Espacios. Vol. 34 (6) 2013. Pág. 8
Bibliometrics techniques and content analysis review applied to ecodesign: initial proposal for future studies
Técnicas de bibliometria e revisão da análise de conteúdo aplicada ao ecodesign: proposta inicial para futuros estudos
Recibido: 18-04-2013 - Aprobado: 12-06-2013
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The environmental issue has become challenging to business organizations in the past years. Consequently, its operations are subject to increasing pressures and analysis of various stakeholders within and outside the organization, such as government agencies, workers, and non-profit groups. These challenges and pressures cause them to seriously consider environmental impacts when making their businesses.
This concern with the environment causes the emergence of a growing customer demand for products and companies that are more environmentally friendly. The environmental acceptability of a product is the hallmark of the new century, and issues such as ecodesign (Ryan, Hosken and Greene, 1992; Lofthouse, 2004) are part of organizations strategies and become part of the product design from the design to the selection of materials, even at the pre-project stage.
Multiple senses of the term ecodesign (or DfE – Design for Environment) can be found in the literature. Karlsson and Luttropp (2006), for example, argue that ecodesign focuses on the integration of environmental considerations in product development, and eco-design tools should be made available to designers during the product development process. In the words of Bereketli, Genevois and Ulukan (2009) the key issue for the success of an ecodesign product is not just to meet environmental goals, such as energy conservation and resources and reduced environmental impact but also to take into account cost effectiveness, market demand, and multi-functionality requirements.
Ecodesign ensures that a product is derived from the conscious use of energy, water and raw material. This practice is essential for those organizations that recognize environmental responsibility as vital to long-term success. For it provides advantages such as lower costs and less waste besides generating product innovation and attracting new customers. It can be said that ecodesign activities include (Sarkis, 1998; Beamon, 1999; Lin, Jones and Hsieh, 2001; Zsidisin and Siferd, 2001; Apo, 2004; Eltayeb, Zailani and Ramayah, 2011):
Considering that ecodesign is a recent subject for the organizations, the aim of this paper is to present the results of a structured literature review (Seuring and Muller, 2012), through a selection of article sampling, to perform bibliometric analysis on the topic as well as provide a conceptual framework for future research.
A literature review is a systematic, explicit, and reproducible design for identifying, evaluating, and interpreting the existing body of recorded documents (Fink, 1998). Literature reviews usually aim at two objectives: first, summarize existing research, identifying patterns, themes and issues and; second, this helps identify the conceptual content of the field (Meredith, 1993) can contribute to the theory development (Harland et al., 2006; Seuring and Muller, 2008). From a methodological point of view, literature review can be understood as content analysis, where the quantitative and qualitative aspects are combined to assess structural (descriptive) well as content criteria. A process model proposed by Mayring (2003) contains four steps:
In this context, this paper has the character of a literature review and can be understood as content analysis, where quantitative and qualitative aspects are used. Thus, an analytical review is required for the contribution systematic evaluation on a particular literature topic. Generally, the review process consists in three parts: data collection, data analysis and synthesis (or reporting). Scientific rigor in conducting each of these steps is critical to an analysis of their quality. Data collection can be done in different ways. As an example, using the existing knowledge in literature to select articles and search various databases using keywords.
Once the items are selected for review, data analysis can proceed in different ways, depending on the review objectives (Tranfield, Denyer and Smart, 2003; Crossan and Apaydin, 2010). A review to consolidate the results of several empirical studies may depend on either qualitative or quantitative results analysis. Data summary is the main product of the research since it produces new knowledge based on complete data collection. Figure 1 shows the methodology using in this paper.
Figure 1 – Steps followed in the research paper
Source: Authors’ elaboration.
For this paper, a three-stage procedure was followed: Planning, Implementation and Reporting. During the Planning stage, the following procedures were performed:
The second step, Implementation, consists of:
The third and last stage concerns the Reporting that is the bibliometric analysis of the selected articles sampling. The methodological procedures final result was a sample of 132 articles in which the following aspects were analyzed: authors’ origin, most cited authors, most cited journals, most cited articles (or scientific recognition), and the dimensions of ecodesign from the analysis of keywords and content analysis of the 132 articles. The types of research conducted in these articles were also analyzed, being considered in the used classification (Filippini, 1997; Berto and Nakano, 2000; Gupta, Verma and Victorino, 2006):
3.1. Most cited authors of the sample
There were 431 authors counted in total, among authorships and co-authorships. Figure 2 highlights authors that contain the largest number of selected sample articles.
The featured author was Rieradevalli Pons, J., appearing in 7 co-authorships, which are: “The ecodesign and planning of sustainable neighbourhoods: the Vallbona case study (Barcelona)”;“Eco-innovation of a wooden based modular social playground: application of LCA and DfE methodologies”; “Eco-innovation of a wooden childhood furniture set: an example of environmental solutions in the wood sector”; “Assessing the global warming potential of wooden products from the furniture sector to improve their ecodesign”; “Using LCA to assess eco-design in the automotive sector: case study of a polyolefinic door panel” and; “Eco-design in innovation driven companies: perception, predictions and the main drivers of integration: the Spanish example”.
Figure 2 – Most cited authors in the sample
Source: Authors’ elaboration.
González-García, S. presented the authorship of 5 articles, which deal with the use of ecodesign in manufacturing furniture and sustainable production of wooden boxes for storing wine bottles, being: “Eco-innovation of a wooden based modular social playground: application of LCA and DfE methodologies”; “Eco-innovation of a wooden childhood furniture set: an example of environmental solutions in the wood sector”; “Assessing the global warming potential of wooden products from the furniture sector to improve their ecodesign”; “Environmental assessment and improvement alternatives of a ventilated wooden wall from LCA and DfE perspective” and; “Combined application of LCA and eco-design for the sustainable production of wood boxes for wine bottles storage”.
3.2. Most cited journals
Figure 3 shows the most cited journals in the selected article sampling. The objective of this analysis is to identify the main sources of publication on ecodesign and determine which (s) journal (s) has the greatest influence in forming of the content in this area.
Figure 3 – Most cited journals in sampling
Source: Authors’ elaboration.
The journals’ highlight in Figure 3 is Journal of Cleaner Production with a share of 36% (or 48 articles) in the sample of 132 articles. The Journal of Cleaner Production has an interdisciplinary, international focus, and it aims to encourage industrial innovation, new and improved products, and the implementation of new processes, products and cleaner services.
3.3. Most cited articles
Figure 4 shows the citation or scientific acknowledgment number of the sampling articles. For this analysis the number of citation was stratified by categories. Out of the 132 articles, 14 had 51 or more citations, while 25 articles had no citation. To find the citation number, Google Scholar was used on 09/09/2012.
Figure 4 – Citation number of sampling articles
Source: Authors’ elaboration.
The most cited articles were: “Developing sustainable products and services” by Maxwell, D.; Van der Vorst, R., published on Journal of Cleaner Production in 2003 with 151 citations; “Sustainable product-service systems” by Roy, R., published on Futures in 2000 with 121 citations; “EcoDesign and The Ten Golden Rules: generic advice for merging environmental aspects into product development” by Luttropp, C.; Lagerstedt, J., published on Journal of Cleaner Production in 2006 with 110 citations.
3.4. Methodology types
Finally, the types of research present in the article sampling of were analyzed, and the highlights were: 47 case studies and 27 field studies as shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5 – Types of researches in sampling articles
Source: Authors’ elaboration.
In this group, the paper of literature review, the conceptual discussions (with the absence of field data) and secondary data analyses were classified, i.e. obtained from sources other than direct, as well as conceptual modeling. So, as in the case study (Berto and Nakano, 2000) it is important to note that often, because the object of study refers to a single company, it makes the label "Case Study" be used, even if that data collection and organization analysis do not reach the depth required for this type of research.
3.5. Ecodesign dimension: content analysis
By analyzing the keywords and the content of 132 articles, one can classify the dimensions or contexts where ecodesign is (Table 1).
Table 1 – Detected ecodesign dimensions in the sample
Source: Authors’ elaboration.
Thus, by means of Table 1 it is possible to establish the ecodesign dimension’s that is show in Figure 6.
Figure 6 – Ecodesign dimensions
Source: Authors’ elaboration.
Figure 7 – Issues affecting product development
Source: Adapted from Bhander, Hauschild e Mcaloone (2003)
However, these products are not favorable in the market place as expected even though they sound environmental more friendly and economical dimension. This situation may be due to that they are focused solely on environmental impact analysis without paying much attention to customer needs and cost considerations (Bereketli, Genevois and Ulukan, 2009). In other words, the key issue for a successful ecodesign product is not only to meet environmental objectives such as resource and energy conservation and environmental burden reduction but also to take into account cost effectiveness, market demand, and multi-functionality requirements.
Therefore, products with ecodesign must allocate limited resources as much as possible, reduce environmental impacts, but without reducing performance. That is, improving environmental impact without compromising on quality, functionality, cost, and appearance of the products. With this research, it was possible to provide the researcher needed knowledge to start a study with ecodesign theme.
In the current socioeconomic context, organizations are realizing the importance of using materials and processes that entail less environmental impact, considering that the ecological issue will directly reflect in the cost, once you consider the time spent on operation, material and production energy reduction. Thus, the importance of ecodesign is highlighted for the correct material choice, which causes less damage to the environment.
That is, ecodesign is generally oriented to reduce the depletion of primary and/or other types of environmental impact, providing the following advantages: reducing the number of different materials and selection of the most suitable ones, reducing the environmental impact during the production phase; optimizing the distribution phase; reducing the environmental impact during use; prolonging the useful product life; simplification of the product disassembling; reuse design; recycling design, among others.
This paper aimed to present the results of a structured literature review (through a selection of sampling of articles) and bibliometric analysis on the topic as well as provide a conceptual framework for future research. Therefore, a three-stage procedure was performed, Planning, Implementation and Reporting for building this portfolio. Searches were conducted via Capes periodic portal (in the databases Scopus, ScienceDirect and Emerald), comprising the period 2000-2011.
The advantage of this proposed methodology type in this article is that it can be used to structure any research topic in several areas. A bibliometric analysis provides a guide to researchers, because through it, for example, one can find out which journals or periodicals that publish on the topic you want to paper, recognized authors and scientifically recognized titles.
Some limitations in the research can be highlighted: (i) it only considered articles published in international journals; (ii) research sources such as books, dissertations, conferences annals theses, events were excluded; (iii) only three databases were considered and; (iv) only free access databases via portal Capes were considered.
As recommendations for future study, it is suggested to perform bibliometric analysis of the references of the sample, and thereby compare whether the most cited journals in the sample coincide or not with the references used for this articles, and if the authors cited are present in references. Also, as a suggestion, to highlight the conducting of a field survey in enterprises, to discover what practices and the degree of knowledge there is on ecodesign.
This work, besides contributing to fostering discussions in academic science, also contributes to the business sector. For, ecodesign is extremely important to success in the long term, promotes advantages as lower costs, less waste, raises product innovation and attracts new customers.
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