Sustainability Requirement Management

Previous research has highlighted that early decisions in the design process need to be informed by a system understanding of sustainability criteria and other design aspects. This is to address the challenge industries today are facing while attempting to improve their designs from a sustainability point of view, when the desired sustainability performance exceeds either customer requests or regulatory compliance. From a business- and sustainability perspective it is also necessary to adopt systems thinking as a means to avoid sustainability sub-optimisations, i.e., design decisions that may improve a certain sustainability aspect but instead cause another, or e.g. lead to unexpected costs.

Requirements are crucial for the design process, both as guidance for innovation and concept generation as they provide the foundation and guidance for what needs to be developed. They also constitute the ultimate quality controlling agent, by allowing tests to be conducted to assure that what has been developed meets the expectations. Therefore, companies put a lot of effort in the formulation of requirements, and the verification processes actually matches stakeholder needs and expectations.

The overarching product specification, consisting of the high-level product requirements, is formed in a very early stage of a product development project. It generally takes place in a group of managers, representing different functions of a product developing organisation, who together discuss a prospect project and together they define the initial product specification. This specification may describe a product as a system, using functions, and it is based on this specification that concept generation can begin in a product design team. The same group usually selects a concept based on this specification. To understand sustainability and how sustainability criteria relate to other design variables is therefore necessary in this group.

The purpose of this workshop is therefore to test a novel methodology where systems thinking is applied in a group model building environment. The aim is to create a shared understanding of how a design problem affects, and is affected by, sustainability criteria. The results will be collected and used for further improvements of the method.


Sophie Hallstedt, Matilda Watz

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