Headline: Industry 4.0: a step towards achieving the SDGs? A critical literature review

The transformation of industrial production is one of the big challenges on the pathway to sustainable development. Therefore, expectations regarding the contribution of Industry 4.0 are high. So far there is only little research focusing on the relation between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the digitalization of industrial processes. We argue that sustainability aspects must be an integral part of Industry 4.0 implementation to support a sustainable development. For that reason, the digital manufacturing concept itself must take essential characteristics of sustainability into account. Our analysis has investigated to what extent sustainability aspects are currently reflected in the most recognized articles about Industry 4.0. For that purpose, we have conducted a systematic literature review, in which we have analysed the top cohort of most frequently cited articles published after 2013 on GoogleScholar dealing with “Industry 4.0”. Our literature review reveals that the descriptions reflect many expectations and hopes while only few of them are evidence-based. According to our results Industry 4.0 mainly deals with the economic dimension of sustainability such as growth and productivity. Although there are expectations that Industry 4.0 creates a window of opportunity for a more sustainable production, we could not find evidence to support this idea. Instead of targeting a more sustainable production, many descriptions draw a picture in which Industry 4.0 processes run exactly as before, just in a digital way.

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Academic Articles

Beier, G., Niehoff, S., & Hoffmann, M. (2021). Industry 4.0: a step towards achieving the SDGs? A critical literature review. Discover sustainability, 2: 22. doi:10.1007/s43621-021-00030-1.

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Digitalisation and Impacts on Sustainability Junior Research Group ProMUT: Sustainability Management 4.0 - Transformative Potentials of Networked Manufacturing for Humans, the Environment and Technology