Towards a sustainable industrial system, with recommendations for education, research, industry and policy

The industrial system has been responsible for raising the quality of life of peoples around the world. It is becoming increasingly clear however, that the current system is creating unintended and serious consequences for the environment at a global level. Change on a significant scale is required urgently.

Some businesses are already engaged in reducing their impact through the introduction of new products, processes and business models. Academics concerned with the industrial system have a responsibility to study these emerging models, to interact with them and to synthesise and spread the knowledge.Whilst it is important to address the impact of each aspect of the industrial system and to pursue aggressive reduction of the effects of specific activities, we must also examine the operation of the whole system. Only in this way can we hope to bring the benefits of industrialisation to those who have not yet experienced them without exceeding the limits of our planet.This paper presents cases where industry is already taking action, and argues that:

  • dramatic improvements can be made by deploying existing expertise at the level of individual businesses
  • relying on technology alone to make the industrial system sustainable is a trap we must avoid
  • collaborative engagement of academics is essential to tackle the challenge of reorganising the industrial system

Teachers and researchers, consumers and producers, and practitioners and policy-makers all have the opportunity to shape a future industrial system.What such a system will look like is still unclear and the journey uncertain. This paper does not provide all the answers but offers a platform for informed debate. The case studies highlight examples of changing industrial practice that illustrate the scale of potential improvement.

It considers the implications of these examples and makes recommendations for education, policy, research and practice.

ISBN 978-1-902546-80-3

You may also be interested in:

Centre for Industrial Sustainability - The Centre for Industrial Sustainability (CIS) works to develop knowledge and tools that accelerate the transition towards a sustainable industrial system.


IfM Sustainability Association – The Sustainability Association is a membership network of manufacturing leaders and world-leading researchers looking to drive sustainable change to new levels in manufacturing organisations.