Energy Efficiency

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 1193–1210 | Cite as

Broadening to sustainability the perspective of industrial decision-makers on the energy efficiency measures adoption: some empirical evidence

  • Enrico Cagno
  • Alessandra Neri
  • Andrea Trianni
Original Article


The industry should take further efforts towards increased energy efficiency, that is a major contributor to improve industrial sustainability performance, by implementing energy efficiency measures (EEMs). However, the rate of adoption of these measures is still quite low. Hitherto, EEMs and barriers to their adoption have been evaluated almost exclusively from the viewpoint of energy efficiency decision-makers, not accounting for the broader sustainability perspective. This work aims at understanding whether an industrial sustainability perspective can better address issues related to EEMs adoption, analyzing the question through different viewpoints and insights offered by industrial decision-makers of different industrial sustainability areas within a firm. By doing this, we aim at offering a contribution in the understanding of the low rate of adoption of EEMs. As case studies, we investigated 12 firms from Northern Italy. In comparison to previous literature, results show that an industrial sustainability perspective can better explain the real decision-making process of adopting an EEM. Indeed, people knowledgeable about different industrial sustainability areas may perceive different barriers about the same EEM. EEMs may be negatively affected by reasons related to other areas of industrial sustainability, while positive reciprocal impacts may exist among areas of industrial sustainability; thus, EEMs may have effects on areas other than energy efficiency, and these effects may be perceived only by such areas. The study concludes with some remarks for policy and industrial decision-makers and advice for further research.


Energy efficiency measure Industrial decision-maker Industrial sustainability Barriers 



The authors would like to thank Deborah De Cesare, Daniel Odorisio, Flavia Ricetti, and Gloria Valentina Riva for their invaluable help in the collection of the data.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Anderson, S. T., & Newell, R. G. (2004). Information programs for technology adoption: the case of energy-efficiency audits. Resource and Energy Economics, 26(1), 27–50. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arvai, J., Campbell-Arvai, V., & Steel, P. (2012). Decision-making for sustainability: a systematic review of the body of knowledge. Network for Business Sustainability.
  3. Barratt, M., Choi, T. Y., & Li, M. (2011). Qualitative case studies in operations management: trends, research outcomes, and future research implications. Journal of Operations Management, 29(4), 329–342. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baškarada, S. (2014). Qualitative case study guidelines. Qualitative Report, 19(40), 1–25. Google Scholar
  5. Benbasat, I., Goldstein, D. K., & Mead, M. (1987). The case research strategy in studies of information systems case research. MIS Quarterly, 11(3), 369–386. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bettis, R. A., & Prahalad, C. K. (1995). The dominant logic: retrospective and extenstion. Strategic Management Journal, 16(1), 5–14. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beverland, M., & Lindgreen, A. (2010). What makes a good case study? A positivist review of qualitative case research published in industrial marketing management, 1971-2006. Industrial Marketing Management, 39(1), 56–63. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brunke, J. C., Johansson, M., & Thollander, P. (2014). Empirical investigation of barriers and drivers to the adoption of energy conservation measures, energy management practices and energy services in the Swedish iron and steel industry. Journal of Cleaner Production, 84(1), 509–525. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cagno, E., & Trianni, A. (2012). Analysis of the most effective energy efficiency opportunities in manufacturing primary metals, plastics, and textiles small- and medium-sized enterprises. Journal of Energy Resources Technology, 134(2), 21005. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cagno, E., Worrell, E., Trianni, A., & Pugliese, G. (2013). A novel approach for barriers to industrial energy efficiency. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 19, 290–308. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chiaroni, D., Chiesa, V., Franzò, S., Frattini, F., & Latilla, V. M. (2017). Overcoming internal barriers to industrial energy efficiency through energy audit: a case study of a large manufacturing company in the home appliances industry. Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy, 19(4), 1031–1046. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cooremans, C. (2011). Make it strategic! Financial investment logic is not enough. Energy Efficiency, 4(4), 473–492. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cooremans, C. (2012a). Energy-efficiency investments an interpretative perspective and energy management. Proceedings of the International Conference on Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings.
  14. Cooremans, C. (2012b). Investment in energy efficiency: do the characteristics of investments matter? Energy Efficiency, 5(4), 497–518. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Das, A., Pagell, M., Behm, M., & Veltri, A. (2008). Toward a theory of the linkages between safety and quality. Journal of Operations Management, 26(4), 521–535. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dicicco-Bloom, B., & Crabtree, B. F. (2006). The qualitative research interview. Medical Education, 40(4), 314–321. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dincer, I., & Rosen, M. C. (2012). Energy, environment and sustainable development. Applied Energy, 64, 427–440. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. EASHW (2007). The business benefits of good occupational safety and health.
  19. Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. The Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 532–550. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Eisenhardt, K. M., & Zbaracki, M. J. (1992). Strategic decision making. Strategic Management Journal, 13(S2), 17–37. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Elkington, J. (1998). Cannibals with forks: the triple bottom line of 21-st century business. In Capstone new edition, 1–16.Google Scholar
  22. Evans, S., Bergendahl, M., Gregory, M., & Ryan, C. (2009). Towards a sustainable industrial system. The Institute for Manufacturing, Cardiff.
  23. Fleiter, T., Hirzel, S., & Worrell, E. (2012a). The characteristics of energy-efficiency measures—a neglected dimension. Energy Policy, 51, 502–513. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fleiter, T., Schleich, J., & Ravivanpong, P. (2012b). Adoption of energy-efficiency measures in SMEs—an empirical analysis based on energy audit data from Germany. Energy Policy, 51, 863–875. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Frini, A., & Benamor, S. (2017). Making decisions in a sustainable development Context: A State-of-the-Art Survey and Proposal of a Multi-Period Single Synthesizing Criterion Approach. Computational Economics. In press. doi:
  26. Fresner, J., Morea, F., Krenn, C., Uson, J. A., & Tomasi, F. (2017). Energy efficiency in small and medium enterprises: lessons learned from 280 energy audits across Europe. Journal of Cleaner Production, 142, 1650–1660. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gibson, R. B. (2006). Beyond the pillars: sustainability assessment as a framework for effective integration of social, economic and ecological considerations in significant decision-making. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, 8(3), 259–280. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gill, J. (2009). Quality follows quality: add quality to the business and quality will multiply the profits. The TQM Journal, 21(5), 530–539. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gimenez, C., Sierra, V., & Rodon, J. (2012). Sustainable operations: their impact on the triple bottom line. International Journal of Production Economics, 140(1), 149–159. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gong, M., Simpson, A., Koh, L., & Tan, K.H. (2016). Inside out: the interrelationships of sustainable performance metrics and its effect on business decision Making: Theory and Practice. Resources, Conservation and Recycling In press. Elsevier B.V. doi:
  31. Hassan, M. T., Burek, S., & Asif, M. (2017). Barriers to industrial energy efficiency improvement—manufacturing SMEs of Pakistan. Energy Procedia, 113, 135–142. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Henriques, J., & Catarino, J. (2016). Motivating towards energy efficiency in small and medium enterprises. Journal of Cleaner Production, 139, 42–50. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hillebrand, B., Kok, R. A. W., & Biemans, W. G. (2001). Theory-testing using case studies. Industrial Marketing Management, 30(8), 651–657. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Langley, A., Mintzberg, H., Pitcher, P., Posada, E., & Saint-Macary, J. (1995). Opening up decision making: the view from the black stool. Organization Science, 6(3), 260–279. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lucato, W. C., Costa, E. M., & De Oliveira Neto, G. D. (2017). The environmental performance of SMEs in the Brazilian textile industry and the relationship with their financial performance. Journal of Environmental Management, 203(Pt 1), 550–556. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Masi, D., Cagno, E., & Micheli, G. J. L. (2014). Developing, implementing and evaluating OSH interventions in SMEs: an exploratory study. International Journal of Occupationale Safety and Ergonomics, 20(3), 1–10. Google Scholar
  37. Massoud, M. A., Fayad, R., El-Fadel, M., & Kamleh, R. (2010). Drivers, barriers and incentives to implementing environmental management systems in the food industry: a case of Lebanon. Journal of Cleaner Production, 18(3), 200–209. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McKinsey & Company. (2012). McKinsey on sustainability & resource productivity. Number 1, Summer 2012.
  39. Morrow, W. R., Hasanbeigi, A., Sathaye, J., & Xu, T. (2014). Assessment of energy efficiency improvement and CO2 emission reduction potentials in India’s cement and iron & steel industries. Journal of Cleaner Production, 65, 131–141. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nehler, T., & Ottosson, M. (2014). Including non-energy benefits in investment calculations in industry—empirical findings from Sweden In ECEEE 2014 Industrial Summer Study - Retool for a Competitive and Sustainable Industry, 711–19.Google Scholar
  41. Nehler, T., & Rasmussen, J. (2016). How do firms consider non-energy benefits? Empirical findings on energy-efficiency investments in Swedish Industry. Journal of Cleaner Production, 113, 472–482. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nicolăescu, E., Alpopi, C., & Zaharia, C. (2015). Measuring corporate sustainability performance. Sustainability, 7(1), 851–865. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Omer, A. M. (2008). Energy, environment and sustainable development. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 12(9), 2265–2300. MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ouyang, J., & Ju, P. (2017). The choice of energy saving modes for an energy-intensive manufacturer under non-coordination and coordination scenarios. Energy, 126, 733–745. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pagell, M., & Gobeli, D. (2009). How plant managers’ experiences and attitudes toward sustainability relate to operational performance. Production and Operations Management, 18(3), 278–299. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pagell, M., & Wu, Z. H. (2009). Building a more complete theory of sustainable supply chain management using case studies of 10 exemplars. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 45(2), 37–56. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Patton, M.Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. 2ND. Newbury Park, California: SAGE.Google Scholar
  48. Pehlken, A., Decker, A., Kottowski, C., Kirchner, A., & Thoben, K. D. (2015). Energy efficiency in processing of natural raw materials under consideration of uncertainties. Journal of Cleaner Production, 106, 351–363. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Prahalad, C. K., & Bettis, R. A. (1986). The dominant logic: a new linkage between diversity and performance. Strategic Management Journal, 7(6), 485–501. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pye, M., & McKane, A. (2000). Making a stronger case for industrial energy efficiency by quantifying non-energy benefits. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 28(3-4), 171–183. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rademaekers, K., Zaki, S. S., & Smith, M. (2011). Sustainable industry: going for growth and resource efficiency. ECORYS Nederland, 1, 1–164 Google Scholar
  52. Rasmussen, J. (2014). Energy-efficiency investments and the concepts of non-energy benefits and investment behaviour. 2014 Eceee Industrial Summer Study Proceedings, 733–44.Google Scholar
  53. Remler, D. K., & Van Ryzin, G. G. (2014). Research methods in practice: strategies for description and causation (2nd ed.) SAGE.Google Scholar
  54. Rowley, J. (2002). Using case studies in research. Management Research News, 25(1), 16–27. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Saldaña, J.. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. SAGE.Google Scholar
  56. Shakir, M. (2002). The selection of case studies: strategies and their applications to IS implementation cases studies. Maha Shakir. Research Letters in the Information and Mathematical Sciences, 3, 191–198.Google Scholar
  57. Sorrell, S., Mallett, A., & Nye, S. (2010). Barriers to industrial energy efficiency: a literature review, background study for the UNIDO industrial development report (IDR) Industrial Energy Efficiency Pays, Why Is It Not Happening?. SPRU, University of Sussex, Brighton.
  58. Sorrell, S., Schleich, J., Scott, S., O’Malley, E., Trace, F., Boede, U., Ostertag, K., & Radgen, P. (2000) Reducing barriers to energy efficiency in public and private organizations. SPRU, University of Sussex, Brighton.
  59. Stuart, I., Mccutcheon, D., Handfield, R., Mclachlin, R., & Samson, D. (2002). Effective case research in operations management : a process perspective. Journal of Operations Management, 20(5), 419–433. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Svensson, A., & Paramonova, S. (2017). An analytical model for identifying and addressing energy efficiency improvement opportunities in industrial production systems – Model development and testing experiences from Sweden. Journal of Cleaner Production, 142, 2407–2422. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Thollander, P., & Palm, J. (2012). Efficiency in industrial energy systems: an interdisciplinary perspective on barriers, energy audits, energy management, policies, and programs. London: Springer.Google Scholar
  62. Thollander, P., & Palm, J. (2015). Industrial energy management decision making for improved energy efficiency—strategic system perspectives and situated action in combination. Energies, 8(6), 5694–5703. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tonelli, F., Evans, S., & Taticchi, P. (2013). Industrial sustainability : challenges, perspectives, actions. International Journal of Business Inovation and Research, 7(2), 143–163. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Trianni, A., Cagno, E., & De Donatis, A. (2014). A framework to characterize energy efficiency measures. Applied Energy, 118, 207–220. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Trianni, A., Cagno, E., & Neri, A. (2017). Modelling barriers to the adoption of industrial sustainability measures. Journal of Cleaner Production, 168, 1482–1504. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Trianni, A., Cagno, E., Worrell, E., & Pugliese, G. (2013). Empirical investigation of energy efficiency barriers in Italian manufacturing SMEs. Energy, 49, 444–458. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Voss, C., Tsikriktsis, N., & Frohlich, M. (2002). Case research in operations management. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 22(2), 195–219. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Worrell, E., Laitner, J. A., Ruth, M., & Finman, H. (2003). Productivity benefits of industrial energy efficiency measures. Energy, 28(11), 1081–1098. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Yin, R.K., (2009). Case study research design and methods fourth. Applied Social Research Method Series Volume 5. Sage, London ISBN-10: 1412960991.Google Scholar
  70. Zorzini, M., Hendry, L., Stevenson, M., & Pozzetti, A. (2008). Customer enquiry management and product customization an empirical multi-case study analysis in the Italian capital goods sector. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 28(12), 1186–1218. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Politecnico di Milano, Department of Management, Economics and Industrial EngineeringMilanItaly
  2. 2.Faculty of Engineering and Information TechnologyUniversity of Technology SydneyUltimoAustralia

Personalised recommendations