particular, area A (Figure 1) indicates the single organizational process-based management practices such as waste management and water management, and area B indicates the multiple organizational process-based environmental management practices such as EMS and GSCM. Also, area D shows single product-based environmental management practices including energy and water label, and area C includes multiple product-based environmental management practices such as eco-label and DfE. Finally, a number of papers associate a specific product-based environmental management practice and some organizational process-based environmental management practices (e.g., industrial ecology with EMS and DfE) (Korhonen 2004; Seuring 2004).

Figure 1.

A map of combinations of environmental management practices.

The use of such environmental management practices has a number of strengths and weaknesses. For example, although most of the proposed single organizational process-based environmental management practices are very important for environmental preservation, these practices are focused only on a specific environmental aspect (e.g., wastewater, solid waste) and for overall environmental aspects for which firms are responsible. Casani et al. (2005) describes a range of barriers to using water management practices in industry such as safety, legislation, perception, collaboration, and communication. Additionally, the multiple organizational process-based environmental management practices assist firms in responding to a range of environmental aspects; nevertheless, such practices focus only on operation of firms and environmental impacts that are caused in the production's stages. Similar strengths and weaknesses are presented for single and multiple strategies product-based environmental management practices. For example, single practice such as eco-labeling focus on eliminating impacts in the overall production process, whereas energy and water labels provide specific environmental solutions only for energy or water problems in production processes.

Additionally, some common strengths and weakness of those environmental management practices are explored as well as some common issues arising from this work for future research. Table 2 provides some further information regarding the strengths and weaknesses of such environmental management practices. A common strength among environmental management practices is the support to different industrial sectors in reducing their impacts in different environmental aspects suggested by a number of authors (e.g., Massoud et al. 2010). The construction and mining industries, for instance, implement LCEA methods to eliminate the uses of materials in the different stages of production and distribution of products (Shen and Tam 2002). Similarly, EMS methods assist many industrial sectors to improve their performance in different environmental aspects such as energy consumption, waste production, and air emissions.

An additional common strength of environmental management practices is the financial benefits arising from the efficient implementation of those practices. Several academics maintain that the adoption of EMS, DfE, and other management practices may provide financial benefits to industrial and manufacturing sectors (Baumann et al. 2002; Knight and Jenkins 2009). Evangelinos et al. (2010) claim that the Greek chemical industry has gained financial benefits from the adoption of the Responsible Care Management System. Similar benefits arise from the implementation of other environmental management practices. Furthermore, a range of other common benefits arise from adopting environmental management practices such as savings from reduction in energy use, water, gas and raw materials, improvement in operational processes resulting in cost-savings from reduced usage of raw materials, better image and better relations with customers, community, and other stakeholders (Sharma and Vredenburg 1998; Zutshi and Sohal 2004).

Some common weaknesses of such management practices may be the implementation costs and some technical and technological barriers. According to current literature, one main barrier that firms face when deciding to adopt an EMS or EcL is the lack of adequate financial capital to cover the costs of implementation. Some authors calculate the costs of EMS implementation (e.g., ISO 14001 and Environmental Management and Audit Schemes [EMAS]) from €50 000 to €322 000 (Bracke et al. 2008). Additionally, most of those management practices need advanced technical methods for monitoring and recording environmental management impacts in all stages of the life cycle of products and operations of industrial and manufacturing sectors. For example, Hilson (2000) identifies various barriers for the mining industry in adopting environmental and cleaner production environmental management practices, including legislative, technological, and economic matters. An additional weakness of many such environmental management practices is the bureaucracy involved. For example, the implementation of EMS can be associated with high bureaucracy. Boiral (2007) states that the conformity of an organization with the requirements of a formal EMS is often associated with high bureaucracy and documentation, which is considered an important problem of implementation of such environmental management practices efficiently.

The previous analysis provides ideas for future research; the main areas will be how single or multiple environmental management practices in an organizational or a production context could cooperate together for firms to improve their overall environmental performance. Even though firms adopting some type of the aforementioned environmental management practices could class themselves as green (or be classified as such by stakeholders), most such practices only assist firms in addressing certain aspects of their environmental performance. For example, EMS focuses on greening operational aspects of firms, and eco-labeling emphasizes the greening of the actual product. Companies willing to develop a comprehensive environmental strategy would implement a combination of these approaches. To this end, Ammenberg and Sundin (2005) state that the combination of EMSs and DfE could assist in the integration of environmental aspects into the product development process as well as the integration of the latter into the management system of firms. Similarly, many authors propose theoretical models mainly combining organizational environmental management practices (e.g., EMSs) and product environmental management practices (e.g., DfE) (van Berkel et al. 1999; Donnelly et al. 2006).

Regardless of the value of the various environmental management practices at a company level, these different practices can mislead consumers. Specifically, these environmental management practices with different foci can give the impression that the firm adopting them is an environmentally friendly one. The question is whether a consumer would reward a business by buying a product from a firm that achieves a better environmental performance than other similiar firms and how the aforementioned environmental practices rank in terms of minimizing environmental impact.

This analysis also helps in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of current environmental management practices. The findings will help scholars to focus their research on identifying the appropriate management practices as well as on identifying new combinations that deal with the aforementioned weakness. The analysis of strengths will also help to identify the most appropriate characteristics for building up overall environmental practices combining the organizational process-based and production process approaches.


This paper provides a review of environmental management practices, focusing on the engineering field. The first aim of this review is to present some basic management practices that assist companies and the manufacturing sectors to address their different environmental responsibilities by reducing environmental impacts at either the organizational or production stages. The second aim of this paper is to help clarify the content of such environmental management practices, methods, and techniques and assist the industrial and manufacturing sectors in using them. The third aim is to collect and present a proposed combination of such management practices to assist the industrial sector to find additional synergies and benefits through their use. The final aim is to classify the relevant literature and identify the strengths and weaknesses of those management practices.

This paper contributes to current literature in 2 main ways (Azapagic 2003; Seager et al. 2007; Hitchcock et al. 2012). First, the proposed typology of the various environmental management practices as well as the strengths and weaknesses of such management practices aims to increase the understanding and therefore their effective implementation both from academics and practitioners. In particular, the distinction of environmental management practices in single and multiple processes will assist in increasing understanding of the number of environmental aspects in which each management practice responds, whereas the distinction between the organizational process-based approach and the production-based approach assist in understanding where management practices are relevant. The analysis of strengths and weaknesses help the selection of such environmental management practices.

Second, this analysis highlights a difference in the approach between the organizational and production sides of corporate environmental management. Specifically, it demonstrates the side of environmental management that develops mainly management practices for responding to environmental aspects of the organizational side of firms and the side of engineering for responding to environmental management practices of the production side of firms.