Based on examples from research and innovation within nanotechnology, housing, bioenergy, and clothing the complexity of environmental innovation is discussed. A model for a more holistic approach to environmental innovation, which can be used both as part of innovation processes and for analyses of previous innovation processes, is developed. The approach is based on: 1) A scenario perspective on environmental aspects and impacts which implies a focus on the future roles of a product, its users and the surrounding society as imagined by the designers in their considerations about the problems addressed by the product and the solution it is offering. 2) A system’s perspective which implies a focus on the system, which a product is part of, including the need for supporting infrastructures like stakeholder training, waste management etc. 3) A lifecycle perspective to environmental aspects and impacts in order not only to capture environmental aspects from cradle to grave, e.g. related to material extraction and refining, chemical exposure during manufacturing, use and waste handling. 4) A governance perspective on management of environmental aspects and impacts, both in relation to the legitimacy of the environmental problems addressed and the solutions ‘offered’ by the product.

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