Perspectives on ecodesign implementation with quantitative analysis

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles

Abstract

Degradation and scarcity of natural resources at the planetary scale have triggered a context in which circular economy has emerged as a concept framing the discussion on these challenges. Companies are the critical stakeholders that should embrace circular economy thinking in order to take these discussions into practice. More specifically, such thinking should be explicated in product development where many of circular economy related aspirations are realized. This is examined in this dissertation from the perspective of the ecodesign domain. This dissertation consists of three published scientific articles, and a summary combining the results from these articles. This research provides new insights particularly from the soft-side of ecodesign which emphasizes the role of human factors influencing the uptake of environmental considerations in product development practices. It deepens the understanding of context for an enhanced ecodesign implementation by answering three research questions: Are there significant associations between ecodesign practices? To what extent circular economy considerations are associated with other ecodesign practices? And, how human factors, such as ecological concern, are related to ecodesign practices? Answers to these research questions are based on quantitative data using a descriptive research approach. The survey was conducted among people working with product development and representing various industries in Finland. The content analysis was based on data obtained from sustainability reports within one sector. Using content analysis allowed to extend understanding on the applicability of this research method within the ecodesign domain. These quantitative results contribute to the knowledge base by deepening the understanding of the current state of ecodesign practices. Results indicate that implementing ecodesign has progressed within proactive companies' product development. However, it is not yet a mainstream activity in the analyzed data. Established product development processes are associated with more formal management processes for environmental considerations within them. The results show the ways in which quantitative environmental targets for products are associated with circular economy related activities, and environmental performance within one sector. However, the awareness of circular economy is just emerging. These findings further indicate that the role of durability, and the way durability considerations enter the product development context should be further examined, as such considerations were not found to correlate with ecodesign practices apart from the earliest product development phase, nor with lifecycle thinking. Novel contributions were also achieved by using a scarcely applied unit of analysis within the field: the micro-level. This allowed a deepening in the understanding of human factors, such as ecological concern, and their associations with ecodesign practices. This dissertation provides new insights for companies struggling to implement ecodesign practices beyond their documentation.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Partanen, Jouni, Supervisor
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8609-5
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8610-1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Keywords

  • circular economy
  • product development
  • ecodesign
  • ecological concern
  • ecological worldview

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