Integration of Sustainability Aspects in Product Development

University dissertation from Göteborg : Chalmers University of Technology and Göteborg University

Abstract: Integration of sustainability aspects into the product development process has been difficult to achieve, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. The main reason is that existing tools are experienced to be too detailed and as a result too demanding in terms of time and resources. This Licentiate Thesis presents a method for sustainable product development (MSPD). The method is intended to be a complement to existing overarching sustainability management tools and detailed quantitative product analysis tools. The objectives of the MSPD are: (i) identification of potential problems of present or planned products caused by substances and activities during the product life cycle that are critical with regard to principles for sustainability; (ii) guidance in finding solutions to the potential problems by modifications of present or planned products, and (iii) promotion of new products and business ideas based on sustainability aspects. A method suitable for most enterprises, irrespective of product type or background knowledge, has been sought. The MSPD includes: (1) a management tool which supports the user with information about, and instructions for applying, the method; (2) a flexible model for an integrated product development process, including checklist questions concerning traditional aspects of product development; (3) a modular system of guiding questions concerning aspects of sustainability, and (4) a prioritisation matrix for evaluation and choice of proposals in each product development phase. A MSPD prototype has been developed and tested in six small and medium- sized enterprises to study the usability of the basic structure of the method, and to obtain ideas for improvements and further development.

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