Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Environmental Knowledge Management of Finnish Food and Drink Companies in Eco-Efficiency and Waste Management

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Environmental Knowledge Management of Finnish Food and Drink Companies in Eco-Efficiency and Waste Management

Article excerpt

Introduction

Various tools for environmental management (EM) exist but few of them integrate the product life cycle perspective and the knowledge management (KM) approach. The life cycle perspective is an essential aspect of EM, since it classifies and describes actions related to all relevant environmental knowledge areas, from product acquisition, design and manufacture, to product service and disposal. On the other hand, use of KM to tackle environmental issues can help companies to better understand what can be done about environmental problems and how to realize the benefits of environmentally responsible actions (Frick, Kaiser, & Wilson, 2004). Most of the literature on environmental knowledge management (EKM) focuses on informational and softer decision-making tools rather than on appropriate understanding of specific environmental knowledge areas and their connection to organizational structure and culture (Heeney & Murphy, 1999). Environmental knowledge management should combine tools, mechanism, processes, structures, strategies, data, and information with people's experiences and ideas to enable the creation, capture, sharing, acquisition, and use of knowledge (Huang & Shih, 2009). Consequently, this research employs knowledge management and the product life cycle approach to address individual environmental knowledge areas about eco-efficiency and waste management and their interrelations. There are four relevant challenges for this study based on the literature. The first is incoherence between environmental knowledge about management of raw materials, energy efficiency, and waste (Kaiser & Fuhrer, 2003). Companies have knowledge gaps in understanding and utilization of product life cycle processes due to the complex relationship between raw materials, energy, and waste. The second challenge is related to an inability to identify and analyze all relevant environmental aspects and impacts within the areas of raw materials, energy, and waste management. Companies need to develop an atomistic approach for every business process in order to gain understanding about the risks, costs and benefits of their actions for the each knowledge area (Ipe, 2003; Kaiser & Fuhrer, 2003). The third challenge arises from a lack of empowerment of employees, which prevents them from taking relevant environmental actions. Boiral (2002) emphasizes that managers and environmental specialists must visit work sites and discuss with employees in order to identify their knowledge and competencies as well as to encourage them to think, share, and use their environmental knowledge. Companies also need to find solutions to integrate individual knowledge, plans, experience, and goals into organizational structures. The fourth challenge is found in external contacts and knowledge acquisition from stakeholders and suppliers. This challenge is related to the ability of organizations to acquire relevant external knowledge and integrate it appropriately into internal knowledge (Jorgensen, 2006, 2008).

The general aim of this research is to analyze how companies identify relevant eco-efficiency and waste management aspects, their relations and causes, and how they act to address these aspects. Additionally, employing KM and the life cycle approach, this paper sets the following specific objectives:

a) to analyze how companies acquire knowledge on eco-efficiency and waste management internally and externally;

b) to analyze how companies share knowledge on eco-efficiency and waste management internally and externally;

c) to outline the way in which companies use and create knowledge about eco-efficiency and waste management;

d) to analyze knowledge accumulation and retrieval about eco-efficiency and waste management;

This research focuses on the Finnish companies in food and drink sectors. The food and drink industry is the fourth biggest industry in Finland and, at the same time, one of the greatest users of materials and energy. …

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