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What is design for social sustainability? A systematic literature review for designers of product-service systems

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jats:pSocial sustainability is concerned with the wellbeing and flourishing of societies now and in the future. Despite its importance, it has been largely overlooked compared with environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability. Additionally, although there is a longstanding history of design being used to tackle social and sustainability problems, the concept of design for social sustainability is not well-understood. In light of this, the current study aims to conceptually develop design for social sustainability. It specifically focuses on how this concept can be developed for the design of product-service systems. A systematic literature review of social design and sustainable design literature is conducted to synthesise fragmented knowledge on design for social sustainability. A total of 69 articles are analysed with respect to terminology, context, methods, focus and key themes. In doing so, it helps to summarise current knowledge and identify several promising areas for further research. In particular, it calls for additional contextual and place-based perspectives; development of appropriate metrics, methods and tools; and research on the linkages between design for social sustainability and existing sustainable design approaches and methods. This article contributes to knowledge in three ways: (1) it integrates disparate knowledge on design for social sustainability within the domain of product-service systems, (2) it defines design for social sustainability and makes progress toward operationalising the concept by identifying its key dimensions, and (3) it identifies current gaps in the literature and highlights areas for further research. This study is important for designers of product-service systems because it sheds a light on what is desirable and achievable.</jats:p>



design for social sustainability, social sustainability, product-service systems, design, sustainable design, design for sustainability, literature review

Journal Title

Sustainability (Switzerland)

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Volume Title



Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/L504920/1)