Environment is free; but it’s not a gift
Purpose: This paperaims to review how the field of lean and green has been evolving. Authors draw parallels between the fields of sustainability and quality management. The paper’s title is borrowed and modified from Crosby’s seminal book: Quality is Free. Design/methodology/approach: The paper starts with a review on how early lean researchers in the late 1980s draw upon benchmark studies, looking at Toyota versus other auto manufacturers to demonstrate that quality is free. Similarly, the authors carry out a benchmark to show how the same argument is valid about Toyota’s environmental performance and how Toyota’s concept of Monozukuri can be exploited as proof for the environment is free movement. The paper concludes with an attempt to address the gap between theory and practice in the field of lean and green. Findings: The starting point for creating a lean and green business system is the understanding that there is no trade-off between lean and green, that lean and green should be brought together in a symbiosis, as Toyota have done with Monozukuri approach. This requires a coherent strategy that is well developed, and well deployed across all levels of business. The bottom line remains that environment is free, but it is not a gift. Research limitations/implications: The findings presented in the paper are based on arguments resulted from the review of the relevant literature. It is important to obtain feedback from a large sample of businesses regarding lean and green symbiosis to arrive at sound and valid conclusions. Originality/value: This paper contributes to the fields of operations management and sustainability by proposing a change in businesses’ mind-set about sustainability. Rather than seeing environmental protection as a cost, it should be regarded as an opportunity for enhancing economic performance. In doing so, we can seek inspiration from the fields of quality management and the total quality movement.