Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Exploration of the integration of Lean and environmental improvement

By Claire Biggs


With increasing awareness of the environmental damage that is occurring as a result of human activities, there are also increasing pressures on manufacturing companies to reduce environmental impacts. Many environmental impact reduction methods contain some element of waste reduction, which is also the focus of Lean manufacturing, although their definitions of waste differ somewhat. The aim of this research was to investigate the synergies and similarities between Lean manufacturing and environmental impact reduction in manufacturing, with a strong focus on practical implications. The research was carried out in three stages: a review of the relevant literature, an exploration stage which consisted of semi-structured interviews with ten companies, and action research studies with two companies, investigating company reactions to the introduction of environmental impact reduction measures into their Lean implementation, via adapted tools designed using data from the literature review and exploration stage. Findings from all the research stages were analysed and synthesised, producing a total of 54 findings (including answers to research questions, notes for practitioners, and suggestions for future work) across 12 themes. The research confirmed that some environmental improvement occurs as a side effect of Lean implementations; compared Lean and environmental wastes; looked at potential benefits of mapping for environmental improvement within Lean implementations; found that Lean can be used as a framework for other changes, including environmental improvement; identified opportunities for adoption or adaptation of particular Lean tools for environmental impact reduction; identified new ways in which Lean acts as a foundation for change; showed common uses for goals and measures; found that workforce involvement was an important factor, as was education and training; identified some factors for acceptance and adoption; discussed the effectiveness of integrated implementation; and discussed the benefits of holistic integration of Lean and environmental improvement

Publisher: Cranfield University
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Cranfield CERES

Suggested articles


  1. (1905). (Gemba Panta Rei),
  2. (1996). A Comparison of Two Alternative Interviewing Techniques Used Within an Integrated Research Design: a Case Study in Outshopping Using Semi-Structured and Non-Directed 299 Interviewing Techniques', doi
  3. (1996). A Critical Perspective on Action Research As a Method for Information Systems Research', doi
  4. (2002). Achieving Environmental and Productivity Improvements Through Model-Based Process Redesign', doi
  5. (2002). Action Research for Operations Management', doi
  6. (2001). Advice for an Action Researcher', doi
  7. (2000). Are Lean and Green Programs Synergistic?',
  8. (1997). Can Green Be Lean?', Organizations and the Natural Environment, Academy of
  9. (1994). Case Study Research: doi
  10. (2002). Case Study Research', doi
  11. (2007). Cradle-to-Cradle Design: Creating Healthy Emissions - a Strategy for Eco-Effective Product and System Design', doi
  12. (1999). Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System', Harvard Business Review,
  13. (2001). Design + Environment, doi
  14. (2009). Emerald group publishing ltd. How to... Use Ethnographic Methods and Participant Observation: Part 2, available at: =2 (accessed
  15. (1996). Employee Participation in Pollution Reduction: Preliminary Analysis of the Toxics Release Inventory', doi
  16. (2007). En-Lean: A Framework to Align Lean and Green Manufacturing in the Metal Cutting Supply Chain', doi
  17. (2009). environment, food and rural affairs (2009), Sustainable Development Indicators in Your Pocket
  18. (2004). Environmental Management Systems, available at: (accessed
  19. (2003). Environmental Performance As a Driver of Superior Quality', doi
  20. (2009). Environmental Protection Agency Lean Manufacturing and the Environment, available at: (accessed
  21. (2005). Environmentally Benign Manufacturing: Observations From Japan, Europe and the United States', doi
  22. (2002). Exploring the Locus of Profitable Pollution Prevention', doi
  23. (2006). Extending the Horizons: Environmental Aspects of Lean Operations', doi
  24. (2008). Framing Your Lean-to-Green Effort', doi
  25. (2000). Going Lean a Guide to Implementation, Lean enterprise research centre,
  26. (2007). Green Manufacturing: An Evaluation of Environmentally Sustainable Manufacturing Practices and Their Impact on Competitive Outcomes', doi
  27. (1997). Green Schemes: Corporate Environmental Strategies and Their Implementation', doi
  28. (2005). Green Suppliers Network: Strengthening and Greening the Manufacturing Supply Base', doi
  29. (1998). Honda of America Manufacturing Inc.: Can Lean Production Practices Increase Environmental Performance', Environmental Quality Management, doi
  30. (2007). Hoshin Kanri for Improved Environmental Performance', doi
  31. (1999). Integrating Environmental Issues into the Mainstream:an Agenda for Research in Operations Management', doi
  32. (1999). Integrating the Elements of Sustainable Manufacturing',
  33. (2007). International Survey Highlights Business Attitudes Towards Sustainability,
  34. (2005). Is Lean Green?, available at: (accessed
  35. (2000). Just-in-Time Manufacturing and Pollution Prevention Generate Mutual Benefits in the Furniture Industry', doi
  36. (2003). Knowledge Content and Worker Participation in Environmental Management at NUMMI', doi
  37. (2003). Lean and Green : Doing More With Less',
  38. (2008). Lean and Green Supply Chain Mapping: Adapting a Lean Management Tool to the Needs of Industrial Ecology', doi
  39. (1996). Lean and Green: the Move to Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing', doi
  40. (2001). Lean and Green? an Empirical Examination of the Relationship Between Lean Production and Environmental Performance', doi
  41. (2006). Lean and Green" at a Romanian Secondary Tissue Paper and Board Mill - Putting Theory into Practice', Resources, doi
  42. (2005). Lean Production and EMSs: Aligning Environmental Management With Business Priorities', Environmental Quality Management, doi
  43. (2001). Lean, Green, and the Quest for Superior Environmental Performance', doi
  44. (2004). Learning to Evolve a Review of Contemporary Lean Thinking', doi
  45. (2004). Learning to Lead at Toyota',
  46. (2000). Linking Operational and Environmental Improvement Through Employee Involvement', doi
  47. (2007). Making a Difference: Sustainability Reporting, Accountability and Organisational Change', doi
  48. (2009). Making Resources Work More Efficiently - the Importance of Supply Chain Partnerships', doi
  49. (2000). Management Practices for Environmental Innovation and Performance', doi
  50. (1995). Manufacturing Strategy and Environmental Consciousness', doi
  51. (2001). Manufacturing's Role in Corporate Environmental Sustainability: Concerns for the New Millennium', doi
  52. (2000). New Relationships: ISO14001, Lean Manufacturing, and Transportation', doi
  53. (2004). Perfect Complements: Synergies Between Lean Production and Eco-Sustainability Initiatives', doi
  54. (2009). Plants That Are Green', doi
  55. (1999). Poka-Yoke and Zero Waste',
  56. (2001). Pollution Prevention and Lean Manufacturing',
  57. (2003). Pursuing Perfection: Case Studies Examining Lean Manufacturing Strategies, Pollution Prevention, and Environmental Regulatory Management Implications, US EPA, Ross and Associates
  58. (2002). Qualitative and Quantitative Issues', doi
  59. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis, doi
  60. (1998). Qualitative Methods in Social Work Research: Challenges and Rewards, Sage, Thousand Oaks, doi
  61. (1996). Research Interviews',
  62. (2005). The (Unlikely) Trajectory of Learning in a Salmon Hatchery', doi
  63. (2009). The Challenges of Creating Actionable Knowledge: an Action Research Perspective', doi
  64. (2001). The Dual Imperatives of Action Research', doi
  65. (2007). The Genealogy of Lean Production', doi
  66. (1999). The Impact of Environmental Technologies on Manufacturing Performance', doi
  67. (2002). The Lean, Green, Industrial Machine: the Other Side of Waste', doi
  68. (2008). Towards More Sustainable Management Systems: Through Life Cycle Management and Integration', doi
  69. (1988). Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production, Productivity press,
  70. (2000). Using a Systems Approach to Improve Process and Environmental Performance', doi
  71. (2002). Using Kaizen to Reduce Waste and Prevent Pollution', doi
  72. (2009). What Is Life Cycle Assessment?, available at: (accessed
  73. (2010). What Is Resource Efficiency?, available at: 297
  74. (2001). What Makes Companies Green? Organizational and Geographic Factors in the Adoption of Environmental Practices', doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.