On Sustainability Indicators and Sustainable Product Development
Doctoral thesis, 2000
In this thesis, we present some examples of sustainability indicators and tools for sustainable product development that can be used to facilitate a transition of the society towards sustainability. As a basis for this work, we have used certain principles for sustainability. In order to avoid the type of sub-optimisation that may occur when short-term goals are considered that are not consistent with long-term sustainability, we have used a backcasting perspective, in which a sustainable society is used as a reference state. Some difficulties with quantitative indicators are that (1) it is difficult to operationalise sustainability, which can result in the neglect of some relevant aspects of sustain-ability, (2) the choice of indicators can be made in a more or less ad hoc fashion, since it is difficult to prioritise among possible indicators, and (3) there is a lack of quantitative data for indicators. We suggest that indicator development should be based on an explicit framework that includes (1) a description of aim and perspec-tive, including principles for sustainability, (2) categories to consider by the indicators, and (3) a model of causal chains, in which indicators can focus on different parts. To encourage an explicit and consistent choice of system boundaries in indicator studies on a regional level, we propose a classification of system boundaries. We also propose a set of tools for sustainable product development that has a life cycle perspective and is based on an integrated product development process. We suggest a qualitative approach in the form of a hierarchical structure of questions to facilitate a relevant level of detail and complexity for the aspects to consider and to avoid search for data that may not be relevant.
principles for sustainability