This Division focuses on the development of technological and social innovations for a resource-light and sustainable economy and life.
Designing sustainable products and services requires comprehensive knowledge regarding their material composition. Therefore, we analyse material and carbon footprints of products, technologies, companies, value chains, households, and individuals. We use indicators of international and national sustainability strategies (SDG, German Sustainability Strategy) in order to evaluate their contribution to sustainable development. We indicate strengths and weaknesses within entire value chains through the application of our Hot Spot Analysis. Moreover, we explore technological and social innovation options that promote both sustainable economic and social activities. Our research results identify underlying potentials for a transition towards resource efficient and decarbonised societies and thus reveal respective possibilities for interventions and decision-making processes. One example is our online resource calculator that illustrates daily resource consumption (daily routines, requirements). Guiding questions include; how much time do we spent for specific activities? How much financial and natural resources are required respectively? Which products and services do we need? Those calculations are needed in order to integrate environmental and socioeconomic data (companies, milieu- and lifestyle typology, as well as time-, expenditure-, and resource profiles). From theses analyses, we can derive specific and general targets, practical road maps (measures) and scenarios addressing efficiency, sufficiency and consistency. For the research area of nutrition we have developed the Nutrition Footprint that combines health and environmental criteria.
Low resource economies and societies require completely new technologies, products, services, and lifestyle patterns. Besides, rebound effects (unintended impact of innovations) and their economical, environmental and social impact are assessed at an early stage.
Overview of our key research areas:
Management systems and instruments offer structures and orientation. They support companies and institutions in achieving their gaols and show their sustainability performance (internal and external). We analyse and accelerate the link between management instruments and transition challenges in terms of resource and energy transformation. Without consistent management systems, resources (environment, money, competences) are wasted due to their inefficient and ineffective use. Therefore, we elaborate approaches for sustainable leadership in business starting from product effectiveness up to societal transformation as a major corporate challenge (markets of the future). Taking this into account, we develop practical solutions for companies, business divisions and locations. Thus, we apply an active user and household driven research method for designing value chain management tools.
Crucial determinants for sustainable transformation encompass not only the extend of resource consumption (most resource intensive sectors are housing, mobility, nutrition) but also so-called ‘enabling’ sectors, such as, information and communication technologies, logistics, extractive industry, metal and paint industry, mechanical engineering, as well as education. We develop transformative concepts together with multinational companies in order to tackle upcoming global mega trends. Moreover, we elaborate these concepts under realistic conditions within the framework of so-called LivingLabs enabling companies, clients, households, and other stakeholders to be an integrated part of sustainable innovation processes (stakeholder management). Such stakeholder-integrated setting allows for the development and testing of new business models and concepts for the creation of new markets. Additionally, households are integrated in these business models step by step to promote sociotechnical innovation. Finally, from these challenges regarding sustainability assessment and sustainability management we can deduct corresponding structural requirements in terms of policy instruments, -measures, and -recommendations, as well as standardisation and certification approaches.
Overview of our key research areas
Ideas and innovations finally become products, services and infrastructures. They do not only represent our values, mindset and culture but also determine the total energy- and resource demand of our economy and society.
It is crucial to understand our cultural framework and human routines in order to promote change with awareness and passion. A review of innovations within the last two decades illustrates that the world is characterised by change. A transformation of economy and society is constantly taking place, especially in terms of society and culture. We observe those developments and use the results in our research regarding production and consumption patterns. We analyse our daily routines (living and working), daily practises (analysis of lifestyles) and communication (media analysis). We use our action model for sustainable production and consumption and combine it with a multidimensional micro modelling approach in order to explore realistic models of change (see Kristof, 2011). Furthermore, we link approaches of modern consumer research (LivingLab approach, transformation theories, lifestyle typology) and models of organisational theory (corporate culture) with the transition design approach. By this, we can text, experience and explore concepts of low resource product service systems (LivingLab cities / disctricts / households / companies).
Transformation of our economy and society requires specific competencies in order to initiate and foster change. We develop didactic instruments for education and transfer of knowledge (experience-based learning) for a wide range of learning contexts (see related topic of education for sustainable development). Exhibitions, museums or online tools enable interactive learning experiences.
By this, we can develop long-lasting sustainable product service systems as well as narratives of low resource production and consumption patterns.
Overview of our key research areas: