Integrating Sustainability in Product Development : An Investigation of Drivers, Challenges, and Decision Support Tools for Sustainability Integration in the Early Phases of Product Development
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to increase the knowledge for both academia and practitioners on how to integrate sustainability aspects in product development by studying current research and comparing these findings to empirical material retrieved from an industrial company. Seco, which functioned as the case company of this study, was used as the source for the empirical data collection. The study used a deductive research approach, which implicates that the literature has steered the collection of the empirical material. In the literature, eight key drivers and seven challenges for sustainable product development were identified to be significantly important. The drivers were categorized as either internal or external for an organization and the challenges were all categorised as internal. Of these eight drivers, one internal and one external driver was identified at Seco to be particularly important. The internal driver was the corporate sustainability strategy from Sandvik Group, which is the corporation Seco is part of, and the external driver was upcoming and existing regulations. Moreover, all six challenges were found to be relevant for Seco. These were handling trade-off situations, short-term economic thinking, lack of information in early phases of product development, measuring sustainability, sustainability strategy remains at the strategic level, and perceived risk of implementing sustainability. This study also examined what attributes that are important in decision support tools to enable the integration of sustainability aspects in product development. To identify important attributes in this study, Seco’s current decision support tools at the strategic, tactical, and operational planning levels were analysed by putting the theoretical framework in relation to the empirical material. From the analysis, the initial seven attributes from the theoretical framework were complemented with the following five attributes identified as important: a top-down approach that focuses on integrating sustainability on all planning levels of the product development process, enabling follow-up on strategic decisions, reduce the room for free interpretations, reduce the complexity and amount of time to use decision support tools, and lastly methodologies to support the collection of the required information to use decision support tools. Thus, it is emphasized that researchers and practitioners continue to develop new and existing decision support tools so that the sustainability of products can be defined and measured. A focus on developing methodologies that guides how the required information can be obtained to use decision support that incorporates all life-cycle phases of a product is also identified as important.
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