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Månad: februari 2017

What’s the secret to building strategic partnerships for sustainability?

Incorporating sustainability in product and service design

Written by Carina Qvarngård, Senior Consultant at Purple Ivy

The term “cradle to grave” is often used in reference to the approach that many forward-thinking companies take to understanding the full environmental and social impact created by a product or service – from its earliest beginnings as a mere idea to the final stage of its lifecycle. The cradle to grave perspective acknowledges that a certain amount of waste is the cost of doing business, but that an efficiently-run company always seeks to reduce waste as much as possible. A cradle to grave analysis (or lifecycle assessment) helps companies to understand the full impact of their products and services and take action to maximize efficiency by using (and re-using) their resources wisely.

Surveys show that a steadily increasing number of consumers are interested in finding suppliers that integrate sustainability across the complete product development and launch process – encompassing design, collaboration with subcontractors, manufacturing, warehousing, distribution and responsible disposal. To meet the requirements of these customers, it is critical that a company’s overarching business strategy incorporates a sustainability perspective that ensures that the complete lifecycle is considered in the creation of new products and services.

Knowledge and transparency about origin are crucial aspects of this, and the only way to gain and share this knowledge is to consider sustainability questions at the very beginning of the design phase. Sustainable design is characterized by a holistic perspective and consciousness about what effects the product or service has across the whole chain – including whatever “second hand value” it might have at the end of its lifecycle and any risks associated with recycling it. Important questions include:

  • Do we have the right competence?
  • Where would the key components come from?
  • Do the potential suppliers have sustainability strategies in place?
  • How sustainable is our distribution chain?
  • Is the final delivered product/service going to be acceptable in terms of our customers’ sustainability strategies (as well as our own)?
  • Can any of the core components (material and competence) be reused or recycled in the next generation of products? If so, how much?
  • How many lifecycles does a particular base material have? What positive and negative effects will reuse/reprocessing have?

Doing this important work requires ongoing cooperation between the design, production, sales, purchasing and HR teams to ensure that you are able to see the whole picture.

A good resource to help develop a better understanding of sustainable lifecycle is the Life Cycle Initiative’s Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA). It provides a lot of insight about how to evaluate the environmental, social and economic considerations that help companies design and manufacture more sustainable products across the complete lifecycle.

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at carina@purple-ivy.se

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