Enhancing life cycle product design decision-making processes: insights from normal accident theory and satisficing framework

Journal article


Ibn-Mohammed, T., Yamoah, F.A., Acquaye, A.A., Omoteso, K. and Koh, S.C.L. 2024. Enhancing life cycle product design decision-making processes: insights from normal accident theory and satisficing framework. Resources, Conservation & Recycling. 205, pp. 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2024.107523
AuthorsIbn-Mohammed, T., Yamoah, F.A., Acquaye, A.A., Omoteso, K. and Koh, S.C.L.
Abstract

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a four-phase computational tool used in sustainable life cycle product design decision making. However, it is fraught with limitations at the interpretation phase, where conclusions are drawn to facilitate recommendations for improvements. This necessitates the need to incorporate into LCA management-relevant theoretical underpinnings to strengthen decision-making processes. Using comparative LCA case studies of lead-based piezoelectric material, lead zirconate titanate (PZT), with lead-free alternatives of potassium sodium niobate (KNN) and sodium bismuth titanate (NBT), this paper demonstrates how two theoretical lenses, namely Normal Accident Theory (NAT) and Satisficing Framework, can be used to enhance the interpretations of value-chain unintended consequences revealed by LCA outputs. By inductively analysing the LCA results, it was shown that piezoelectric materials exhibited NAT attributes of interactive complexity and tight coupling, based on materials systems’ predictability, observability, and applicability, from an environmental impact perspective. Given that NAT has hitherto focused on the consequences of physical accidents, this paper proposes a new form of system accident termed Environmental Impact Accident (EIA). EIA facilitates early assessment of the associated complexities influencing the environmental credentials of piezoelectric materials, triggering the need to simplify and measure mitigation efforts. In considering mitigation strategies for the EIA risks, a conundrum is created, triggering important questions about how LCA outputs inform sustainable materials substitution decision-making mechanisms. Thus, this paper draws on the Satisficing Framework to address the EIA-induced conundrum, when considering multiple objectives that conflict with or necessitate a trade-off between alternative materials with different environmental and health impacts across the value chain. Policy options, both theoretical and practical, for integrating LCA into product life cycle decision making are also proposed.

KeywordsLife Cycle Design; Life Cycle Assessment; Material Substitution; Smart Materials; Normal Accident Theory; Environmental Impact Accident; Satisficing Framework
Year2024
JournalResources, Conservation & Recycling
Journal citation205, pp. 1-16
PublisherElseiver
ISSN0921-3449
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2024.107523
Web address (URL)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921344924001186
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Online14 Mar 2024
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Accepted24 Feb 2024
Deposited18 Mar 2024
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