Assessing global product sustainability: Development of an integrated approach

Alexander C Bruns, University of Rhode Island


An increasingly important competitive factor for companies is how sustainably they operate and how sustainable their products are. Sustainability, therefore, has become an important issue in production and manufacturing research. The presence of numerous—even contradictory—complex definitions makes it difficult to capture the concept's main contents. It is even more complicated to express and assess specific goals, which is why many researches from various contexts focus their research on the challenge of assessing sustainability. This master's thesis, therefore, pursues two main objectives. ^ The first objective is to explore the terms sustainability and sustainability assessment by means of an extensive literature review. The integrated consideration of definitions, fundamentals (e.g., indicator frameworks), prevalent assessment methodologies, and practical examples of industrially used assessment tools contributes to developing an inclusive scope that better addresses product sustainability in a global context. At this point, assessment tools are mostly non-standardized. An integrated assessment is also difficult due to insufficient harmonization between tools and data availability; in particular, social impacts are scarcely considered. Furthermore, existing tools are complex and require significant effort and knowledge of data processes to complete adequately. ^ For this reason, the second objective is to provide a conceptual approach that overcomes the weaknesses of existing approaches and can assess global product sustainability appropriately. Using the creativity technique of synectics, a concept is developed through an adaptation of the overhead allocation approach. Impact assessments are site-specific; afterwards, impacts are allocated to individual products by means of a partitioning factor and then passed up the supply chain. The concept's practical suitability is evaluated using the textiles and clothing sector. Thus, both, the advantages as well as challenges of this approach are identified. Despite the fact that future research is indispensable, the concept's strength and suitability to assess global product sustainability with reduced effort is demonstrated.^

Subject Area

Engineering, Industrial

Recommended Citation

Alexander C Bruns, "Assessing global product sustainability: Development of an integrated approach" (2014). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI1566166.