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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.

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

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.

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.

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.(Read more about the SPIRIT).

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 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.

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. (Read more). An example of opinion from a leading industry representative is: