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PhD Thesis Proposal: Tejaswini Chatty



3:00pm - 4:00pm ET


For Info on how to attend this video conference, please email tejaswini.chatty.TH@dartmouth.edu.

Integrating Sustainable Design into Early-Stage Industry Product Development Practice


The topic of sustainable development has steadily gained critical importance and public awareness. In recent decades, the adoption of environmental sustainability has been driven by regulation, industry competition, and consumer demand. Today, we are now increasingly seeing companies and coalitions set ambitious targets such as going carbon negative by 2030, or achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Such efforts are also paralleled in the product development world by a growing consensus to integrate sustainability considerations in the "fuzzy front end" — i.e., early-on in the design process when decisions hold the most potential for impact.

My research seeks to enable this integration through two key pathways:

  1. Creating theoretical and methodological frameworks that tailor various sustainable design methods and strategies to a company’s context, goals, and workflow.
  2. Developing human-centered life cycle assessment (LCA) tools that are accessible and applicable to decision-making during the early stages of product development.

My own experience and subsequent graduate research with non-expert LCA users revealed a number of barriers to sensemaking and usability when using industry-standard LCA tools including:

  • A steep learning curve owing to cumbersome and highly complex user interfaces, information visualizations, and unfamiliar terminology.
  • The lack of precise data on material/energy flows (in the early stages) that the tools required.
  • And, the results obtained being hard to interpret and translate into actionable decisions.

Tools are only part of the problem. A bigger challenge is that designers and engineers often struggle with translating complex environmental impact information into actionable design decisions.3 Hence, my research also includes co-creating methodological frameworks of best practices with industry partners such as: Synapse Product Development4 (a small engineering consultancy) and Stanley Black & Decker (a large product manufacturer). These frameworks help users select appropriate sustainable design strategies from compiled lists relevant to their industry context. The frameworks use multiple levers including: the environmental hotspots identified through LCA, stage of product development, and sustainability focus areas that may be a priority, when guiding users through the selection process.

I see my proposed coupling of robust frameworks and sustainable design strategy repositories, with more human-centered LCA tools, as together comprising a solution for industry professionals to successfully integrate sustainability considerations in their product development practice.

Thesis Committee

  • Prof. Elizabeth Murnane (Chair)
  • Prof. Geoff Parker
  • Prof. Jeremy Faludi
  • Prof. Rafe Steinhauer


For more information, contact Theresa Fuller at theresa.d.fuller@dartmouth.edu.