The missing pillar: exploring social sustainability in product development
2016 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
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.
Blekinge Institute of Technology Licentiate Dissertation Series, ISSN 1650-2140 ; 4
strategic sustainable development, social sustainability; sustainable product development, social lifecycle assessment, social sustainability criteria
Engineering and Technology Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Social Sciences
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:bth-13248ISBN: 978-91-7295-331-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:bth-13248DiVA: diva2:1034780
2016-11-09, J1650, Campus Gräsvik, Karlskrona, 14:00 (English)
Berlin, Cecilia, Dr.
Broman, GöranHallstedt, SophieSvensson, Martin
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