Approach to establish relevant sustainability assessment parameters in product development
Conference poster, 2011
Since companies need to develop more sustainable products to stay in business in the long term, there is a demand for ways to assess and compare product sustainability already in product development. This is attended to in the WooDi research project which aims at developing a wood based material to replace a petroleum based one in an incontinence diaper while ensuring a more sustainable product. Acknowledging the vast number of choices made in product development and their potentially large effect on the sustainability impact of the resulting product leads to the conclusion that assessment of product sustainability should be made throughout the process and be used to guide development. To gain a deeper understanding of the requirements and barriers in assessing product sustainability and guiding product development towards a more sustainable product, several workshops and seminars were carried out in the WooDi project, in parallel to literature surveys.
Based on what was found in relevant literature, most often lists of predetermined parameters are being used without critical reflection on their importance in light of the specific situation. Additionally there is a lack of parameters describing the sustainability impacts of a shift from fossil to biomass resources in a life cycle perspective, e.g. related to competition for resources. As a result, an approach was developed for establishing relevant product sustainability parameters, where the parameters are intended to guide product development as well as to be a base for a sustainability comparison of a new product with a current product. It starts with defining what ‘sustainable product’ is in the specific case.
This approach emphasises the need of bringing in the product development team members’ diverse knowledge and experiences as vital for a successful result. Practical experience of using the proposed framework throughout a project is still needed for evaluating it and identifying its limits.
The presentation reports on the developed approach and on efforts to define what should be meant by ‘sustainable product’ in the specific case.