Virtual University

The Virtual University for Sustainable Development ensures that the concept of sustainability becomes available world-wide through distance learning.




Manufacturers are facing increasing requirements of consumers, public opinion and governments to minimise the pressure on environment (consumption of raw materials and energy, pollution and waste). Therefore they cannot be satisfied in developing ex-post emissions treatment or in paying taxes to public collecting agencies for recovery and waste disposal. A drastic change of scale is needed in their global approach. This change of scale cannot be considered without a product design reformulating with primary concern on life cycle environmental impact minimisation. Until today product design has been based on technical requirements detailed in functional design specifications document. These specifications are elaborated in order to fulfil the consumer/user needs at the lowest possible costs. The environmental concerns related to air, water or ground emissions and to waste collection, treatment or disposal are scarcely integrated in this approach. Costs and negative impacts during manufacturing are taken into account into the design approach of functional analysis and value engineering, but not always those of distribution, usage and waste recycling or disposal. 


Material and design selections are influenced by many factors such as engineering requirements, manufacturability, performance, environmental effects, costs and time. Such considerations are not mutually exclusive, but all decisions must be recognised as a compromise between different levels of reliability, performance, maintainability and environmental friendliness in order to achieve minimum life time expenditures. Every product has environmental impacts which are determined by their design, manufacturing techniques, usage and disposal. If the contribution of each of these dimensions are known prior to initiating design, adverse environmental impacts will be minimised or designed out. Decisions made at the design stage affect a product’s impact on the production and recycling processes, the threats to human health and the environment and the characteristics of waste streams. The problem is to make the right decisions under the uncertainty of societal and legal developments. The problem how to put eco-design in business perspectives and the lack of tools to set the right priorities are currently the biggest outstanding issues on implementation of eco-design. 




The Austrian Society for Systems Engineering and Automation has been invited by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to set up a Virtual University for Sustainability. Other Partners are MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University Cambridge, Oslo Business School, UNEP, WBCSD, Weltbank, Shell, Sony, ERM, ... 



Target groups

  • Mid-level managers to executives who are responsible for areas including, but not limited to:
    • New product development,
    • Manufacturing and operations,
    • Research and development,
    • Environment, Health and Safety,
    • Information technology,
    • Product management,
    • Strategy development,
    • Marketing and Sales.
  • Representatives from public authorities, NGOs, financial institutions, insurance companies, ...



Module I: Fundamental Topics needed for Legal Compliance

  • To Ecology and main Environmental Problems
  • Introduction Environmental Laws and Standards
  • Environmental Policies and Strategies
  • Fundamentals of Environmental Economics
  • Environmental Auditing
  • Eco-labels
  • Sustainable energy systems and utilisation
  • Case studies on industrial implementation


Module II: Advanced Topics aiming at Voluntary Activities

  • Fundamentals of Innovative Product/System Design
  • Fundamentals of Cleaner Production Technologies
  • Use Phase (Consumer Behaviour)
  • End-of-Life Management
  • Fundamentals of Information Management
  • Case studies


Module III/1: Environmental Technologies

  • Innovative Product/System Design
  • Cleaner Production Technologies
  • Case studies
  • Module III/2: Information Management
  • Information Management
  • Industrial Ecology
  • Case studies


Module III/3: Environmental Strategy Development & Marketing

  • Corporate Environmental Management
  • Business Fundamentals for Environmental Management
  • Environmental Economics
  • Environmental Product Policies
  • Case studies