Measuring product sustainability: A literature review

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Date of Original Version



Since the turn of the new millennium, public awareness of sustainability has dramatically increased. Terms like “climate change” and “renewable energy” have become common household phrases. Sustainability is a holistic term referring to three main systems: humans, the economy, and the environment. Yet measuring the sustainability of a product remains difficult. The leading method for measuring the “eco-effectiveness” of a product is the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) concept. C2C encourages products to be manufactured with alternative materials that are both nonhazardous and biodegradable, thus improving the output from industry into the environment. A main criticism of the C2C concept is that some aspects of a product's lifecycle, such as transportation or use, are not considered. For that reason, the existing literature suggests combining C2C with an Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (ELCA), which incorporates more environmental aspects into a product. The combination of C2C and ELCA does not, however, take into account human behavior. This paper suggests that product design should also include a Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA), which is a relatively new method of rating human factors into a product. This literature review therefore calls for a more inclusive method of measuring the three conventional levels of sustainability.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Proceedings of the 2016 Industrial and Systems Engineering Research Conference, ISERC 2016

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