Integration of sustainability criteria from a triple bottom line perspective is considered a challenge for manufacturing actors, who are engaged in developing sustainability-oriented initiatives. The earlier in the development process the criteria are integrated and sustainability potential is evaluated, the more opportunities exist to introduce improvements and select an initiative with a highest sustainability potential. The challenge does not only lie in understanding what sustainability criteria to use to assess sustainability performance, but in managing conflicting results, known as trade-offs. Trade-offs are situations characterized by conflicts between the desired objectives, where it is impossible to satisfy all criteria simultaneously. Although sustainability trade-offs are common, there is a gap in the existing approaches for sustainability measurements to support trade-off dialogue and decision-making. If trade-offs are not acknowledged, there is a risk of accepting an initiative leading to sub-optimizations or higher impacts. Therefore, this study proposes a framework to support trade-off analysis in the early development stages of sustainability-oriented initiatives. The trade-off navigation framework relies on input data and a structured guidance, with the twofold objective: (i) help making trade-offs explicit, and (ii) provide a structured approach to support trade-off analysis and acceptability in a transparent manner. The purpose is to encourage a dynamic decision process and reinforce the knowledge of decision-makers about potential risks and opportunities behind their choices. Using a case of a product development involving CE principles, this paper discusses how a trade-off navigation framework was applied and evaluated by industrial and academic experts, leading to its improvement and identification of strengths and limitations.
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