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Analyzing Social LCA approaches through the lens of Strategic Sustainable Development
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development. Blekinge Institute of Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9110-6497
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development.
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development.
2016 (English)In: Proceedings of ISPIM Conferences, 2016, p. 1-13Conference paper, Published 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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. p. 1-13
Keywords [en]
Product innovation, Social LCA, Social sustainability, Strategic sustainable development
National Category
Environmental Sciences Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-13246OAI: oai:DiVA.org:bth-13246DiVA, id: diva2:1034337
Conference
XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference, Porto, Portugal
Part of project
Model Driven Development and Decision Support – MD3S, Knowledge FoundationSTOSIP - STRATEGIC, TACTICAL AND OPERATIONAL IMPLEMENTATION OF SUSTAINABILITY INTO THE INNOVATION PROCESS, Knowledge Foundation
Funder
Knowledge FoundationAvailable from: 2016-10-11 Created: 2016-10-11 Last updated: 2021-08-25Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The missing pillar: exploring social sustainability in product development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The missing pillar: exploring social sustainability in product development
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
Keywords
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:nbn:se:bth-13248 (URN)978-91-7295-331-4 (ISBN)
Presentation
2016-11-09, J1650, Campus Gräsvik, Karlskrona, 14:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-10-13 Created: 2016-10-11 Last updated: 2021-01-13Bibliographically approved
2. The social dimension of sustainable product development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The social dimension of sustainable product development
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Product development can play a key role in society’s transition toward sustainability. However, methodological support for this is immature, particularly regarding the social dimension, and as it remains largely unclear among companies what social sustainability means, it is hard for them to assess how they and their products contribute to a socially sustainable society or not. Because social sustainability has been overlooked for long in product development research, there is a need to build methodological foundations for how companies can integrate social sustainability considerations in their practices.

The overall aim of this thesis was to explore how the social dimension of sustainability could be strengthened in the context of product development and specifically how a systemic, systematic and strategic sustainability perspective could be included to provide better support for decision-making and innovation for social sustainability.

The research included industrial case studies to explore current practices and needs, to prototype and test initial decision-support, to reflect on challenges and opportunities, and to create a conceptual approach for improving existing practices. Specific methods and techniques included literature reviews, interviews, prototyping and typology building.

Insights include that: (i) organizations that show a better understanding of the complexity of social sustainability and have a broader perspective of its interdependencies have a way of organizing that overcomes traditional hierarchies and allows for more collaborative and strategic work in this area; (ii) the applied systems perspective clearly determines how encompassing and aligned the scope and definition of social sustainability become in an organization’s practices; (iii) social sustainability impacts connected to products’ lifecycles, when addressed, are often considered by functions outside of product development; (iv) analysis as decision-support has several limitations, particularly in dealing with supply chain impacts. Mitigating the risk of an unsustainable supply chain is unlikely to occur through simply selecting suppliers based on ‘country social sustainability score’, but rather requires making design decisions early in the innovation process and actively seeking to improve social conditions in the supply chains. 

Building on these insights, a typology containing three types of social sustainability approaches in product development organizations was developed. The insular, the connected and the systemic types describe elements that differentiate approaches, and that taken together determine when an approach has the potential to strategically contribute to social sustainability. The differences also determine the constraints that product developers work with when pursuing social sustainability goals. 

Integrating social sustainability in product development requires rethinking established practices. The possibility of just complementing previous theories and methodologies within sustainable product development with social sustainability aspects should not be taken for granted as there are significant differences and therefore extensive development of new theory and methodology might be needed. This should be investigated further. Identification of leverage points to intervene in organizations to help them shift to a more systemic perspective and maximize the organization’s ability to strategically work with social sustainability is also an interesting line of further research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlskrona: Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, 2021. p. 327
Series
Blekinge Institute of Technology Doctoral Dissertation Series, ISSN 1653-2090 ; 2
Keywords
Social sustainability; corporate sustainability; sustainable product development; strategic sustainable development
National Category
Engineering and Technology Business Administration
Research subject
Strategic Sustainable Development
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:bth-21285 (URN)978-91-7295-420-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2021-06-18, Zoom, 09:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2021-03-25 Created: 2021-03-24 Last updated: 2021-05-20Bibliographically approved

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Lagun Mesquita, PatriciaBroman, GöranHallstedt, Sophie

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