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The missing pillar: exploring social sustainability in product development
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development. Blekinge Institute of Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9110-6497
2016 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Companies are increasingly pressed to consider sustainability aspects when making decisions during product development. However, the methodological support for doing so is immature. The immaturity is particularly pronounced regarding the social dimension (or pillar) of sustainability and regarding strategic sustainability considerations. The overall aim of this thesis was to explore how the social dimension of sustainability and a strategic sustainability perspective could be better included in methodological support for product development. This was pursued in two ways.

 

Firstly, a two-staged review of the literature was conducted. Stage one focused on summarizing the state of the art of integration of social sustainability aspects in product development and stage two focused on critically analyzing and evaluating these efforts. The Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development was used to guide the analysis of the current integration efforts and the evaluation of their potential for supporting sustainable product development and strategic sustainable development in general. Secondly, a recently published principled definition of social sustainability was used to enhance two approaches for including sustainability considerations in product development. One of these approaches is focused on decision-making support at concept selection, based on assessment and comparison of sustainability implications of the considered product concepts. The other approach is focused on developing sustainability criteria and a related sustainability compliance index in support of concept development.

 

In the literature review, social life cycle assessment methods (Social LCA) were found to represent a large part of the current efforts, and several challenges with those methods were identified. From a decision support perspective, they were found to have weaknesses regarding applicability and robustness: results from the assessment, usually performed by scientists to evaluate a scientific question, may be too complex to interpret from a business standpoint; the impact perspective may be too narrow, missing important aspects of social sustainability; and generally they lack a strategic perspective. The use of a strategic sustainable development perspective in the approaches prototyped in this thesis is a way of tackling these challenges. The use of backcasting from visions framed by sustainability principles can: help organize and make sense of the general field of sustainability, highlighting where overlaps between objectives exist; provide the long term perspective needed for sustainability; allow for product developers to gain awareness of potential impacts of a product’s life cycle phases within existing knowledge, time and resource constraints; help build a roadmap in order to reduce a product’s contribution to unsustainability (including social unsustainability).

 

Future research will focus on further testing and development of the suggested approaches and specifically on further development of tactical design guidelines that provide support for the fulfilment of long-term sustainability criteria and clarify the connection between decisions taken during product development and a product’s sustainability profile.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlskrona: Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, 2016.
Series
Blekinge Institute of Technology Licentiate Dissertation Series, ISSN 1650-2140 ; 4
Keyword [en]
strategic sustainable development, social sustainability; sustainable product development, social lifecycle assessment, social sustainability criteria
National Category
Engineering and Technology Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-13248ISBN: 978-91-7295-331-4OAI: oai:DiVA.org:bth-13248DiVA: diva2:1034780
Presentation
2016-11-09, J1650, Campus Gräsvik, Karlskrona, 14:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-10-13 Created: 2016-10-11 Last updated: 2016-11-03Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Analyzing Social LCA approaches through the lens of Strategic Sustainable Development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Analyzing Social LCA approaches through the lens of Strategic Sustainable Development
2016 (English)In: Proceedings of ISPIM Conferences, 2016, 1-13 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In recent years several approaches to Social LCA have been proposed. Despite recognized shortcomings of those, recent development has focused more on testing existing approaches and less on finding a unifying framework that can support Social LCA to deliver on its promise: to aid decision making regarding social issues related to product life cycles. This paper offers an analysis and evaluation of the potential contribution of the body of work on Social LCA to sustainable development using the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development. A number of strengths and weaknesses from a strategic sustainability perspective are identified and recommendations to improve the support for how to deal with social issues in the product innovation process are provided.

Keyword
Product innovation, Social LCA, Social sustainability, Strategic sustainable development
National Category
Environmental Sciences Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:bth-13246 (URN)
Conference
XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference, Porto, Portugal
Funder
Knowledge Foundation
Available from: 2016-10-11 Created: 2016-10-11 Last updated: 2016-10-13Bibliographically approved
2. Using social sustainability principles to analyse activities of the extraction lifecycle phase: Learnings from designing support for concept selection
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Using social sustainability principles to analyse activities of the extraction lifecycle phase: Learnings from designing support for concept selection
2017 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 140, no 1, 267-276 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Analysing product concepts with respect to social sustainability is a contemporary challenge for which there is little support available for product developers. Our aim was to build on previous work to support product developers in a case company with this challenge. We designed a first prototype of support for product developers to use a previously developed definition when analysing the extraction lifecycle activities associated with their product concepts. The prototype instructs users to model the location of the extraction activities and then use existing databases and indicators to analyse the social sustainability performance of each location. The databases and indicators were selected according to their relevance to scientific principles for social sustainability. We then performed initial evaluation of the support, through which we learnt that the approach may make it possible for product developers to analyse extraction activities, but the level of accuracy of analysis that is possible is not good enough for comparing the concepts in the case study decision. We discuss the implications of these challenges and suggest that it may be better to re-design our approach in order to provide learningful support for product developers or support for other decision-making in the company.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2017
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:bth-12921 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.08.004 (DOI)
Projects
Model driven development and decision support
Funder
Knowledge Foundation
Available from: 2016-08-17 Created: 2016-08-17 Last updated: 2016-11-24Bibliographically approved
3. An Introductory Approach to Concretize Social Sustainability for Sustainable Manufacturing
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An Introductory Approach to Concretize Social Sustainability for Sustainable Manufacturing
2016 (English)In: Proceedings of TMCE 2016 / [ed] I. Horváth, J.-P. Pernot, Z. Rusák, 2016Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Despite the growing awareness of sustainability issues and importance of considering sustainability aspects in the product innovation process, the methodological support for doing so is still immature compared to the methodological support for considering other aspects in the decision-making, such as product performance and manufacturability. The immaturity is particularly pronounced regarding the social dimension of sustainability. In this paper we use a novel process for identifying sustainability criteria and estimating a sustainability compliance index, with the purpose of supporting inclusion of social sustainability aspects in the decision-making in product development. By including social sustainability aspects into a compliance metric, the foundations for strategic and operative decisions can be integrated. The process has been developed and tested collaboratively with industry representatives in a selected case company. Preliminary results show that social sustainability criteria can be integrated in a meaningful way into a more complete metric, and that the learning resulting from gathering knowledge and experience is a first deployable benefit of the process. Challenges and possible ways forward for further implementing social sustainability aspects in product development are also identified and discussed. The next step will be to further test the applicability of the results, by involving more representatives in the case company and from companies in its value chain.

National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Social Sciences Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:bth-13247 (URN)978-94-6186-635-6 (ISBN)
Conference
Eleventh International Symposium on Tools and Methods of Competitive Engineering (TMCE 2016), Aix-en-Provence, France
Funder
Knowledge Foundation
Available from: 2016-10-11 Created: 2016-10-11 Last updated: 2016-10-13Bibliographically approved

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