Why is sustainable product design and innovation important?

sustainable product design

The European Union Joint Research Commission shares that over 80 percent of all product-related climate impacts are determined throughout the design stage of a product, making sustainable product design a critical factor in a business sustainability strategy at this stage is crucial, as it is the point where a product’s life cycle can be optimised for maximum economic, social, and environmental advantages.

Those businesses that establish sustainable product design strategies recognise that there are more advantages to responsible business and that these benefits can pivot toward more opportunities for growth and success. Ultimately, sustainable product design can result in cost savings, stronger revenue growth, a competitive future, and an ability to attract more capital. Keep reading as we dive into why sustainable product design and innovation are important for businesses.

What is sustainable product design? 

Sustainable product design refers to the creation of products that do not deplete the planet’s natural resources. Creating anything requires using some materials, and those businesses that utilise sustainable product design reduce their use of limited resources and energy usage. This kind of design entails planning for sustainable distribution and manufacturing, as well as utilising materials that derive from environmentally friendly sources. 

One of the most crucial things for businesses to consider when creating sustainable products is the material required to make the product. These materials must be able to be recycled or broken down. Additionally, those that require a significant amount of energy should be avoided. Natural materials should come from sources that are harvested in environmentally friendly ways and are not threatened. 

Recycled materials are a great choice, for example, because they reduce waste by making use of something that would be discarded, and they prevent the destruction of current resources. The entire life of a product, including what happens to it at the end of its life, is crucial in sustainable product design. Many of these products are made to be reused or recycled instead of being thrown away. Creating products that last longer and are durable are also important elements of sustainable product design. 

Packaging is also crucial because products are typically transported in plastic packages or boxes that create more waste. Therefore, selecting packaging that is made from recyclable materials can increase the sustainability of a product. Another thing considered is how the product is made. Manufacturing typically puts a strain on energy and the majority of the time, the energy comes from non environmentally-friendly sources. If you want to create sustainable products, you need to make them with as little energy output as possible. 

Ultimately, the main principles of sustainable product design include the ability to minimise non-renewable energy consumption and protect and conserve water. Additionally, to optimise site potential, use environmentally friendly products, optimise operational and maintenance practices, and enhance indoor environmental quality. Using this kind of strategy encourages decisions at every phase that will reduce negative effects on the planet and the health of people, without compromising profit

Why sustainable product design is important

The environmental and business case for sustainable product design is both strong. Below are some reasons why sustainable product design is important. 

Lowering pollution

Sustainable product design will help us secure a better future. One of the ways it helps us do this is by lowering pollution. For example, the Government of the City of Sydney developed a strategy titled Sustainable Sydney 2030 with the aim of bringing about a better city infrastructure. 

Here, sustainable design aims to reduce reliance on personal vehicle use and promote the use of alternate forms of transportation. The strategy shares the city will aim to establish a car share scheme, offer more cyclist parking sports, and create a green travel plan that would offer environmentally friendly options. All of these changes will greatly help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and therefore, lower pollution. 

Sustainable product design encourages durable and cost-effective design solutions

People are becoming more interested in sustainability and switching to a more eco-conscious lifestyle. The only barrier in their way is the price of sustainable products. To encourage people to join the movement, manufacturers and designers should endeavour to lower the cost of materials for eco-friendly products. 

Today, several small businesses and transcontinental corporations have implemented this strategy. Niche cafes and larger coffee shop chains like Starbucks give a discount to those who arrive with reusable cups or charge extra for serving coffee in paper or plastic cups. A number of countries are also banning lightweight plastic bags at the government level. They are encouraging people to invest in reusable shopping bags instead.

This kind of design helps with energy and water management

Sustainable design is also vital as it forces us to pay attention to renewable resources as opposed to utilising those resources that are reliant on wasting water or carbon energy. Whilst many of us think the lack of water could never be a problem, there are numerous areas across the world already facing water shortages. 

When it comes to energy management, sustainable design surrounding supplementing old heating systems and harnessing renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind farms. 

Sustainable product design has business benefits

Organisations that concentrate on sustainable product design profit, according to a recent Capgemini Research Institute paper titled “Rethink: Why sustainable product design is the need of the hour.” Some of these advantages include improved compliance, reduced resource scarcity and concerns, and emissions. Additionally, revenue growth and improved relationships with employees and customers. 

How to design products more sustainably 

Designing products with sustainability in mind is essential at a time when we desperately need to mitigate climate change and foster a circular economy approach. Product engineers need to innovate during the design stage to meet performance objectives for sustainability. Below are some steps to help you design products in a more eco-conscious manner. 

Identify your materials for product delivery

The first step to sustainable product design surrounds identifying your materials for product delivery. You should think about your product and how it functions rather than how it looks first. Focusing on the function the product delivers will allow your team to innovate more broadly and think with the planet in mind. 

By doing this, there is also room for environmental goals to be built into the design at the initial phase. For instance, product life cycles can be extended, the product design can be more simplistic, and creating the product can reduce resource use and drive circularity.

Determine the potential impacts of the options 

Next, you’ll want to determine the potential effects of the product options you chose throughout the life cycle. Every product has an impact on the planet throughout its lifespan. From raw material extraction to manufacturing, production, use and disposal, recycling, and reuse. 

However, gathering this information will allow you to assess the performance of the product in reference to sustainability goals. Mapping out the full life cycle depending on your product options will help you determine things, like resource use and circularity, greenhouse gas emissions, chemical safety, and the effects on ecosystems. All of these considerations help you create better, more planet-friendly products.

Identify sustainability performance through the product’s life cycle

Lastly, you should assess the performance of each product option against a range of dimensions of sustainability. There are lots of available methodologies to help you with this. For instance, the Product Environment Footprint Method was created and developed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. 

This methodology is utilised to assess resource use and its effects on ecosystems and climate in addition to impacts on health. Once you have carried out all of the above steps, you should choose the most sustainable product option. Ultimately, you want your materials to be durable and beneficial from a resource perspective. Additionally, you want to steer away from harsh chemicals or materials that cannot be recycled. 

Summary

Sustainable product design is a holistic and innovative approach to design that encourages questions at each stage of product creation to ensure the planet, and people are considered. It has benefits for businesses, the planet, and customers alike. Customers receive more durable, higher-quality products with extended life spans, and businesses get the opportunity to improve efficiency, save money, and take environmental action. Sustainable product ideas are based on the idea of transitioning to a circular economy whereby we reuse and repurpose products rather than discard them. It’s about rethinking how we currently create products. It’s a very crucial phase in product development because it is when alterations can be made, and manufacturers can get a deeper understanding of the product and its functions. If you want to embed more circularity practices within your business, our online course in business sustainability may be for you. We have short and long courses available, both of which offer a full module on the circular economy and how to make the switch. Enrol today to reap the benefits of reusing, repurposing, and recycling!

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