Rethink: Why Sustainable Product Design is the Need of the Hour

Moving towards sustainable product design

With an overriding focus on “user-centricity,” modern product design may have made sense in a purely commercially driven business framework, but it can have negative consequences further down the line – both for other stakeholders and for the environment.

For example, an estimated 80 percent of environmental impacts associated with products result from design decisions. As such, sustainable product design is becoming increasingly important due to its potential for positive environmental and social impacts as well as improving financial performance.

Sustainable design can be defined as “maximizing environmental, social, and economic benefits over a system’s lifecycle, while minimizing associated social and environmental costs.” This definition reflects the “triple-bottom-line” accounting framework, where the performance of a system is measured not only by the profit it generates, but also by positive impact on people and the planet.

In our newest Capgemini Research Institute report, Rethink: Why sustainable product design is the need of the hour, we explored the topic of sustainable product design in depth. Through this research, we wanted to explore the impact of sustainable product design and understand how far organizations have progressed with embedding sustainability in their design decisions. To this end, we surveyed 900 senior product design and engineering executives from large organizations across industries including consumer products, automotive, industrial manufacturing, aerospace and defense, high-tech, and medical devices and additionally interviewed 15 senior industry executives and academics.

We found that organizations that focus on sustainable product design not only stand to gain from improved compliance, reduced emissions, and reduced resource scarcity concerns, but can also reap benefits such as increased revenue growth and improved relationships with customers and employees. Unfortunately, sustainability is yet to be at the core of product design processes at most organizations. Organizations cite a variety of hurdles that they perceive as obstacles to revamping their product design processes. Based on our independent research as well as the insights we gathered, we seek to illustrate the importance of sustainable product design and how it can be feasibly implemented at organizations – to their benefit. Ultimately, we provide four concrete actions that organizations can take in order to design and deliver sustainable products.

To read more about how organizations can move towards sustainable product design, download the report.

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