Eco-Evolution: An Evolutionary-Oriented Strategy for Sustainable Product Development

Sergio Jofre

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis


The sustainable development debate has motivated the interest on the development process in which products and services are conceived and their characteristics and performance determined. In order to address environmental issues in the product development process, several methods and tools for innovation have been developed. However, the yet narrow scope and relevance of environmental innovation in firms, has been centred on cost-effective modifications with moderate impact on the overall environmental performance of products. Recently, it has been indicated that the complexity of the question of sustainability demands a substantial technological change connected with a reciprocal change in the social, economic and cultural patterns that rule the production-consumption system. Thus, tools and models are needed in order to allow the evaluation of what is possible within the present technological and cultural frameworks and what the new directions to explore are. This thesis addresses sustainable development as a function of socioeconomic, technological, and environmental co-evolution. Therefore, the requirements and implications of sustainability are investigated in the context of modern evolutionary theorizing. As a result, an evolutionary-oriented strategy called eco-evolution is introduced. As a concept, eco-evolution represents the progressive shift of a product development process in order to deploy and deliver functions in line with sustainability. As a strategy, eco-evolution represents the systematic internalization of environmental issues at the initial stages of product development process in order to establish a horizon for sustainable design and product management. In order to illustrate the practical application of the eco-evolution strategy, a case study on the home appliance industry with focus on Japanese domestic refrigerators is included. The overall results indicate that eco-evolution is an efficient knowledge-based strategy for early identification and correction of non-optimal trajectories and for the generation of design and managerial directions in accordance with sustainability requirements. The thesis concludes that evolutionary theorizing has a practical application on sustainable product development and systemic innovation, and that eco-evolution as a concept and strategy, respectively addresses the complexity of sustainable development and assesses the sustainable product development in a practical way.
Keyword: Service oriented economy,Evolutionary Design,Jofre,Innovation,Foresight,Eco Design,Sustainable Product Development
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages96
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes


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