System innovation for sustainability: A systemic double-flow scenario method for companies

A. Idil Gaziulusoy*, Carol Boyle, Ron McDowall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


It is commonly accepted that, in order to achieve sustainability, there is a need for societal transformation, which requires institutional, social/cultural, organizational and technological change. This societal transformation will involve all aspects of society co-evolving toward and aligning with sustainability goals and is defined as sustainability transition or system innovation for sustainability. However, neither the theory nor the operational approaches currently based on this emerging theory address how to link macro-level innovation within society to the micro-level innovation by companies. This paper presents a scenario method developed and tested for the use of product development teams. The scenario method uses both explorative and backcasting scenarios to link activities/decisions at the product development (micro-innovation) level in companies with the transformation which needs to take place at the societal (macro-innovation) level to achieve sustainability. Workshops were used to develop scenario maps for innovation pathways, leading to sustainable future visions. The method was evaluated by carrying out expert consultations and workshops with product development teams. The evaluation results demonstrated that the scenario method is a viable method to aid companies in aligning their innovation efforts with short, medium and long-term sustainability requirements and identified outstanding issues for further development of the scenario method.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-116
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Product design
  • Product development
  • Scenario development
  • Sustainability
  • System innovation

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