Strategic Sustainable Development

Strategic Sustainable Development

The research focuses on methodology support for companies, municipalities and other organisations that want to work strategically with sustainable development, i.e. organisations that want to contribute to society’s transition to sustainability in a way that strengthens the individual organisation.

The research has been deemed excellent and internationally leading by many independent evaluators.

The researchers study, for example, definitions of sustainability and how organizations can consider sustainability aspects when they develop strategic plans, identify user needs, formulate criteria, generate ideas and concepts, evaluate concepts, develop business models, procure and communicate.


The aim is to provide support for strategic sustainability thinking early in the innovation process. It is in the early phases the opportunities are the greatest to create solutions that contribute to sustainable development of society and strengthen the organization. In these phases it is important to be able to model, simulate, and in a coordinated way take into account, for example, technical, business economic and socio-ecological consequences of different solutions. Based on this, the organization can find the best options from a strategic sustainability perspective and develop these further in later phases of the innovation process.

Examples of current sub-areas are the further development of a definition of social sustainability and the further development of methodology for sustainable product- and service development, sustainable procurement and value-chain management, sustainable energy- and transport system development, sustainable municipal- and regional development and sustainable food system development.

The research group sustainability-driven innovation develops decision support methodology for companies, municipalities and other organizations that want to work strategically with sustainable development, namely to contribute to the transition towards sustainability for society as a whole in a way that strengthens the organizations.

Our research and education programmes are supported by our research and attract partners and students from all over the world. Read more about our study programme.

Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development, FSSD
The work includes both further development of a structuring and unifying basic methodology for strategic sustainable development (Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development; FSSD) and also the development of more specific FSSD-based decision support methodology for application in various fields.

The key components of FSSD contain a principled definition of socio-ecological sustainability and strategic guidelines for how companies and other organizations can contribute to sustainable development of society in a financially advantageous manner. In our further development of FSSD we primarily focus on improving the definition of social sustainability.

Göran Broman presents the FSSD (StepWise Methodology)

”…BTH has gained an excellent international recognition for its support to strategic sustainable development … has an excellent, uniquely large, incomparable and extraordinary well-established national and international network … Overall, this is an excellent research group performing excellent results.”

Independent external team of expert reviewers, 2013


“BTH is internationally leading in research on how organizations such as companies and municipalities can work strategically with sustainable development…”

Lars-Erik Liljelund, CEO, MISTRA

Cooperation with other areas

In the development of more specific FSSD-based decision support methodology, which represents the major part of our research, we focus primarily on the area of sustainable product and service innovation, this includes being one of the key players in BTH:s Center for Sustainable Product-Service System Innovation (SPIRIT). By this, we have a very close cooperation with the research group Product Development Research Lab at BTH and increasingly also with other researchers at BTH and at other universities. We consider it especially important to have a strategic approach towards sustainability in the innovation process early phases, where the greatest opportunities of influencing products and services impact on ecological and social systems throughout their lifecycle lie. It is important to be able to model, simulate and take into account technical, business and socio-ecological implications of several different solutions already in these early stages so that the best options from a strategic sustainability perspective can be identified and further developed in later phases of the innovation process.

We also interact increasingly with other fields such as energy systems, transport systems and regional development. BTH is a coordinating partner in the Alliance for Strategic Sustainable Development, within which research teams at several other universities around the world, supported by BTH, integrate FSSD in their respective areas of expertise.

We have a broad view of the concept of innovation. It includes not only technology innovation but also innovation in higher system levels, for example, the renewal of how companies, municipalities and other stakeholders organize their cooperation in value chains and renewal of leadership. Generally we would like to support a broader perspective with the methodology we are developing – away from the traditional, where individual organisations react on known environmental problems towards acting jointly, proactively and strategically on the remaining gap to a sustainable society.

BTH conducts world-leading research and education in strategic sustainable development and sustainable product innovation. The work is of great value for industry and society at large. The knowledge and methodology developed and conveyed provides useful guidance for investment and product development decisions”.

Leif Johansson, President of Ericsson, former CEO of Volvo

Funders and partners

Examples of funders: Swedish Energy Agency, FUTURA, Knowledge Foundation, MISTRA, the Swedish District Heating Association, VINNOVA together with project partners such as businesses, municipalities, county administrative boards, regional councils and others. In total we have about 70 project partners, including a number of world leading companies and most municipalities in southeastern Sweden.’

Examples of academic partners: Arizona State University, Brunel University, Carnegie Mellon University, Technical University of Denmark, Federal University of Amazonas, Gothenburg University, Stockholm School of Economics, Royal Institute of Technology, Linköping University and Stockholm University.

Our research has been recognized with many excellent reviews and awards from both the scientific community and from industry and society. Researchers in our group, for example, attracted the attention of Industry and Commerce Award for Sustainable Leadership, The Blue Planet Prize (The sustainability field’s Nobel Prize), The Global Social Responsibility Laureate Medal and finalist nominations for The Globe Sustainability Research Award.

Examples of Projects

Energy Cooperation Blekinge

Energy cooperation Blekinge is a platform for competence development in sustainable buildings. It is about both energy-smart buildings and the role of the building in the energy system.   Energy cooperation Blekinge is run as a project led by the Energy Office Southeast and it is funded by the Blekinge Regional Development Fund and the Regional Fund through the Growth Agency and the Blekinge County Administrative Board. The project is co-financed by Region Blekinge, Karlskrona, Karlshamns, Olofströms and Ronneby municipalities, Karlskronahem, Ronnebyhus, Karlshamnsbostäder and Olofströmshus. BTH’s SustainTrans group within the Department of Strategic Sustainable Development conducts a case study within the project with a focus on climate-neutral buildings and building systems.

Project manager: Katrine Svensson

Project period: 2019 – 2022

Partners: Region Blekinge; Blekinge County Administrative Board; Karlskrona, Karlshamn, Olofström and Ronneby municipalities; Karlskronahem, Ronnebyhus, Karlshamnsbostäder and Olofströmshus.

Funders: Region Blekinge regional development and the regional fund through the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth and Blekinge County Administrative Board. Co-funding from Region Blekinge; Karlskrona, Karlshamn, Olofström and Ronneby municipalities; Karlskronahem, Ronnebyhus, Karlshamnsbostäder and Olofströmshus.

Contact Person: Henrik Ny


Model-driven Development and Decision Support

The project aims to support the development of an internationally competitive research environment focusing on improving the competitiveness of the industry through model-driven development of products and services that promote a sustainable development of society. The project combines the areas of strategic sustainable development, mechanical engineering, management, innovation, decision support systems and visualisation.

Business partners: Aura Light International, Avalon Innovation, Dynapac Compaction Equipment, GKN Aerospace Engine Systems Solutions, Holje International Group, Industrigruppen Karlskrona, Tech Network, Tetra Pak Packaging AB and Volvo Construction Equipment.

The project is one of the key projects of the Swedish Knowledge Foundation (KKS)

Contact person: Tobias Larsson


INTERCONNECT, a 3,5 M€ EUSBSR flagship project starting in 2017 and ending 2020, addresses the challenge of curbing the car-reliant mobility trend in the South Baltic area through user-adjusted and more sustainable public transport services for regional and cross-border travels. To enhance car-independent mobility in the area, the partnership (9 formal and 10 associated partners from 6 countries) will carry out joint capacity-building, pilot demonstration and advocacy actions. The BTH SustainTrans research group will contribute to and lead several activities with the main focus on application and further development of a multi-stakeholder process model for planning toward sustainability.

Project manager: Sven Borèn

Project period: 2017 – 2020

Industry partners: Rostocker Strassenbahn AG, Port of Trelleborg,Scandlines Deutschland GmbH, and Stena Line Scandinavia AB

Academic partners: Association for Promotion of Hanseatic Institute for Entrepreneurship and Regional Development at the University of Rostock

Funders: EU Interreg South Baltic Sea Region

Contact person: Sven Borén


Sustainable Municipal and Regional Development

The main aim of this research project is to work with municipalities and regions in Sweden to investigate how municipal and regional practitioners (for example leading politicians and sustainability strategists) can be sufficiently supported to enhance cross-disciplinary and cross-sector municipal and regional strategic work for sustainability. This is done through participatory action research (PAR) where we try out and evaluate a preliminary FSSD* implementation model aimed for multi-stakeholder co-creation and co-learning towards sustainability. In addition, we identify and develop additional support as needed.

*Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development

Project manager: Göran Broman

Project period: 2015 – 2022

Industry partners: Municipalities of Hudiksvall, Karlskrona, Nybro, Oskarshamn, Ronneby, Torsås, Västervik, Region Blekinge, Region Jönköpings Län, Åland Föreningen Sveriges Ekokommuner (

Funders: Municipalities of Hudiksvall, Karlskrona, Nybro, Oskarshamn, Ronneby, Torsås, Västervik, Region Blekinge, Region Jönköpings Län, Åland Föreningen Sveriges Ekokommuner (

Contact person: Lisa Wälitalo

Practical Applications of a New Social Sustainability Definition

The project has the aim to further understand and develop the practical work with the social dimension of sustainability in various contexts and to support the practitioners in the field with solid support (e.g. methods and tools) to do their work. The overarching research question in this project is: “How can sustainability practitioners be further supported in their work to aid in more concrete planning and decision-making for social sustainability? The project works with three different stakeholder groups – municipal practitioners, business practitioners, and external practitioners, e.g. consultants who support many different kinds of organizations in their strive towards sustainability.

Project manager: Merlina Missimer

Project period: 2017 – 2020

Partners: The project works in collaboration with the research project on Municipal and Regional Sustainable Developmentand the Profile Project. So the partners and funders for those projects are also collaborators here.

Funder: FUTURA Foundation

Contact person: Merlina Missimer


Sustainable Product Development

The research objective is to strengthen industry’s capacity to develop sustainable solutions by integrating and implementing sustainability in the innovation process. Socio-ecological problems are to be reduced at the same time as there is a need for a development of innovative solutions. Our research combines backcasting and forecasting in decision support tools that allow companies to adopt a unique and pioneering strategic approach to sustainability. This contributes to the development of companies and increases their organisational abilities to develop sustainable solutions in parallel with consideration for other values and risks.

Project Manager: Sophie Hallstedt

Period: 2008 – ongoing

Contact person: Sophie Hallstedt



Göran BromanProfessor Göran Broman
Head of subject, strategic sustainable development
Telephone: + 455-38 55 04