Environmentally benign manufacturing: Observations from Japan, Europe and the United States

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A recent international panel study (Gutowski T, Murphy C, Allen D, Bauer D, Bras B, Piwonka T, Sheng P, Sutherland J, Thurston D, Wolff E. WTEC Panel Report on: Environmentally Benign Manufacturing (EBM), 2000 on the web at; http://itri.loyola.edu/ebm/ and http://www.wtec.org/ebm/) finds Environmentally Benign Manufacturing (EBM) emerging as a significant competitive dimension between companies. With differing views on future developments, companies, especially large international companies, are positioning themselves to take advantage of emerging environmental trends. Among Japanese companies visited, the panel observed an acute interest in using the environmental advantages of their products and processes to enhance their competitive position in the market. In the northern European countries visited, the panel saw what could be interpreted as primarily a protectionist posture; that is, the development of practices and policies to enhance the well-being of EU countries, that could act as barriers to outsiders. In the U.S., the panel found a high degree of environmental awareness among the large international companies, most recently in response to offshore initiatives, mixed with skepticism. In this article, we survey EBM practices at leading firms, rate the competitiveness of the three regions visited, and close with observations of change since the study. Based upon these results, major research questions are then posed. In sum, the study found evidence that U.S. firms may be at a disadvantage due in part to a lack of coherent national goals in such areas as waste management, global warming, energy efficiency and product take back. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Journal of Cleaner Production