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Understanding of social impact across the product life cycle


Melissa Verastegui

on 29 August 2013

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Transcript of Understanding of social impact across the product life cycle

Understanding the social impact across the product life cycle: A framework for product designers.
The People's Design Lab
"To create feedback between what we consume, manufacture and throw away."

Approach of the project:
Research on metrics to measure social impact arising from design
Include embodied workmanship.
Undertaking action research through direct engagement with UK industrial partners.

What are the existing tools, methods and metrics for analyzing, evaluating and measuring social impacts across the product life cycle?
How do organisations currently address social concerns in their daily practices?
How might consideration of social impacts be incorporated into sustainable design practice considering the stakeholders of the product life cycle?
Research questions:
How is the concept of social impact understood by organisations?
How do organisations measure social impact of their products?
What is social impact across the product life cycle?
What is the participation of designer across the produc life cycle's decisions?
Organisations have ignored immediate
social and environmental concerns due
to the interest in economic growth
and success
The pressure for creating awareness in the practice of socially responsible business and models has increased
The way organisations conduct their business has defined the social impact of their activities.
Path to incorporate socially responsible design.

What is the role of the product designer?
At least 28 tools to measure, evaluate and analyze social impact have been identified.
Based on universal concept of human rights established by international organisations. (ILO, UN, ISO)
Based on consequences rather than prevention
Design has few or nothing to do with Social Impact Assessment.
Primary research
The term of social impact is still a discussion amongst specialists, practitioners and researchers.
The concept of social impact has different interpretations by organisations and the strategies to tackle social concerns are carried out in different, non-standard ways.
Organisations are developing the strategies to tackle social issues related to their daily practices.
The influence of designers in the supply chain decisions depends on the size of the company and their collaborative working.
The social impact is related to Corporate Social Responsiblity.
A difference between "design FOR social impact" and "design IN social impact" has been identified.

Product Design & Social Impact

Design FOR Social Impact
Focused on tackle social issues in disadvantaged communities. The purspose of the design project is to improve social conditions.
Lack of equal access to resources
Health issues
Inequality in access to educational services
Design IN Social Impact
Extraction of raw materials
Extraction of natural resources is the first stage for manufacturing a product. Depending on each case there are social impacts involved in the activities related to extraction of materials.
A common example is mining of conflict minerals in Congo, where the social impacts involves are:
In the manufacture stage, the materials are transformed into goods or wares by manual labour or machinery.
In the manufacturing stage, the materials manufacture, product fabrication and packaging is involved. Assembly nad manufacturing of electronic devices in China are common activities related to negative social impacts such as:
Distribution is involved in all stages of the product life cycle as is the way the product elements are transported. From transporting raw materials from the point of acquisition to the point where it's processed to fill, packaging and distribution of finished product.
This is the better-known stage, which involves the use, re use and maintenance of the product. The social impact of this stage is present at all times. The use stage involves numerous possible social impacts, the most common could be:
The disposal stage is an important topic and the impacts of this stage have been strongly related to environmental issues. Recycling, composting and incineration are some options for the disposal stage.
Unfair remuneration
Health and safety risks
Corruption practices
Unfair competition
Unsafety infrastructure
Child labour
An example of a product tackling this problem is the Fair Phone. A smartphone design that considers social and environmental issues.
Conflict-free minerals (Tin and Tantalum)
Ensure safe working conditions
Improved workers' wage in China.
Unfair remuneration
Health and safety risks
Practice of corruption
Excessive working hours
Unfair wages
Intelectual property abuse
Unfair competition (monopoly)
Unsafety working conditions
Practice of corruption
An example of an organisation that consider the social impact in the manufacturing stage is Epona Clothing. A company working with fair-trade cotton.
Transparency across the supply chain
Improved wages
Fair working hours
Safe and clean working conditions
Non-toxic chemicals in the materials
Encourage community development
Excessive working hours
Unfair wages
Block collective agreements (freedom of association)
The decision on distribution services depends on the manufacturers, companies or even the users which can have an influence on the selection of supplier. The awareness of social aspects is important to consider. An example of positive social impact is the use of cycle courier service.
Use of local labour
Promotes community development
Promotes healthy activities
Use of local resources
Health and safety risks
Unethical use of the product
Altertation of cultural heritage
Discourage community engagement
Violate consumer privacy
Promotes corruption
Unfair competition
Lifestraw is a portable water filter that removes all bacteria and parasites responsible for causing common diarrhea diseases. The positive social impact is in the use stage, it involves the user and the product.
It improves health and safety conditions
Promotes community engagement by fundraising strategies.
Disposal is present in the different stages of the product life-cycle as it is related to the waste generation and it is responsiblity of users, organisations and govermnents to manage the waste in a responsible way. Some social impacts related to the disposal stage are:
Unsafety and unhealthy living conditions
Unsecure living conditions
Discourage community engagement
Child labour
Forced labour
An example of a project that encourage the responsible waste management is Terracycle. It is a project focused on collecting difficult-to-recycle packaging and products and repurposes the material into affordable and innovative products.

Improves the engagement of organisations towards their products waste
Promotes local employment
Promotes technology developments
Respect intellectual property rights
Full transcript