Sustainable Product Development Through a Life-Cycle Approach to Product and Service Creation (Keynote speech)

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearch


The past two decades have seen increasing efforts to consider the potential negative effects of a product¿s manufacture, use and disposal on the local and global environment [1]. Over this time two main schools of research practice have emerged: an analyti-cal school of practice, targeted at the accounting and evaluation of environmental impacts of a given product or process; and a synthesis-oriented school of practice, targeted at the creation of environmentally improved products or processes, based upon life-cycle insight into the actual use and orientation of existing products on the market. These two schools of environmental re-search practice are mirrored in the way in which industry approaches environmental problems. Since the definition in 1987 of Sustainable Development [2] efforts have been made to relate the goals and ideals of sustainabil-ity to the domain of product development, thus adding new dimensions, such as social and moral values, to the original agenda of environmental improvement. The redefinition of the role of the product developer, from environmentally conscious product de-veloper to sustainably aware product developer has led to new insights into the way in which products are developed and used ¿ and to where environmental effects occur in the lifetime of a product. The role of the product developer is thus more complex in relation to sustainability, as the focus for improvement of a product may not (and very often does not) lie in the physical artefactual ingredients of the product or the processes used to create it. Rather, the focus for improvement of a product¿s environmental performance most often lies in the manner in which the product is used and consumed. A product¿s use phase is often environmentally significant, as this is the largest source of environmental impact. A product¿s consumption, or rather, a given user¿s consumption behaviour is even more important, as this dictates exactly how many use-phases, how many products and how much product redundancy is created, due to the user¿s lack of awareness, motiva-tion or ability to consume a product in an environmentally respectful manner. The problem with both use and consumption is that the product developer traditionally has very little power over these two ele-ments; they occur after the product has left the factory and entered into the hands of the user (the consumer). Until the real environmentally harmful phases of a product¿s life can be harnessed by the producing company, it is often* impos-sible to make the radical (Factor X [3]) environmental improvements to the product itself that are necessary to maintain an envi-ronmental equilibrium (*except for in the case of new technology introduction).
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2004
Publication statusPublished - 2004
EventInternational Symposium on Environmentally-Friendly Product Development - Darmstadt, Germany 27-28 October 2004
Duration: 1 Jan 2004 → …


ConferenceInternational Symposium on Environmentally-Friendly Product Development
CityDarmstadt, Germany 27-28 October 2004
Period01/01/2004 → …


  • Ecodesign
  • PSS
  • Product life
  • PD methods
  • Consumer behaviour
  • Lifecycle
  • Market trends
  • Product/Service-Systems
  • PSS development


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