Skip to main content

Environmental Impact of Robotics: Ethical Concerns and Legal Alternatives

Part of the Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals book series (ENUNSDG)


This chapter explores the ethical and legal implications arising from the environmental impact of robotics. Robots are defined as constructed physical objects (which may or may not incorporate artificial intelligence) that can move and interact with the world. By ethics, we are concerned with normative ethics, i.e., moral standards with practical implications. It is argued that the sustainable development goals (SDGs) constitute an (already agreed upon) basic normative scaffold that will underpin the regulations determining the environmental impact that widespread use of robotics will have.


In the coming years and decades, more innovation in the field of robotics is expected. Robots, as opposed to artificial intelligence (AI), are physical artifacts that can move to a degree and interact with the world. Whil some may incorporate AI and be directed or controlled by an AI, others will just follow simple instructions. They may have different forms: exoskeletons,...

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


Download references


This research was carried out under the INBOTS project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under Grant agreement No 780073.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Fiachra O’Brolcháin .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Section Editor information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2021 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this entry

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this entry

O’Brolcháin, F., Grau Ruiz, M.A. (2021). Environmental Impact of Robotics: Ethical Concerns and Legal Alternatives. In: Leal Filho, W., Azul, A.M., Brandli, L., Lange Salvia, A., Wall, T. (eds) Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-71059-4

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-71059-4

  • eBook Packages: Springer Reference Earth & Environm. ScienceReference Module Physical and Materials Science