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Addressing Sustainability in Product Requirements: a Systems Perspective
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0813-3193
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7382-1825
2018 (English)In: Proceedings of NordDesign: Design in the Era of Digitalization, NordDesign 2018, The Design Society, 2018Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Lack of sustainability considerations in product development can lead to unintended consequences that are costly in the long run, and difficult to solve. Furthermore, the sustainability performance of a solution is predominately determined by decisions in the early phases of the design process, in which requirements are formed and which plays an essential role to guide and constrain innovation. The purpose of this paper is therefore to explore possibilities to address previously identified research gaps regarding i) the importance and challenges to integrate sustainability aspects into design requirements, and ii) the need of a strategic approach based on a full socio-ecological sustainability perspective to select which sustainability criteria to integrate. The aim is to investigate how the influence of sustainability aspects on traditional design variables may be modelled using systems thinking, e.g., System Dynamics modelling, as previous research has pointed out this as an area for future research. Against this background this paper explores the potential of a systems thinking perspective within requirements development, and how it can be applied, to favour a strategic sustainability perspective in product development. A conceptual literature review covering systems engineering, requirements engineering and systems dynamics, was conducted to analyse which phase in the requirements development that could benefit from systems thinking to promote a strategic integration of sustainability criteria into the requirement list. The results point towards the domain between stakeholder requirements and functional requirements, to allow building of a shared understanding the full design decision context that can be cascaded through the requirement levels. Furthermore, a systems analysis model can clarify which requirements that are involved in trade-offs and how. In addition, more detailed requirements imply less space for innovation. One outcome of the paper is a simplified causal loop diagram, showing how a systems’ modelling approach can help identify both traditional trade-offs between strategically identified leading sustainability criteria and traditional design requirements. Potential incentives for sustainable design decisions were identified. Future research will focus on improving and testing the suggested approach and investigate how sustainability criteria indicators can be linked to design value drivers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
The Design Society, 2018.
Keywords [en]
Product Design; Sustainability; Sustainable Product Development; Systems Engineering; Systems Thinking; Causal Loop Diagrams
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-16973ISBN: 9789176851852 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:bth-16973DiVA, id: diva2:1245948
Conference
13th Biennial Norddesign Conference, NordDesign 2018; Linkoping; Sweden; 14 August 2018 through 17 August 2018
Available from: 2018-09-06 Created: 2018-09-06 Last updated: 2019-11-07Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Utilizing requirements to support sustainable product development: Introductory approaches for strategic sustainability integration
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Utilizing requirements to support sustainable product development: Introductory approaches for strategic sustainability integration
2019 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The attention to sustainability impacts arising during the lifecycle of products is growing as industry wants to increase its contribution to a sustainable society. To do so, companies must find ways to navigate the complexity of the needs within the socio-ecological system in which they operate. In engineering design projects, the interpretation of needs into requirements is essential, as they represent the collective understanding of the design problem to be solved. Ideally, requirements are possible to verify and validate, which makes it challenging for industry to integrate socio-ecological considerations, often based on qualitative models, into requirements. Sustainability then tends not to be prioritized in trade-offs with traditionally identified requirements for engineering design.

A qualitative research approach within design research methodology framed a sequence of studies guided by the research question ‘How can requirements be utilized to support Sustainable Product Development?’ First, a research gap was identified from a literature review which indicated a lack of socio-ecological systems contextualization in the identification, as well as the traceability of sustainability criteria to integrate into requirements. Secondly, a conceptual model was established for how management of requirements can be improved to facilitate traceability, as well as how contextual socio-ecological systems perspective can be introduced in the selection, of sustainability criteria for engineering design projects. For this purpose, the results from a multiple-case study based on semi-structured interviews with seven design and manufacturing companies was triangulated with findings of an in-depth literature analysis. Five key elements of management of sustainability in requirements were proposed in a profile model corresponding to different levels of sustainability maturity. A third study explored, based on literature and prototype causal loop diagramming, the potential of a group model building approach to enhance contextual understanding of strategically identified, i.e., company-tailored, sustainability criteria in relation to traditional requirements in early phases of the product innovation process. A final study investigated how a strategic sustainability perspective can be integrated with engineering design methods and value modelling to create a decision support for concept selection.

The studies together indicate that key constituents of good requirements, traceability and systems contextualization, can be achieved also for socio-ecological sustainability considerations. This requires organizational commitment and will be reflected in the design of the operational management system for their product innovation process. Following the proposed five key elements of sustainability integration in requirements, a company is expected to increase the organizational sustainability maturity, and hence its capability to contribute to a sustainability transition. This research also shows that there is a gap in current methods and tools for enhanced socio-ecological systems contextualization. The two last studies of this thesis give promising approaches of tools and methods to be further developed and analyzed, namely group model building, system analysis and value modelling.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlskrona: Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, 2019. p. 63
Series
Blekinge Institute of Technology Licentiate Dissertation Series, ISSN 1650-2140 ; 2019:14
Keywords
Strategic sustainable development, sustainable product development, sustainable product design, sustainability integration, sustainability requirements management
National Category
Other Mechanical Engineering Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:bth-18807 (URN)978-91-7295-388-8 (ISBN)
Presentation
2019-12-09, J1650, BTH, Campus Gräsvik, Karlskrona, 09:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-11-07 Created: 2019-11-07 Last updated: 2019-12-06Bibliographically approved

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Watz, MatildaHallstedt, Sophie

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