Addressing Sustainability in Product Requirements from a Systems Perspective
Editor: Ekströmer, Philip; Schütte, Simon and Ölvander, Johan
Author: Watz, Matilda; Hallstedt, Sophie I.
Institution: Blekinge Institute of Technology
Lack of sustainability considerations in product development can lead to unintended consequences that are costly in the long run, and difficult to solve. Furthermore, the sustainability performance of a solution is predominately determined by decisions in the early phases of the design process, in which requirements are formed and which plays an essential role to guide and constrain innovation. The purpose of this paper is therefore to explore possibilities to address previously identified research gaps regarding i) the importance and challenges to integrate sustainability aspects into design requirements, and ii)the need of a strategic approach based on a full socio-ecological sustainability perspective to select which sustainability criteria to integrate. The aim is to investigate how the influence of sustainability aspects on traditional design variables may be modelled using systems thinking, e.g., System Dynamics modelling, as previous research has pointed out this as an area for future research. Against this background this paper explores the potential of a systems thinking perspective within requirements development, and how it can be applied, to favour a strategic sustainability perspective in product development. A conceptual literature review covering systems engineering, requirements engineering and systems dynamics, was conducted to analyse which phase in the requirements development that could benefit from systems thinking to promote a strategic integration of sustainability criteria into the requirement list. The results point towards the domain between stakeholder requirements and functional requirements, to allow building of a shared understanding the full design decision context that can be cascaded through the requirement levels. Furthermore, a systems analysis model can clarify which requirements that are involved in trade-offs and how. In addition, more detailed requirements imply less space for innovation. One outcome of the paper is a simplified causal loop diagram, showing how a systems’ modelling approach can help identify both traditional trade-offs between strategically identified leading sustainability criteria and traditional design requirements. Potential incentives for sustainable design decisions were identified. Future research will focus on improving and testing the suggested approach and investigate how sustainability criteria indicators can be linked to design value drivers