Benefits and obstacles of sustainable product development methods: a case study in the field of urban mobility

Rainer Stark, Tom Buchert, Sabrina Neugebauer, Jérémy Bonvoisin, Matthias Finkbeiner

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20 Citations (SciVal)


In the last few years, numerous approaches have been introduced for supporting design engineers in developing more sustainable products. However, so far, these efforts have not led to the establishment of a commonly acknowledged standard methodology for Sustainable Product Development (SPD). This brings into question the relevance of developing new methods and calls for more efforts in testing the available ones. This article provides a reflection about the benefits and obstacles of applying existing SPD approaches to a real product development project. It reports the results of a project aimed at developing a new mobility solution under the constraints of sustainability-related targets. This project has led to the development of a new pedelec concept, focusing on the substitution of small passenger cars with the help of three SPD methods – Design for Sustainability Guidelines, Product Sustainability Index, and Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment. These methods have proved to be generally beneficial, thanks to a combination of qualitative and quantitative perspectives. However, the multitude of criteria offered by the methods put forth difficulties in evaluating which sustainability aspects are relevant and therefore lead to higher effort for information retrieval analysis and decision processes. Furthermore, the methods still lack an integrated perspective on the product, the corresponding services and the overarching system.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17
Number of pages30
JournalDesign Science
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2017


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