GSOM Prof. Sarkis posits strategies for China’s economy and environment in Science paper

Prof. Joseph Sarkis

“China is under severe environmental distress.  We know it and the Chinese people are living it. New thinking and approaches are needed to help China make progress in addressing environmental issues,” said Joseph Sarkis, Clark University Professor of Operations and Environmental Management in the Graduate School of Management, speaking about a Policy Forum paper he co-authored that is published in the March 29 issue of Science magazine.

In “Measuring China’s Circular Economy,” Sarkis, Yong Geng (Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences), Sergio Ulgiati (Parthenope University of Naples) and Pan Zhang (China Business Executives Academy) describe how China presents unique opportunities to develop new environmental indicator systems for measuring and managing the circular economy (CE), with particular focus on “emergy”-based indicators.

“Facing significant natural resource consumption, environmental degradation, and resulting public frustration, China’s new administration heightened attention on ecological modernization, green growth, and low carbon development, with a national circular economy (CE) strategy. The 2012 RIO+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development emphasized the need to develop indicators of progress that decouple economic growth and environmental burden,” the authors wrote.

For the paper, Sarkis contributed his expertise in environmental supply chain and performance measurement.  A substantial amount of this work was completed during his visit to China in August and September of 2012. Sarkis also played a role in identifying some historical aspects of the Circular Economy, as well as research on industrial and governmental policy issues with environmental indicators that currently exist. He cites as an example the unintended consequences of current environmental performance indicators, such as shifting of environmental burdens from richer areas in China to poorer areas.

“These new approaches will also be beneficial globally.  This is an international effort, not just one region or country,” Sarkis said. “This work sets the stage for the development and implementation of a unique and important environmental performance indicator by the Chinese government. Emergy analysis, as an environmental indicator is innovative and groundbreaking for China’s unique Circular Economy policy. But, it will require significant investment and development by policymakers, industrialists, and researchers.

“We hope to raise attention on the limitations and gaps in current environmental performance evaluation tools,” he adds. “Our proposed tool and application can help regulators and industries, in general, make better policy decisions and help to monitor their decisions after implementation.”

Professor Sarkis came to Clark University in 1996. His interests are in Operations and Supply Chain Management with a focus on environmental issues. He is editor of Management Research Review, departmental editor for IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, and associate editor for the Journal of Supply Chain Management.

Science is the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and is considered the world's leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary.