Integration Key to Sustainable Product Design

June 16, 2008 · by DesignIntelligence

A new report describes how companies such as Nike, Herman Miller, and Clorox create internal and external alignments to achieve sustainable design goals.

The wide range of sustainability factors to consider in product design and management, such as eco-toxicity, recyclability, and renewability, often lie outside the expertise of traditional designers and product managers. A new report from the nonprofit organization Business for Social Responsibility addresses these and other issues.

"Aligned for Sustainable Design: An A-B-C-D Approach to Making Better Products," published in conjunction with design and innovation firm IDEO, describes how to create internal and external alignments to achieve sustainable design goals.

“Companies succeed in sustainable product design by developing a more integrated design process,” said Emma Stewart, Ph.D., director of BSR’s Environmental R&D team. “Rather than just focusing on new strategies and skill sets, they create new, cross-functional
connections in their organizations that enable them to design and commercialize breakthrough products.”

Using in-depth case studies, the report examines the processes that Nike, Herman Miller, Clorox, and other companies have used to develop a capacity to design products more sustainably. These real-world examples show that as companies begin to pursue sustainable design, they must recognize the many functions that shape their design options and choices.

The A-B-C-D framework breaks these ideas down to illustrate how companies assess, bridge, create, and diffuse capabilities in their organizations. It shows why companies are transitioning away from a pipeline model of product development to a more integrative design process that connects employees and groups in ongoing learning loops throughout the design process. These cross-functional connections are key to encouraging innovation.

BSR provides socially responsible business solutions. Through advisory services, convenings, and research, BSR works with corporations and concerned stakeholders to create a more just and sustainable global economy.

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