Preprint Article Version 3 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Sustainability as Source of Competitive Advantages in Mature Sectors: The Case of Ceramic District of Sassuolo (Italy)

Version 1 : Received: 29 April 2018 / Approved: 1 May 2018 / Online: 1 May 2018 (12:04:34 CEST)
Version 2 : Received: 2 May 2018 / Approved: 3 May 2018 / Online: 3 May 2018 (11:35:10 CEST)
Version 3 : Received: 12 June 2018 / Approved: 13 June 2018 / Online: 13 June 2018 (09:49:25 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Journal reference: Smart and Sustainable Built Environment 2019
DOI: 10.1108/SASBE-07-2018-0038


Talking about sustainable development refers mainly to the environmental sphere, but the concept is much broader and also takes into account the social and economic conditions. The concept of sustainability, in this sense, is linked to the compatibility between the development of economic activities, the related social phenomena, and the protection of the environment. Therefore, the ability to balance social, economic and environmental sustainability is the very meaning of the concept of sustainable development. Firms that choose to develop policies and strategies to enhance and pursue sustainable development in the medium to long term have the burden of having to quantitatively document the improvements in production processes with the aim of sustainable development. As a result, one of the biggest challenges for European industry is to introduce sustainability principles into business models leading to competitive advantage. This is particularly important in raw material and energy intensive manufacturing sectors such as the ceramic industry. The present state of knowledge lacks a comprehensive operational tool for industry to support decision-making processes geared towards sustainability. In the ceramic sector, the economic and social dimensions of the product and processes have not yet been given sufficient importance. Moreover, the traditional research on industrial districts lacks an analysis of the relations between firms and the territory with a view to sustainability. Finally, the attention of scholars in the field of economic and social sustainability, has not yet turned to the analysis of the Sassuolo district. Therefore, in this paper we introduce the Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA), as a method that can be a suitable tool to fill this gap, because through a mathematical model it is possible to obtain the information useful for decision makers to integrate the principles of sustainability both at the microeconomic level in enterprises, and at the meso-economic level for the definition of economic policies and territorial governance. Environmental and socio-economic analysis was performed from the extraction of raw materials to the packaging of the product on different product categories manufactured by the Italian ceramic industries of the Sassuolo district (northern Italy). For the first time the LCSA model, usually applied to unitary processes, is extended to the economic and industrial activities of the entire district, extending the prospect of investigation from the enterprise and its value chain to the integrated network of district enterprises.


sustainability; competitive advantage, Sassuolo tile ceramic district; Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA); Italian ceramic industry; meso-economic level; interpretative method


SOCIAL SCIENCES, Organizational Economics & Management

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