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Social sustainability and social acceptance in technology assessment: a case study on energy technologies
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Ecology.
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Ecology.
2007 (English)In: Technology in society, ISSN 0160-791X, E-ISSN 1879-3274, Vol. 29, no 1, 63-78 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper discusses an approach for assessing indicators for the social sustainability of technical systems developed within a Swedish technology assessment tool called ORWARE. Social sustainability is approached from the perspective of one of its ingredients, namely social acceptance. The research takes the form of a case study on energy technologies conducted in the municipality of Kil in west central Sweden. Three indicators—knowledge, perception, and fear associated with four chains of energy technologies—are assessed using a questionnaire.

The questionnaire results indicate that respondents have such a low level of information and knowledge about new energy technologies that they are unable to discriminately rank them. This was found to hamper participation in discussions and decision making about technologies for which public funds would be spent.

The importance of assessing social indicators by engaging members of society is discussed, and an assessment approach is developed. The need to present results together with ecological and economic indicators is emphasised in order to avoid suboptimization.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 29, no 1, 63-78 p.
Keyword [en]
Sustainability; Social sustainability; Assessment; Social acceptance; Technology assessment; ORWARE; Sweden
National Category
Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-10700DOI: 10.1016/j.techsoc.2006.10.007ScopusID: 2-s2.0-33845876900OAI: diva2:227393
QC 20100505Available from: 2009-07-13 Created: 2009-07-13 Last updated: 2010-08-31Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. On sustainability assessment of technical systems: experience from systems analysis with the ORWARE and ecoeffect tools
Open this publication in new window or tab >>On sustainability assessment of technical systems: experience from systems analysis with the ORWARE and ecoeffect tools
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Engineering research and development work is undergoing a reorientation from focusing on specific parts of different systems to a broader perspective of systems level, albeit at a slower pace. This reorientation should be further developed and enhanced with the aim of organizing and structuring our technical systems in meeting sustainability requirements in face of global ecological threats that have far-reaching social and economic implications, which can no longer be captured using conventional approach of research. Until a list of universally acceptable, clear, and measurable indicators of sustainable development is developed, the work with sustainability metrics should continue to evolve as a relative measure of ecological, economic, and social performance of human activities in general, and technical systems in particular. This work can be done by comparing the relative performance of alternative technologies of providing the same well-defined function or service; or by characterizing technologies that enjoy different levels of societal priorities using relevant performance indicators. In both cases, concepts and methods of industrial ecology play a vital role.

This thesis is about the development and application of a systematic approach for the assessment of the performance of technical systems from the perspective of systems analysis, sustainability, sustainability assessment, and industrial ecology.

The systematic approach developed and characterized in this thesis advocates for a simultaneous assessment of the ecological, economic, and social dimensions of performance of technologies in avoiding sub-optimization and problem shifting between dimensions. It gives a holistic picture by taking a life cycle perspective of all important aspects. The systematic assessment of technical systems provides an even-handed assessment resulting in a cumulative knowledge. A modular structure of the approach makes it flexible enough in terms of comparing a number of alternatives at the same time, and carrying out the assessment of the three dimensions independently. It should give way to transparent system where the level of quality of input data can be comprehended. The assessment approach should focus on a selected number of key input data, tested calculation procedures, and comprehensible result presentation.

The challenge in developing and applying this approach is the complexity of method integration and information processing. The different parts to be included in the same platform come in with additional uncertainties hampering result interpretations. The hitherto tendency of promoting disciplinary lines will continue to challenge further developments of such interdisciplinary approaches.

The thesis draws on the experience from ORWARE, a Swedish technology assessment tool applied in the assessment of waste management systems and energy systems; and from the EcoEffect tool used in the assessment of building properties; all assessed as components of a larger system. The thesis underlines the importance of sustainability considerations beginning from the research and development phase of technical systems. The core message of this thesis is that technical systems should be researched as indivisible parts of a complex whole that includes society and the natural environment. Results from such researches can then be transformed into design codes and specifications for use in the research and development, planning and structuring, and implementation and management of technical systems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2005. 77 p.
Trita-KET-IM, ISSN 1402-7615 ; 2005:17
technology assessment, interdisciplinarity, sustainability, sustainability assessment, industrial ecology, substance flow analysis, material flow analysis, life cycle assessment
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-550 (URN)91-628-6708-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2005-12-16, Salongen, KTHB, Osquars backe 31, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
QC 20100505Available from: 2005-12-13 Created: 2005-12-13 Last updated: 2010-09-13Bibliographically approved

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