Strategic Sustainable Development

Strategic Sustainable Development

The research focuses on methodological support for companies, municipalities and other organizations that want to work strategically with sustainable development, that is, organizations that want to contribute to society’s transition towards sustainability in a way that strengthens the organization.

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. Read more about the Alliance for Strategic Sustainable Development.

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

Climate-neutral and competitive Gävleborg 2050

The project aims to support the Gävleborg region in becoming a successful model region with companies and public stakeholders working together across sectors with climate-smart technology and new business models. The opportunities that are investigated include climate-neutral renewable energy, combined production of electricity, fuel and heating, low-energy housing, heat collaborations and other symbioses, and electric and hybrid vehicles. These are analysed with respect to how they can best contribute to a strategic action plan towards the vision of Gävleborg in 2050. BTH contributes with its expertise in strategic sustainable development.

Other academic partners: University of Gävle (Sweden), Linköping University (Sweden), and Zuyd University (Netherlands).
The project is conducted in close collaboration with: Businesses and public stakeholders in the region.
Contact person: Göran Broman

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

Visiting professor project in sustainable innovation

Professor George Basile is an internationally recognised researcher within strategic planning for sustainability, leadership and sustainable business. He is a professor at the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, USA. Professor Basile worked part-time at the Department of Strategic Sustainable Development at BTH in 2013–2014. The main focus of his work is to identify and assess product and service innovation processes at five Swedish companies, and to provide suggestions for improvements of these processes in terms of innovation for sustainability. He is also involved in other research projects and some of BTH’s study programmes.

Business partners: Aura Light International, Avalon Innovation, Dynapac Compaction Equipment, Kockums and Volvo Construction Equipment.
Contact person: Göran Broman

Sustainable cities from a backcasting perspective

The project aims to study how district heating systems and associated business models can create strategic platforms for a sustainable society. Methodology for strategic sustainable development is combined with methodology for energy systems analysis, and basic interdisciplinary expertise is developed for the purpose of integrating research and education in sustainable energy development. Specifically, the studies involve district heating systems in Blekinge and Stockholm, and the experiences are synthesised into a methodological support for a sustainable development of district heating. BTH contributes with its expertise within strategic sustainable development. Linköping University contributes with its expertise in energy systems analysis.

Collaborative partners: Businesses and public stakeholders in Blekinge and Stockholm.
Contact person: Göran Broman

Sustainable procurement

Purchasers today process information from various chains of supply, act as gatekeepers for substantial flows of raw materials, products and energy, and serve as potential managers of supplier relations. Moreover, they have a direct link to end product stakeholders. Together, this makes the procurement function key to any company’s sustainability efforts. However, despite the many initiatives to encourage sustainable procurement from a policy perspective, and despite the fact that sustainable procurement is an emerging research area, the companies’ efforts are characterised by reductionism. The strategic potential of procurement to add sustainability as a value to an end product or service is not fully exploited. The purpose of this project is to develop a framework for how a systems perspective can be integrated into the procurement function, and how the function can thereby use its potential for strategic value creation to promote sustainable product and service systems. The research is based on case studies of national stakeholders for eco-labelling and sustainable procurement, as well as of our partners: Scandic Hotels, Aura Light International and Blekinge County Council.

Project owner: BTH
Funder: BTH
Contact person: Cecilia Bratt

Decision-support for sustainable value chains

Understanding and mapping the impact of a product life cycle is crucial to achieving sustainable development. Based on a holistic approach to sustainable development that includes technical, economic and socio-ecological impacts throughout the product’s life cycle, this project will study how to integrate sustainable product innovation (SPI) and product service systems (PSS). Moreover, the project will examine how the methods and tools that have been used could interact to promote sustainable development. An understanding of these areas will lead to additional tools and methods for sustainable product and service innovation to help companies’ develop more sustainable products and become more competitive on the market.

Contact person: Henrik Ny
More information

A principle definition of sustainable development

Objective: The social dimension of sustainable development is an underdeveloped aspect in both research and practice. Based on the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD), this project studies how the social dimension can be developed to better support more concrete planning and decision-making for sustainable innovation. The project builds on interdisciplinary literature studies and practical measures and research with partner businesses to develop and test more specific guidance in this area.

Project manager: Professor Karl-Henrik Robèrt
Conact person: Merlina Missimer, Lic
Period: 2009–
Industry partners: Aura Light International, Max Hamburgers, Karlskrona Municipality, Blekinge County Council, Scandic Hotels, Sleep Well, The Human Element and The Natural Step.
Funders: VINNOVA, the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, FORMAS, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the Swedish Energy Agency, FUTURA Foundation, BTH’s Faculty Board.
More information

Sustainability criteria for a concept evaluation method

The overall objective of the project is to promote the project manager’s qualifications, while building a long-term partnership between the Blekinge Institute of Technology and GKN Aerospace Sweden. The focus of the research project is to clarify how to define sustainability function in order to influence the design of products at an early stage, and to propose an improved concept design and evaluation method, including sustainability aspects during the product lifecycle, to avoid bad investments and later changes in the product development process. The project builds on an extensive survey of six major companies arriving at the conclusion that the concept stage is when new methods and strategies for sustainable product development are especially needed. The project at GKN is expected to involve studies over a two-year period, resulting in prescriptive methods for the integration of sustainability criteria in the stages of development and evaluation.

Project owner: BTH
Funders: VINNOVA and BTH
Contact person: Sophie Hallstedt

STOSIP – Strategic, Tactical and Operational implementation of Sustainability into the Innovation Process

STOSIP is a research project with the objective to support manufacturing companies to integrate and implement sustainability on strategic, tactical and operational levels.

The aim is to support the ability to measure:

  • maturity level of sustainability integration and management
  • sustainability consequences of different solutions and support the ability to…
  • quantify and visualize the progress of sustainability implementation of different solutions

Two manufacturing companies are partners in this project; Volvo Construction Equipment and GKN Engine System, Sweden.

Company partners: GKN Aerospace Engine Systems Solutions and Volvo Construction Equipment.

Other academic partners: Denmark Technical University (DTU). The project is funded by KKS.

Contact person: Sophie Hallstedt