Challenges and preconditions to build capabilities for sustainable product design

DS 87-1 Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 17) Vol 1: Resource Sensitive Design, Design Research Applications and Case Studies, Vancouver, Canada, 21-25.08.2017

Year: 2017
Editor: Anja Maier, Stanko Škec, Harrison Kim, Michael Kokkolaras, Josef Oehmen, Georges Fadel, Filippo Salustri, Mike Van der Loos
Author: Schulte, Jesko; Hallstedt, Sophie
Series: ICED
Institution: Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden
Section: Resource Sensitive Design, Design Research Applications and Case Studies
Page(s): 001-010
ISBN: 978-1-904670-89-6
ISSN: 2220-4342


Sustainable product innovation has previously been found to be positively correlated to competitiveness. However, in order to build capabilities for sustainability integration one must first understand companies’ current state. The overall aim is therefore to identify common preconditions and challenges for sustainability integration in product innovation. A questionnaire study, targeting employees with roles in product development, was conducted at four medium-sized to large product development and manufacturing companies in Sweden. Results show that capabilities for sustainability integration are perceived as decisive for future company success, but are not considered to be correspondingly high prioritized today. Decision making is focused on material selection and energy efficiency, so no full socio-ecological sustainability perspective is covered. Formal decision support tools are only used by half of respondents and are a main area for improvement. Identified challenges include short-term economic thinking, lack of sustainability criteria and vague management commitment. Based on these findings, seven recommendations for companies are presented and validated.

Keywords: Sustainability, Case study, Ecodesign, Sustainable product development, Capability


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