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Design for a Better World through Sustainable Service Design

The rising worldwide resource demands, worsening pollution, climate warming as well as global inequality requires us to rethink the connection between resource consumption and prosperity. This challenges the way we design services (resource efficiency, circularity) and what we consider as desirable consumption (fair, moderate, ecologically sound).

Published : 09.03.2022

As services contribute over 70 % of GDP in EU, they play a huge role towards a more sustainable future. Therefore, we have chosen sustainable service design as one of the themes at Haaga-Helia Business Innovation Conference in 2022.

Twin transition of digitalization and sustainability

In line with the European Commission’s Green Deal and the Digital Strategy, our sustainable service design track at HHBIC 2022 invites views on sustainable service design and/or service design for sustainability that showcase contributions to achieving the objectives of twin transition including both digitalization and sustainability.

In order to achieve a better future by taking action to reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), we wish for your expertise to address one or more of the dimensions of sustainability, such as environmental, cultural, economic, political, legal, technological and social.

Solving problems that matter

The nature of the grand challenges facing us is wicked, whilst service design has shown to offer promising approach to tackle these problems with fuzzy boundaries (Blyth & Kimbell 2011). However, further research is still needed to better understand how service design may contribute to creating more sustainable business models and service solutions (Prendeville & Bocken 2017).

Below, we present interesting research questions that could be addressed.

How can service design help in defining problems to achieve more sustainable solutions?

Sustainable solutions require often involvement of different stakeholders, leading to a complex nature of the problem. Service design enables to approach even wicked problems and reveal even the ‘hidden’ or ‘not obvious’ layers of problems.

What does sustainable service design mean in social, organizational or technological context? How design leadership guides sustainable service design effort? How can service design enhance outcomes that are sustainable for all?

Service design has been applied in new product development, strategy, innovation and organizational transformation. Service design facilitates change and transformation, which might help us to understand the transformative role of services in reaching sustainable outcomes.

What are the processes of service design and how that enhances sustainability? How can service design approach, methods and tools support designing sustainable business models?

Service design can be seen as an approach to implement value co-creation in service innovation process (Yu & Sangiorgi 2017). Involving customers and other stakeholders in the co-creation process has been claimed to lead to better perceived customer or user value as service design process includes contextual and holistic understandings of customer experiences using ethnographic and empathic design research. Sustainable business business model design can also be supported by enhancing users to apply their own resources, prototyping and engaging customers in experimentation, aligning all stakeholders to the customer experience as well as building capability to support customers’ value creation.

What are the ethical considerations in service design – especially in the context of artificial intelligence and use of data? How to approach the tension between human-centered and technology-centered approaches in creating sustainable solutions?

Especially the digital revolution has led to disruption in many business fields and therefor the design is seen as a strategic tool which creates digital services which connect consumer needs and create value for the customer. Many industries and organisations are facing situations where they have to question their current paradigms and business models. However, especially in the case of most disruptive technologies, ethical considerations often lag. Could these ethical issues be solved through user-centered approach?

Call for action

Solving problems and designing solutions for sustainability issues is often complex and global in nature. Therefore, we invite researchers to take a stand and join us to tackle this challenge by searching for answers to the questions that we raised above. Our journey towards this aim continues as we both will be hosting the Sustainable Service Design track at Haaga-Helia Business Innovation Conference in November 2022.


  • Blyth, S., & Kimbell, L. 2011. Design Thinking and the Big Society: From Solving Personal Troubles to Designing Social Problems. London: Actant and Taylor Haig.
  • Prendeville, S., & Bocken, N. 2017. Sustainable business models through service design. Procedia Manufacturing, 8, pp. 292-299.
  • Van Riel, A. C. R., Zhang, J. J., McGinnis, L. P., Nejad, M. G., Bujisic, M., & Phillips, P. A. 2019. A framework for sustainable service system configuration. Journal of Service Management, 30(3), pp. 349-368.
  • Yu, E., & Sangiorgi, D. 2017. Service design as an approach to implement the value cocreation perspective in new service development. Journal of Service Research.