The Automobile Industry & Sustainability

The Automobile Industry & Sustainability

The automobile sector is one of the biggest, most diverse, and most significant in the world. The management techniques, organizational structures, and particularly the response to environmental pressures adopted by this industry—which is debatably the largest single manufacturing sector globally—are significant in and of themselves, as well as in terms of how they affect numerous other business sectors. Millions of people benefit from the results of this industry’s work in terms of personal mobility, but they also present a wide range of issues that affect our everyday lives. These difficulties include, but are not limited to, the deterioration of local air quality in urban areas, worldwide problems like global warming, and the treatment of wrecked automobiles.

The resolution of environmental issues must go hand in hand with the numerous economic challenges that the automotive industry is currently facing, including overcapacity, saturated and fragmented markets, capital intensity, and persistent issues with achieving adequate profitability, as is argued in our introductory paper to this Special Issue (Orsato and Wells).

Sustainability takes into account the variety of environmental issues the automotive sector faces as well as the variety of scholarly approaches to certain topics. As the special issue’s editors, we believed it was crucial to reflect various theoretical and empirical viewpoints, to capture the spirit of where the “research frontier” was with regard to the business, without being unduly prescriptive or imposing a specific theoretical focus.

The need to screen ideas simultaneously for both quality and creativity, as well as for a general fit within the theme of handling the commercial and technological components of sustainability as they relate to the automotive industry, was obviously necessary. It also felt crucial to include the perspectives of academics from various geographical regions. A special issue that is multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural, and multi-national is the end result.

Schools of thought, which may contain a variety of theories and approaches that are claimed to comprise substantial intellectual endeavor, are often how academia is set up. Although earlier special issues of the Journal of Cleaner Production have also attempted to focus on certain sectors, this focus on an industrial sector is unique but becoming more and more important.

Our argument for this relevance stems from the fact that discourses on sustainability tend to be those in which the need for multidisciplinary analysis is most pressing. The goal of this special issue is to show that in order to address the fundamental problem of how to create a sustainable vehicle industry and how it will assist our societies become more sustainable, a variety of solutions and understandings must be applied.

The majority of the articles reflect an underlying viewpoint that says an industry or production-consumption system that is inherently unsustainable cannot provide sustainable mobility (whatever that may be). Notwithstanding all the rhetoric of diversity, it is the editors’ responsibility to organize the papers logically and to explain the philosophical underpinnings of the selection and coverage of the articles. This introductory chapter’s remaining sections attempt to explain this.

Sustainable value chains are becoming more and more crucial for the automobile sector as natural resources become more and more scarce. They are founded on the idea of resource reuse and recycling. Transparency must be established throughout the supply chain.

An industry’s sustainability from a whole-systems and life-cycle perspective

Organizational theory’s ideas have drawn attention to the “organizational field” in which corporations operate, and in particular to the manner in which its members restrict, permit, or otherwise mediate change inside the organization . Simply put, context matters. Both in terms of time and location, it matters. A business exists inside a network of interactions that it both influences and is influenced by. It does not exist in a vacuum.


Material selection for goods during the design phase is one area where LCA as a formal decision technique has been used. Generally, a material may have specific advantages over the incumbent material in one or more respects, but it may also have certain drawbacks. Here, the article by Tharumarajah and Koltun discussing the use of magnesium for automobile components is given as an illustration. This paper is clearly “technical,” and the benefits of the information are discussed.


The vast majority of automakers have taken a proactive approach to minimizing the environmental impact of their production processes since the 1980s. There is no denying that gains have been made. Every major high-volume auto manufacturer has strived to boost levels of environmental performance.

The simple explanation for this is that applying ecological concepts to commercial practices makes sense. Essentially, the drive to find every feasible way to reduce costs.

Vehicle use

About 95% fewer air pollutants were released into the atmosphere by internal combustion engines powering (new) cars on OECD roads at the turn of the 2000 [6]. These numbers indicate that, from an incrementalistic point of view, internal combustion engines’ (ICEs’) environmental performance has significantly improved over the last few decades. The introduction of pollution limits for cars provides a definitive reason for such accomplishments.

End-of-life vehicles

The treatment of items after they have passed the end of their useful functional period is arguably one of the least known elements of environmental performance. However, the issue has become a major worry for the industry itself, in large part due to European laws for the treatment of so-called end-of-life vehicles (ELVs). The articles in this special issue attempt to measure and comprehend some of the repercussions as a result.

Conclusions and signposts to the future

This special issue serves as evidence of the breadth and diversity of efforts being made globally to improve the sustainability of one of the most significant industries in the world. More research is likely to be conducted in each case as solutions are sought on numerous levels in a challenging and dynamic operational environment. The following contributions effectively illustrate the value of an industrial emphasis (as opposed to a discipline or methodological focus): Real change is desperately needed in the world.

Automobile History