Emergy Analysis and Supply Chains

Emergy Analysis and Supply Chains

Lojain Alkhuzaim (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA) and Joseph Sarkis (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2173-1.ch004

Abstract

The growth in stakeholder pressures, broader sustainable supply chain management practices, and new economic models such as circular economy, has made sustainability a priority for organizations and their supply chains. To be able to manage their activities, programs, processes, and strategies, organizations have adopted and developed performance measures. Unlike other performance measures, emergy analysis quantitatively provides a real value for the work of nature to evaluate performance beyond the traditional measures that have been traditionally presented in the supply chain literature. This chapter offers an introductory explanation of how and what emergy analysis can offer in evaluating the environmental performance of supply chains. It will also consider not only the capabilities of emergy analysis but also the limitations and much-needed research to advance both fields, EA and SSCM.
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Introduction

Sustainability issues have stimulated new ways of thinking with emerging concepts. These concepts help to investigate and evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of business and corporate environmental performance. Stakeholder forces over the past few decades have caused organizations to reconsider environmental issues and how they are addressed. Demand for environmental assessment tools to alleviate the environmental stress associated with expeditious industrialization has been one result.

The integral relationship between business and the natural environment have evolved to include not only individual organizations, but supply chains. Sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) practices can more broadly deal with the triple bottom line (3BL) dimensions (economic, social and environment) to broad based performance standards (Beske-Janssen et al., 2015). Seuring and Müller (2008) defined SSCM as the integration of the triple bottom line dimensions in managing material, information and capital flows by effective cooperation among supply chain partners.

Similarly, focusing more on the environmental and economic dimensions, the circular economy (CE) has also grown in importance globally to deal with different environmental concerns. Much of CE is related to waste effluents with a focus on improving the efficiency of used-resources to achieve better economic performance (Ghisellini et al., 2016). CE as a business model that keeps materials and components within a closed loop can help organizations achieve the highest utilization of these resources (Webster, 2017). There has also been a strong linkage between SSCM or green supply chain management and CE (Liu et al., 2018).

The growth in stakeholder pressures, broader SSCM practices, and new economic models such as CE, has made sustainability a priority for organizations and their supply chains. To be able to manage their activities, programs, processes, and strategies, organizations have adopted and developed performance measures. Performance measures that can evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of supply chains have been one of these areas. Supply chain performance measures (SCPM) can be designed to address a single dimension or integral aspects of the 3BL (Beske-Janssen et al., 2015). However, environmental sustainability performance is the dominant focus of this chapter; especially emergent corporate and SSCM environmental performance measurement.

Although supply chain sustainability performance has gained in importance since its broad introduction into the literature about 15 year ago (Hervani et al, 2005), substantially more work and development are needed. One of the emerging assessments and performance tools that has gained increasing attention and can be useful in providing a comprehensive evaluation of the environmental performance of the supply chain is emergy analysis (EA); emergy with an “m”.

With increasing complexity and a shift to global supply chains, evaluating the environmental performance across different geographical boundaries can be a difficult task for stakeholders in the supply chain. Unlike other environmental assessment tools and performance measures, EA quantitatively provides a real value for the work of nature -- sun, wind, geothermal heat and rain -- in addition to that of humans in producing products and services. It considers the ‘donor’ value of the environment into various activities of commerce and society and their systems.

Theoretically, emergy was initially discovered as a thermodynamics and general systems theory and defined as the cumulative available energy that was consumed directly or indirectly to produce a product or a service (Odum, 1996). EA and SSCM can be integrated to create a robust environmental assessment tool to evaluate its performance beyond the traditional measures that have been traditionally presented in the supply chain literature. This chapter offers an introductory examination of how and what emergy analysis can offer in evaluating the environmental performance of supply chains. It will also consider not only the capabilities of emergy analysis, but also the limitations and much needed research to advance both fields, EA and SSCM.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Trible Bottom Line: The economic, social and environment dimensions of a business.

Sustainable Supply Chain Management: The integration of eco-friendly practices with feasible financial planning in addition to maintaining socially responsible standards in dealing with materials, information and capital flows.

Circular Economy: A business model that aims to keep materials and components within a closed loop. Emergy Analysis: An assessment tool that quantifies the accumulative available energy consumed directly or indirectly to produce a product or a service.

Transformity: A measure of the intensity of the support provided by the natural system to the final product.

Performance Measures: A set of indicators used to quantify the efficiency and effectiveness of business processes and activities.

Solar Emjoules: The unit used to measure the total emergy of a particular system.

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