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Department of Business Administration Sustainable Operations Management


Our Vision

Our research vision is to be influential in incorporating sustainability in operational decision making, by developing methodology and theory to improve sustainability of businesses while also addressing other key aspects such as profit, service, quality, and resilience. Our strategy to materialize this vision consists of the following actions:

•    Collaborate with academic, industrial, and public organizations.
•    Achieve synergy by integrating research, teaching, and service roles.  
•    Continuously learn, improve and be productive.  
•    Continuously explore emerging areas of research that have high societal impact.  
•    Disseminate research findings through publications in reputable journals.  
•    Participate in international conferences/seminars to expand research network.  

With a focus on analysis and improvement of operational efficiency and effectiveness of organizations, our research is quantitative in nature, making use of research methods such as Stochastic Dynamic Programming, Markov Decision Processes, Mathematical Programming, Game Theory, and Simulation. 

In our research on Sustainable Operations Management (SOM), we treat sustainability explicitly within the supply chain design and operations, without neglecting the economic aspects. This approach is very important, because the economic aspect of sustainability is essential in the choices made by companies about the structure of their operations as well as in policy decisions of governments.

Industry Collaboration and Funding

Our research on SOM has been applied –directly or via master’s students- at companies like ASML, Bausch & Lomb, Cargill, Cisco, Connekt, Eastman Chemical, Friesland Campina, Nike, Royal Philips, Procter & Gamble, Sandvik, and Unilever.

Our research has so far focused on transport mode selection, inventory optimization, supply chain collaboration, supplier sustainability assessment and improvement, carbon footprinting and allocation, technology choice, impact of regulations, circular economy, and food waste reduction. Together with the generous and continuous support of the University of Zurich, our past and ongoing research on SOM has been made possible thanks to the following funds that we have received, together with our research partners: 

•    “Sustainable design of multi-scale CO2 electrochemical conversion”, NWO (MVI top-up), €390,000, 2021-2025. 
•    “Lower-Tier Supplier Sustainability Improvement Framework”, NWO (Accelerator 2020), €120,000, 2021-2022.
•    “Circular Business Model Maturation in Logistics”, NWO (partnering with Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Topsector Logistics, and TKI-Dinalog), €480,800, 2020-2021.
•    “Collaboration for supply chain sustainability”, PhD project funded by Eindhoven University of Technology, 2019-2023.
•    “Supplier Sustainability Improvement”, TKI-Dinalog, €600,000, 2018-2020.
•    “Dynamic Pricing Strategies for Waste Management”, European Supply Chain Forum and Eindhoven University of Technology, 2017-2021.


Although the scientific understanding of many aspects of sustainability is advancing faster than ever before, there is a big gap in research that addresses the operational aspects of supply chain management integrating the economic, environmental, and social dimensions. We are taking steps towards filling this gap. There are many opportunities related to sustainable operations management, including the following:

1. Product and process (re)design: analysis of design choices that enable increasing material and energy efficiency, re-use of components, and modular upgradability.  
2. Technology choice: trade-offs between environmental performance and other criteria in choosing among alternative investments in technology. 
3. Capacity, production, and inventory optimization of manufacturers, taking environmental effects into consideration.
4. Transportation: Transport mode choice (including intermodal and synchromodal transport), load factor increase, reducing empty returns, and route optimization.
5. Circular economy: Optimizing remanufacturing, reuse, and remanufacturing.
6. Supply chain network (re)design: Where to produce and stock in a global network.
7. Supply chain collaboration: How can sustainability concerns be taken into account when multiple players in a supply chain (possibly jointly) contribute to the environmental and social impact of a final product? How can companies motivate their suppliers and customers to behave in a manner that improves sustainability performance? 

Current Research Projects

While all of those topics deserve (and some do receive) close attention, the focal areas that constitute the core of our current research are as follows:

Operations Management for Circular Economy

While companies are used to sell products based on their forward supply chains, they are now more and more aiming to increase their sustainability and embrace circular economy principles. The transition to a circular sustainable economy however requires the evolution of new and circular business models complemented with sound business plans that contribute to profitability.
Researchers involved: Tarkan Tan, Nail Tahirov, Wenjie Tu

Supply Chain Collaboration for Sustainability

As firms become progressively more tightly coupled in global supply chains, the biggest sustainability risks and opportunities lie outside their own boundaries, associated with activities upstream or downstream, necessitating a broad supply chain perspective. Firms should help their suppliers to become more sustainable, by close collaboration, experience sharing, project development and co-financing if necessary, i.e., essentially moving from the supply selection concept to supplier development concept, which in turn will help them not only through improved supply chain sustainability, but also through “side benefits” such as quality and cost improvements.
Researchers involved: Tarkan Tan, Nail Tahirov

Technology Transition for Sustainability

Disruptive technological changes are required in many sectors for transition to sustainability. For example, alternative fuel vehicles are crucial for emission reduction in transportation sector, which is one of the largest contributors of global greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Our research addresses the tactical and strategical aspects of transition to sustainable technologies. 
Researchers involved: Tarkan Tan, Renjie Cui