Best practices for the integration of social sustainability into product development and related processes

Daniela C. A. Pigosso*, Tim C. McAloone

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


    Since its conception as an innovation strategy, sustainable innovation has been largely focused on the development of products with improved environmental and economical sustainability – product-related social sustainability is still relatively immature, when compared to the environmental and economical dimensions (Hutchins & Sutherland 2008; McMahon & Bhamra 2012; Fargnoli et al. 2014; Fontes 2014). Recently however, an intensification of focus on product-related social sustainability can be observed, especially in relation to the proposition of key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the social sustainability of products. Some examples of initiatives are the Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment (Fontes 2014) and the UNEP SETAC Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA). Most of the proposed social KPIs and metrics are still linked to high-level characteristics of the organisation (such as job satisfaction and engagement, child labour, discrimination and community engagement), which themselves are not directly connected to sustainable innovation and product development (Hutchins & Sutherland 2008). For this reason, the decisions made during the product development and related processes, which are directly defining the sustainability performance of products during their life cycle, have very limited influence on improving the proposed social KPIs, i.e. in improving the social sustainability performance of the developed products. Currently, the consideration of the social dimension in a sustainable innovation context seems to be restricted to customer-related health and safety issues, especially during the use and end-of-life life cycle phases. Limited attention has been paid, so far, to the social characteristics of products that can have a positive impact on society, such as better fulfilling of needs and behaviour change towards a sustainable society. Consequently, many companies still face several challenges to effectively improve social sustainability performance at a product-level. Best practices for the social sustainability integration into product development need to be further explored to support companies in improving the sustainability performance of their developed products, in an integrated approach (considering the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability).
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSustainable Innovation 2015 : 'State of the Art' Sustainable Innovation & Design
    PublisherThe Centre for Sustainable Design
    Publication date2015
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    EventSustainable Innovation 2015: ‘State of the Art’ Sustainable Innovation & Design - Epsom, United Kingdom
    Duration: 9 Nov 201510 Nov 2015


    ConferenceSustainable Innovation 2015
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


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