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The Complicated Relationship between Innovation and Sustainability: Opportunities, Threats, Challenges, and Trends

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Products and Services".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2023) | Viewed by 18183

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Napoli Federico II, Piazzale Tecchio 80, 80125 Napoli, Italy
Interests: supply chain management; project management; product lifecycle cost management; triple-bottom line; digital transformation
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Hemisf4ire Design School, Lille Economy and Management (LEM)-UMR 9221, Catholic University of Lille, 59800 Lille, France
Interests: economics of innovation; climate change adaptation technology management; innovation ecosystem; transition an adaptation theory

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Guest Editor
Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Salerno, I-84084 Fisciano, Italy
Interests: human–robot interaction; human reliability analysis in production and services; industrial system design and management
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Since, in 2015, UN announced the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a basis for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN 2015), it was very clear that innovation would be the lever to win this challenge. In fact, innovation has largely proven its capability to speed up transformations towards sustainability and to allow a faster achievement of the SDGs. There is no doubt that innovation is really the backbone of sustainability! However, the relationship between the two is somewhat controversial.

Firstly, evidence suggests that outcomes of innovation do not necessarily determine a progress towards sustainability. On the contrary, innovation often contributes to exacerbate many of the problems, or even the creation of new ones.

In addition, it is not just innovation fostering sustainability, the reverse is also true. Many companies are experiencing a path to sustainability-driven innovation, where sustainability criteria are integrated into the creation of new products, processes, and services. This different vision of sustainability that leverages innovation has the power to change the traditional image of sustainability as a cost of doing business into a business driver that can simultaneously improve performance and offer a source of competitive advantage.

Furthermore, just like the concept of sustainability is a multidimensional phenomenon involving economic, social, institutional, and environmental problems, similarly there are different types of innovations towards sustainable development, such as: technological innovation, organizational innovation, institutional innovation, and social innovation. All this complexity needs governance in order to effectively serve for the ultimate goal of preserving the future of our planet.

All that said, the goal of this Special Issue is to stimulate research on the relationship between innovation and sustainability in a wide range of academic disciplines and from different perspectives. Particularly appreciated will be contributions, while focusing on a specific issue, that are also able to put insights into a framework for the overall growth of the system.

In this Special Issue, original research articles and reviews are welcome. Research areas may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Technological development for sustainability;
  • Digital innovation for sustainability;
  • Sustainability-driven innovation;
  • Sustainability innovations effects on firm competitiveness;
  • Open innovation for sustainability;
  • Organizational innovation for sustainability;
  • Sustainability in manufacturing and the supply chain;
  • Social innovation for sustainability;
  • Sustainability governance;
  • How to measure sustainability: approaches and metrics;
  • Development of an Innovation System framework;
  • Political and regulatory challenges of sustainability;
  • Values and ethical concepts of sustainability;
  • Relationship between innovation and sustainable development goals (SDGs).

I look forward to receiving your contributions

Dr. Maria Elena Nenni
Dr. James Boyer
Dr. Valentina Di Pasquale
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • sustainability
  • Innovation Systems (IS)
  • open innovation
  • technological innovations
  • organizational innovation
  • institutional innovation
  • social innovation
  • digital transformation
  • SDGs

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Editorial

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3 pages, 160 KiB  
Editorial
The Complicated Relationship between Innovation and Sustainability: Opportunities, Threats, Challenges, and Trends
by Maria Elena Nenni, Valentina Di Pasquale and James Boyer
Sustainability 2024, 16(9), 3524; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16093524 - 23 Apr 2024
Viewed by 456
Abstract
Since the announcement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN in 2015, innovation has been recognized as a crucial tool for achieving these goals by 2030 [...] Full article

Research

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35 pages, 5577 KiB  
Article
Physics-Based Modeling and Parameter Tracing for Industrial Demand-Side Management Applications: A Novel Approach
by Dominik Leherbauer and Peter Hehenberger
Sustainability 2024, 16(5), 1995; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16051995 - 28 Feb 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 735
Abstract
The transition to sustainable energy sources presents significant challenges for energy distribution and consumption systems. Specifically, the intermittent availability of renewable energy sources and the decreasing usage of fossil fuels pose challenges to energy flexibility and efficiency. An approach to tackle these challenges [...] Read more.
The transition to sustainable energy sources presents significant challenges for energy distribution and consumption systems. Specifically, the intermittent availability of renewable energy sources and the decreasing usage of fossil fuels pose challenges to energy flexibility and efficiency. An approach to tackle these challenges is demand-side management, aiming to adapt energy consumption and demand. A key requirement for demand-side management is the traceability of the energy flow among individual energy consumers. In recent years, advancements in industrial information and communication technology have provided additional potential for data acquisition. Complementary to acquired data, a physics-based modeling and analysis approach is proposed, which describes the energy consumption with physical parameters. This results in comprehensive options for monitoring actual energy consumption and planning future energy demand supporting energy efficiency and demand-response goals. To validate the proposed approach, a case study with a 3D printer covering approximately 110 h of active printing time is conducted. The medium-term study results indicate a consistent parameter trend over time, suggesting its conceptual suitability for industrial application. The approach helps to monitor energy efficiency among manufacturing assets by identifying peak loads and consumption hotspots, and provides parameters to estimate energy consumption of manufacturing processes. Results indicate up to 50% energy savings when switching the printing material and indicate further potentials. Full article
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27 pages, 978 KiB  
Article
The Digitalization Paradigm: Impacts on Agri-Food Supply Chain Profitability and Sustainability
by Yan Dong, Sayed Fayaz Ahmad, Muhammad Irshad, Muna Al-Razgan, Yasser A. Ali and Emad Marous Awwad
Sustainability 2023, 15(21), 15627; https://doi.org/10.3390/su152115627 - 4 Nov 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3588
Abstract
Digitization has completely changed the landscape of supply chain management, which enables businesses to streamline their processes and attain higher levels of profitability and sustainability. This study investigates the relationships between digitalization and supply chain elements, particularly integration, communication, operation, and distribution, and [...] Read more.
Digitization has completely changed the landscape of supply chain management, which enables businesses to streamline their processes and attain higher levels of profitability and sustainability. This study investigates the relationships between digitalization and supply chain elements, particularly integration, communication, operation, and distribution, and their effects on corporate profitability and sustainability. The research is based on an empirical investigation conducted through a questionnaire survey of agri-food industries in Pakistan. PLS-SEM was used for the analysis of data. The results show a positive relationship between digitalization and supply chain integration, processes, operation, and distribution. Moreover, a positive and significant relationship exists between digitalized supply chain integration, processes, operation, and distribution with business profitability and sustainability. The research concludes that the synergistic effect of digital advancements leads to increased business profitability and sustainability. Business organizations may put themselves at the forefront of supply chain excellence by adopting digitalization, benefiting from effective integration, communication, operations, and distribution with increased profitability and sustainability. The findings have a lot of practical and theoretical implications for the excellence of supply chain management and help attain several sustainable development goals, e.g., SDG-8, SDG-9, SDG-11, and SDG-12. Full article
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21 pages, 1022 KiB  
Article
Blockchain Traceability for Sustainability Communication in Food Supply Chains: An Architectural Framework, Design Pathway and Considerations
by Shoufeng Cao, Henry Xu and Kim P. Bryceson
Sustainability 2023, 15(18), 13486; https://doi.org/10.3390/su151813486 - 8 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2000
Abstract
The increasing demand for sustainable and ethically sourced food products has highlighted the importance of effective sustainability communication within the food supply chain. Existing sustainability communication approaches encounter limitations such as a lack of standardised frameworks, information overload, greenwashing, and an absence of [...] Read more.
The increasing demand for sustainable and ethically sourced food products has highlighted the importance of effective sustainability communication within the food supply chain. Existing sustainability communication approaches encounter limitations such as a lack of standardised frameworks, information overload, greenwashing, and an absence of transparent reporting. These challenges hinder their effectiveness and reliability in communicating sustainability efforts and commitments to businesses and consumers in a food chain. Blockchain technology, with its transparent, traceable, verifiable, and immutable features, offers a promising solution to address these limitations and facilitate effective sustainability communication. This paper explores the benefits of applying blockchain traceability to enhance sustainability communication in food supply chains. Using the system architecture approach, this paper proposes a high-level architectural framework, which can navigate the design and development of a blockchain-enabled solution for food sustainability communication. To assist with the translation of the architectural framework into a tailored solution, this paper further presents an action design pathway and discusses the design considerations around organisation, technology, governance, cost, and the user interface. The discussions and insights offered by this study can guide system developers and business analysts in the design and development of industry-oriented solutions, helping them make informed decisions before and during the design process. This paper contributes to advancing and expanding blockchain applications with a particular focus on sustainability communication in food supply chains. Full article
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19 pages, 969 KiB  
Article
Impact of Green Process Innovation and Productivity on Sustainability: The Moderating Role of Environmental Awareness
by Congbin Cheng, Sayed Fayaz Ahmad, Muhammad Irshad, Ghadeer Alsanie, Yasser Khan, Ahmad Y. A. Bani Ahmad (Ayassrah) and Abdu Rahman Aleemi
Sustainability 2023, 15(17), 12945; https://doi.org/10.3390/su151712945 - 28 Aug 2023
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3571
Abstract
Sustainability is one of the fastest-growing research areas globally. Irrespective of industry and economic activity, it is the need of the day. This study examines the impact of green process innovation and green production on sustainability in Pakistan and India’s cement and plastic [...] Read more.
Sustainability is one of the fastest-growing research areas globally. Irrespective of industry and economic activity, it is the need of the day. This study examines the impact of green process innovation and green production on sustainability in Pakistan and India’s cement and plastic manufacturing industries. The study also addresses the moderating role of environmental awareness, which increases the effect of green productivity and green innovation towards sustainability. The research is based on a quantitative approach to addressing the issue in question. Primary data were collected via a closed-ended questionnaire from 657 employees of Pakistan and India’s plastic and cement manufacturing industries, and were analyzed via partial least square structural equation modeling via SmartPLS. The findings show that green productivity and green process innovation have a significant impact on sustainability, while environmental awareness also plays a significant role in sustainable practices in the cement and plastic manufacturing industries of Pakistan and India. The results are helpful for policymakers, industries, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations to ensure sustainability through green process innovation, green productivity, and environmental awareness. Full article
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20 pages, 2899 KiB  
Article
A Systematic Analysis for Mapping Product-Oriented and Process-Oriented Zero-Defect Manufacturing (ZDM) in the Industry 4.0 Era
by Foivos Psarommatis and Gökan May
Sustainability 2023, 15(16), 12251; https://doi.org/10.3390/su151612251 - 10 Aug 2023
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1488
Abstract
Quality is a key aspect in the era of Industry 4.0. Zero-defect manufacturing (ZDM) as the latest quality assurance approach. It can be implemented in two different approaches: the product-oriented and the process-oriented ZDM. It is important to know how and when to [...] Read more.
Quality is a key aspect in the era of Industry 4.0. Zero-defect manufacturing (ZDM) as the latest quality assurance approach. It can be implemented in two different approaches: the product-oriented and the process-oriented ZDM. It is important to know how and when to consider adopting one approach over the other. To achieve that there is the need for analyzing the differences of the two ZDM approaches. However, the current literature lacks a detailed analysis and comparison of these two approaches to ZDM implementation. Earlier studies on the topic have adopted one of these approaches over the other without evaluating how it fits with specific cases. The literature of the last decade indicates a movement towards product-oriented approaches, but it has not shown proof why product oriented was used over process oriented. Guided by these gaps, this research work creates a model for quantifying the effects of the implementation of both the product-oriented and process-oriented ZDM approaches. The proposed model considers all the critical parameters that affect the problem and serves as an assisting tool to engineers during the design or re-configure manufacturing systems, for choosing the most efficient ZDM approach for their specific cases. The robustness of the model was analyzed using the design of experiments method. The results from both the designed experiments and an industrial use case illustrate that in most cases, product-oriented ZDM performs better than the process-oriented approach. Nevertheless, in our analysis, we also highlight strong interactions between some factors that make the selection between product-oriented and process-oriented ZDM difficult and complex. Full article
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22 pages, 1208 KiB  
Article
Sustainable Logistics 4.0: A Study on Selecting the Best Technology for Internal Material Handling
by Saverio Ferraro, Alessandra Cantini, Leonardo Leoni and Filippo De Carlo
Sustainability 2023, 15(9), 7067; https://doi.org/10.3390/su15097067 - 23 Apr 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3084
Abstract
Logistics is a vital activity for the economic growth of an organization as it manages the flow of materials and information within, into, and out of the organization, as well as reverse flow. Like many other industrial processes, logistics has also been impacted [...] Read more.
Logistics is a vital activity for the economic growth of an organization as it manages the flow of materials and information within, into, and out of the organization, as well as reverse flow. Like many other industrial processes, logistics has also been impacted by the rise of Industry 4.0 technologies, which has highlighted the significance of Logistics 4.0. However, Logistics 4.0 is mainly focused on economic benefits, while overlooking environmental and social concerns. To address this, a method is proposed that takes into account the three goals of sustainable development when selecting the best technology for internal material handling activities. Firstly, a comprehensive literature review was conducted to examine the application of 4.0 technologies in logistics processes and their impact on economic, environmental, and social sustainability. Secondly, based on the findings of the review, a three-level analytic hierarchy process was proposed to identify the optimal 4.0 technology for internal logistics. To demonstrate the practicality of the proposed method, it was tested on three companies. The results showed that additive manufacturing, exoskeletons, and collaborative robots are the most suitable options for achieving sustainable development goals within Logistics 4.0. Full article
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Review

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23 pages, 5805 KiB  
Review
Sustainable Production Planning and Control in Manufacturing Contexts: A Bibliometric Review
by Valentina De Simone, Valentina Di Pasquale, Maria Elena Nenni and Salvatore Miranda
Sustainability 2023, 15(18), 13701; https://doi.org/10.3390/su151813701 - 14 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2303
Abstract
Production planning and control (PPC), responsible for all the activities that keep production running regularly, plays an essential role in the transition to more sustainable manufacturing systems. PPC decision-making processes need to be driven by sustainable principles even if this makes them more [...] Read more.
Production planning and control (PPC), responsible for all the activities that keep production running regularly, plays an essential role in the transition to more sustainable manufacturing systems. PPC decision-making processes need to be driven by sustainable principles even if this makes them more effortful and complex from the strategic to operative level. This study aims to review the scientific literature relating to sustainable PPC. A bibliometric analysis of 437 papers published on the Scopus database was performed to identify the most relevant articles, authors, and journals and to provide the current topic trends and future research themes and gaps. The findings revealed the increasing interest in this topic mainly since 2018. China and the USA are the most productive countries, whereas the Journal of Cleaner Production and Sustainability are the most productive journals. The analysis has also highlighted the ways to address sustainability issues in PPC, e.g., by integrating in scheduling models objectives related to sustainability or by removing barriers to reverse logistics and circular economy at the PPC level. The following topics, instead, deserve further research: attention to the social issues in PPC and the development of decision support systems that will improve companies’ PPC decision-making capabilities in sustainable optics. Full article
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