This call for papers on the implications of industry 4.0 (I4.0) for social and environmental sustainability theories and practices coincides with an era where the world has been recently facing several critical challenges, from a pandemic to wars. That said, and even if a pandemic has the potential to be highly impactful on global humankind, that challenge is expected to have a relatively short time duration.
However, there are two other critical problems to the world that we argue not only more dangerous but also more systemic. First, individuals within societies are increasingly becoming dangerously unequal (United Nations, 2020) with the potential for conflicts and riots, both nationally and internationally, as we have seen in the European Union refugee crisis or the United States of America south border. Second, we have passed the tipping point of environmental sustainability (United Nations, 2021), and this presents a Mankind's survivance problem, which will inevitably also conduct to conflicts, nationally and internationally.
The European Union has flagged that individuals need to quickly move away from certain well-entrenched habits and organizations need to change many of their practices (European Environment Agency, 2018). Indeed, and even if social inequality and environmental sustainability were primarily created at the institutional level (Amis et al., 2018), we argue that remains within the organizations, namely the multinationals, the next push towards a more equalitarian and sustainable world. Multinationals do not only have a large footprint across the globe (López et al., 2019), but as they are seen as a reference by many other organizations following their practices.
Past literature (e.g., Ejsmont et al., 2020; Ghobakhloo, 2020; Reis et al., 2021) has pointed out that I4.0 can play an important role in improving organizations' social and environmental sustainability, with some researchers attempting to link I4.0 to components of social and environmental sustainability (Chin et al., 2022; Ghobakhloo et al., 2021). For example, Nascimento et al. (2019) explained the benefits that I4.0 technologies can bring to the circular economy in a specific manufacturing context, but their study is not only limited in scope as in translation to other parts of a global value chain. Rosa et al. (2020) explain, through a literature review, the synergies between circular economy and I4.0 and describes the influence of I4.0 on all the different areas of the circular economy, but also points, as future research, to the challenges that firms will face on moving from traditional to circular business models using I4.0. Rajput and Singh (2019) link I4.0 to the circular economy in the supply chain context but only from a process view without accessing capabilities, strategies, and purpose. More recently, El Baz et al. (2022) and Ng et al. (2022) attempted to explain how I4.0 may promote sustainable development by facilitating sustainable manufacturing. Nonetheless, we still lack a comprehensive understanding of how I4.0 will enhance the circular economy from a managerial perspective.
Also, Beltrami et al., (2021) and Benzidia et al. (2021) pointed to the benefits that I4.0 can have on organizations' social practices, particularly when looking at global value chains using blockchains, but do so from a relationship management perspective and a specific technology, leaving several areas for exploring, both in how different technologies can work towards organizational social practices (Satyro et al., 2022) or how those practices materialise and disseminate in multinationals using I4.0 roll-outs.
Interestingly, however, the corporate purpose field has remained silent on how the roll-outs of I4.0 can enhance a strategic change on shifting the multinationals from a pure economic value perspective to also include a social and environmental one. Similarly, and from the international business literature perspective, we still miss a clear link between the international business literature and I4.0 technologies (Torres de Oliveira et al., 2020) but also how I4.0 technologies roll-outs can enhance social and environmental sustainability (Ajwani-Ramchandani, Figueira, Torres de Oliveira, & Jha, 2021; Ajwani-Ramchandani, Figueira, Torres de Oliveira, Jha, et al., 2021; Montiel et al., 2021).
We foresee the I4.0 technologies as a source to foster change on multinational corporate purpose and as a mechanism to disseminate it across the different subsidiaries and its stakeholders. For example, the vertical integration processes that I4.0 can provide to multinationals have the potential to uncover social and environmental issues that multinationals, frequently as orchestrators, have in their operations.
Therefore, we still lack a holistic understanding of how such roll-outs of I4.0 can enhance fields that we know have a critical impact on social and environmental sustainability, such as the circular economy, organizations' social practices (within and outside the organization), and corporate purpose, and how such holistic approach works in a multinational environment. I4.0 is a particularly important mechanism to tackle the above mentioned critical problems because it will not only upgrade factory operations as before but, and for the first time in industry history, organizations will have the prospect to change their core business from production and selling products to provide solutions (Strozzi et al., 2017).
Suggested Topics for Submissions
This special issue aims to foster research at the intersection of I4.0 and social and environmental sustainability through circular economy, organizations' social practices, and corporate purpose. We are particularly interested in research that advances the theoretical knowledge on how I4.0 might enhance some of the social and environmental sustainability areas in multinationals. Social and environmental sustainability have been studied in a theoretically disconnected way, but there are initial pieces of evidence (e.g., Farooq et al., 2020) that both fields need common approaches to be effectively implemented in organizations. Moreover, firms are not isolated from their environment, and the adoption of I4.0 technologies might impact and be impacted by industry- and institutional-level constraints. Thus, we encourage research that can address the I4.0 nexus at multiple levels of analysis and in different types of organizations. Furthermore, as we live in an increasingly interconnected world with complex and long global value chains, which are particularly important for multinationals (Torres de Oliveira et al., 2021), this special issue welcomes research that looks at the potential differences that developed and/or emerging economies have or its specificities. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:
Manuscript submission information:
The submission must not be under consideration forpublication elsewhere. When the paper is submitted, the new contributions mustbe clearly stated in the cover letter.
Full papers are invited for potential publication in thisspecial issue of the ‘VSI: I4.0, sustainability & IB’.Submissions should be between 8000 and 12,000 words for comprehensive,integrative reviews and between 6000 and 8000 words for fullresearch/theoretical papers with broad empirical studies.
• Authors' notification: 45 days
Final publication: First quarter of 2023
Dr Sandra Figueira
Department of Strategy & Entrepreneurship
University of Queensland, Australia
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Dr Rui Torres de Oliveira
Queensland University of Technology, Australia
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Dr Parisa Maroufkhani
The University of Waikato Joint Institute,
Zhejiang University City College,
Hangzhou, PR China
Dr Morteza Ghobakhloo
School of Economics and Business,
Kaunas University of Technology, Kaunas, Lithuania
Division of Industrial Engineering and Management,
Uppsala University, P.O. Box 534, Uppsala 75121, Sweden
Ajwani-Ramchandani, R., Figueira, S., Torres de Oliveira, R., & Jha, S. (2021). Enhancing the circular and modified linear economy: The importance of blockchain for developing economies. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 168, 105468.
Ajwani-Ramchandani, R., Figueira, S., Torres de Oliveira, R., Jha, S., Ramchandani, A., & Schuricht, L. (2021). Towards a circular economy for packaging waste by using new technologies: The case of large multinationals in emerging economies. Journal of Cleaner Production, 281, 125139.
Amis, J. M., Munir, K. A., Lawrence, T. B., Hirsch, P., & McGahan, A. (2018). Inequality, institutions and organizations. Organization Studies, 39(9), 1131-1152.
Beltrami, M., Orzes, G., Sarkis, J., & Sartor, M. (2021). Industry 4.0 and sustainability: Towards conceptualization and theory. Journal of Cleaner Production, 312, 127733.
Benzidia, S., Makaoui, N., & Subramanian, N. (2021). Impact of ambidexterity of blockchain technology and social factors on new product development: A supply chain and Industry 4.0 perspective. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 169, 120819.
Ching, N. T., Ghobakhloo, M., Iranmanesh, M., Maroufkhani, P., & Asadi, S. (2021). Industry 4.0 applications for sustainable manufacturing: A systematic literature review and a roadmap to sustainable development. Journal of Cleaner Production, 130133.
Ejsmont, K., Gladysz, B., & Kluczek, A. (2020). Impact of industry 4.0 on sustainability—bibliometric literature review. Sustainability, 12(14), 5650.
El Baz, J., Tiwari, S., Akenroye, T., Cherrafi, A., & Derrouiche, R. (2022). A framework of sustainability drivers and externalities for industry 4.0 technologies using the Best-Worst Method. Journal of Cleaner Production, 130909.
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Ghobakhloo, M. (2020). Industry 4.0, digitization, and opportunities for sustainability. Journal of Cleaner Production, 252, 119869.
Ghobakhloo, M., Fathi, M., Iranmanesh, M., Maroufkhani, P., & Morales, M. E. (2021). Industry 4.0 ten years on: A bibliometric and systematic review of concepts, sustainability value drivers, and success determinants. Journal of Cleaner Production, 302, 127052.
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Nascimento, D. L. M., Alencastro, V., Quelhas, O. L. G., Caiado, R. G. G., Garza-Reyes, J. A., Rocha-Lona, L., & Tortorella, G. (2019). Exploring Industry 4.0 technologies to enable circular economy practices in a manufacturing context: A business model proposal. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management.
Ng, T. C., Ghobakhloo, M., Iranmanesh, M., Maroufkhani, P., & Asadi, S. (2021). Industry 4.0 applications for sustainable manufacturing: A systematic literature review and a roadmap to sustainable development. Journal of Cleaner Production, 130133.
Rajput, S., & Singh, S. P. (2019). Connecting circular economy and industry 4.0. International Journal of Information Management, 49, 98-113.
Reis, J. S. d. M., Espuny, M., Nunhes, T. V., Sampaio, N. A. d. S., Isaksson, R., Campos, F. C. d., & Oliveira, O. J. d. (2021). Striding towards sustainability: A framework to overcome challenges and explore opportunities through industry 4.0. Sustainability, 13(9), 5232.
Rosa, P., Sassanelli, C., Urbinati, A., Chiaroni, D., & Terzi, S. (2020). Assessing relations between Circular Economy and Industry 4.0: a systematic literature review. International Journal of Production Research, 58(6), 1662-1687.
Satyro, W. C., de Almeida, C. M. V. B., Pinto Jr, M. J. A., Contador, J. C., Giannetti, B. F., de Lima, A. F., & Fragomeni, M. A. (2022). Industry 4.0 implementation: The relevance of sustainability and the potential social impact in a developing country. Journal of Cleaner Production, 130456.
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