Organisational applications of human factors and sustainable development

Proposer: Andrew Thatcher, University Of The Witwatersrand, (SOUTH AFRICA), E-mail:

Session Type: Symposium

Chairs: Prof. Klaus J. Zink, & Prof. Andrew Thatcher

Brief Description: Sustainable development, as defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987, emphasises meeting human needs of current as well as future generations. In particular, this anthropocentric perspective leads to joint objectives between Human Factors/Ergonomics (HFE) and sustainable development (Zink, Steimle & Fischer, 2008). However, Thatcher (2012) has noted that there is considerable variability in the emerging research work in HFE that claims to address global environmental and social challenges with the largest proportion (44%) of early papers providing no definition of sustainable development at all. Where a definition was provided the most common definition (29%) was the WCED (1987) definition. Moore and Barnard (2012) have urged the HFE community to go “beyond trotting out the standard Brundlandt Report [WCED, 1987] definition” (p. 941). In recent work there are currently three main theoretical conceptualisations addressing how HFE should respond: Zink and Fischer’s (2013) ‘human factors for sustainable development’, Thatcher’s (2013) ‘green ergonomics’, and Garcia-Acosta et al.’s (2012) ‘ergoecology’. There are a great deal of commonalities (as well as some substantial differences) between these three conceptualisations. All conceptualisations are anthropocentric, acknowledging the human being as a central contributor to the system. All approaches emphasise complex systems thinking although don’t necessarily agree on the key components of the system. All approaches acknowledge that the entire system is dynamic. Finally, while none of the approaches acknowledge equitable and ethical decision-making, several authors (Dekker et al., 2013; Moore & Barnard, 2012) emphasise the deep moral responsibility of the unintended consequences of HFE decision-making. In this symposium – corresponding to the IEA Technical Committee “Human Factors and Sustainable Development” – we present and debate the latest theoretical and practical thinking on human factors and sustainable development. In particular, we are looking to debate a specific definitional context and to present work on the impact of sustainable development on organisational thinking. 

1. Social Life Cycle Asessment: an instrument for macroergonomics in a globalised world

Klaus J. Zink, Institute for Technology and Work, University of Kaiserslautern, Germany, (e-mail:

2. A sociotechnical systems approach to improving energy efficiency

Patrick Waterson, Loughborough University, UK, (e-mail:

3. Holistic sustainable development: floor layer workers' case

Monique Lortie, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada, (e-mail:

4. Sustainability of lean implementations

Jorgen Eklund, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, (e-mail:

5. Urban development based on cyclic thinking and human factors

Olof Kolte, Lund University, Sweden, (e-mail: )
9 AUGUST 2020