Sustainability improvements in complex systems composed of products and services

Volumen:  27   |  Pages:  98-121   |  Year of Publication:  2021  | License:  CC BY 4.0

What is the objective?

This paper carries out a quantitative sustainability analysis of a product and service system using the life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) method and applies it to two case studies.

Our Short Summary.

The aim of this study is to assess and improve the sustainability of the products and services system composite. Thus, it proposes an approach to analyse system sustainability using the life cycle sustainability assessment method (LCSA) consisting of environmental, economic and social dimensions in four phases: (i) identification of links between involved systems; (ii) sustainability assessment of the P+S system; (iii) application of sustainability strategies; and (iv) sustainability results comparison. The research culminates in a set of quantitative sustainability indicators…

Why you should read it!

The paper is an insightful read for scholars interested in sustainability, strategic systems thinking and life cycle sustainability assessments applied to all manner of product and service setups.

Original Abstract


Beef and dairy production systems produce several by-products, such as fertilizers, bioenergy, hides, and pet foods, among which the environmental impacts arising from production should be allocated. The cA wide number of research efforts have been carried out over the last decades to assess and improve system sustainability. Different methods and tools are increasingly implemented in product systems; nevertheless its application to services and other systems, in which products and services are combined, is rather limited. In this work, an approach to improve the sustainability of systems composed of products and services (P + S systems) is proposed and implemented in two case studies.


The sustainability improvement of P + S systems is addressed integrating different methods and approaches. The flows between system approach is used to identify links between all systems involved. The life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) method is applied to simultaneously evaluate environmental, economic and social aspects of sustainability with a life cycle perspective. In addition, sustainable design principles are taken into account to propose effective improvement strategies. The systematic development of four phases is required to carry out the integration of these approaches: (i) identification of links between involved systems; (ii) sustainability assessment of the P + S system; (iii) application of sustainability strategies; and (iv) sustainability results comparison.

Results and discussion

Two different P + S systems are analysed. First, sustainability improvements in the service provided by a clothing boutique are proposed, taking into account that the store where the service is developed and the clothes acquired by the service provider are product systems involved in the service operation. Next, the sustainability of an itinerary exhibition is investigated. Products required for the exhibition space layout as well as the service used to transport all materials between different locations are taken into account. In each case, sustainability indicators obtained in both initial and alternative systems are compared, and variations detected due to strategies applied are analysed.


Sustainability of P + S systems is evaluated using a set of quantitative indicators, the relative incidence of each system is determined and more sustainable alternatives are projected. Thus, this research supposes an advance towards the sustainable design of complex systems composed of products and services, since effects due to the interconnection between systems are studied and criteria to carry out sustainability-oriented decision making are provided.


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