Towards Sustainability-driven Innovation through Product Service Systems

Document type: Licentiates
Full text:
Author(s): Anthony Thompson
Title: Towards Sustainability-driven Innovation through Product Service Systems
Series: Blekinge Institute of Technology Licentiate Dissertion Series
Year: 2010
Issue: 8
ISBN: 978-91-7295-188-4
ISSN: 1650-2140
Publisher: Blekinge Institute of Technology
City: Karlskrona
Organization: Blekinge Institute of Technology
Department: School of Engineering - Dept. of Mechanical Engineering (Sektionen för ingenjörsvetenskap - avd. för maskinteknik)
School of Engineering S- 371 79 Karlskrona
+46 455 38 50 00
http://www.bth.se/ing/
Authors e-mail: anthony.thompson@bth.se
Language: English
Abstract: Increasing awareness of anthropogenic impacts on the planet has lead to efforts to reduce negative environmental impacts in product development for several decades. Benefits to companies who focus on sustainability initiatives have been put forth more recently, leading to many efforts to incorporate sustainability considerations in their product innovation processes.

The majority of current sustainability considerations in industry constrain design space by emphasizing reduced material and energy flows across the product’s life cycle. However, there is also an opportunity to use awareness of sustainability to bring attention to new facets of design space and to drive innovation. Specifically there is an opportunity for product-service systems (PSS) to be a vehicle through which sustainability-driven innovation occurs.

A framework for strategic sustainable development (FSSD) provides the basis for understanding sustainability in this work, and provides clarity with regard to how to think about sustainable products and service innovations. The “backcasting” approach included in this framework also provides insight into how incremental and radical approaches could be aligned within the product innovation working environment.

This thesis explores how sustainability considerations can be better integrated into existing product innovation working environments in order to drive innovation processes within firms, with a specific emphasis on opportunities that occur as sustainability knowledge leads to innovation through a product-service system approach. It endeavors to contribute to both theory development within the emerging sustainable PSS design research area, and also to advance the state of practice within industry by connecting dots between the state of theory and the state of practice.

Society’s opportunity to become more sustainable and industry’s desire for innovation in order to lead to or increase profitability are often in conflict. However, this thesis argues that knowledge of global social and ecological sustainability can be used to drive innovation processes, and that there are win-win opportunities that can often be achieved through a PSS approach. There is some, but not sufficient, support for the inclusion of sustainability considerations in the product innovation process, and even fewer tools to support the use of sustainability to drive innovation. In response, an approach to providing support that brings together the FSSD and various approaches to systems modeling and simulation is presented. Opportunities to use sustainability-friendly attributes of existing products through a PSS-approach are also presented.
Keywords: sustainable product innovation, sustainable product development, strategic sustainable development, product-service systems (PSS), decision support tools, life cycle management
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-00473
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