Strategic Life-Cycle Modeling and Simulation for Sustainable Product Innovation

University dissertation from Karlskrona : Blekinge Institute of Technology

Abstract: Many specific methods and tools have been developed to deal with sustainability problems. However, without a unifying theory it is unclear how these relate to each other and how they can be used strategically. A Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD) is being developed to cover this need for clarity and structure. It includes backcasting from a principled definition of sustainability as a key feature. The aim of this thesis is to study how this framework can guide the use and improvement of detailed methods and tools, in particular to support sustainable product innovation (SPI). First, a new strategic life-cycle management approach is presented, in which the selection of aspects to be considered are not based on typical down-stream impact categories, but on identified major violations of sustainability principles. Ideas of how this approach can inform various specific methods and tools are also presented, as a basis for an integrated “toolbox” for SPI. As part of such, a new “template” approach for sustainable product development (TSPD) is developed through a sustainability assessment case study of TVs. That study indicates that this approach can create a quick and strategically relevant overview of critical sustainability aspects of a product, as well as facilitate communication between top management, product developers and external stakeholders. Based on such an assessment, it is sometimes necessary to go deeper into details, including the use of specific engineering methods and tools. To facilitate a coordinated assessment of sustainability aspects and technical aspects, an introductory procedure for sustainability-driven design optimization is suggested trough a water jet cutting case study. Equally important, to get a breakthrough for SPI, it is essential to integrate sustainability aspects into the overall decision-making process at different levels in companies. An approach to assessing sustainability integration in strategic decision systems is therefore also developed through a case study involving several companies. Finally, the integration between the FSSD and general systems modeling and simulation (SMS) is discussed and tested in another water jet cutting case study. It is shown feasible to start with the FSSD to create lists of critical flows and practices, ideas of long term solutions and visions, and a first rough idea about prioritized early investments. After that, SMS can be applied to study the interrelationships between the listed items, in order to create more robust and refined analyses of the problems at hand, possible solutions and investment paths, while constantly coupling back to the sustainability principles and guidelines of the FSSD. This research shows that the combination of the FSSD with detailed methods and tools cohesively provides decision-makers with both a robust overview and, when needed, a more coordinated and effective detailed support. To utilize its full potential, this approach should now be integrated into decision processes, software and manuals for SPI.