A Flexible Framework for Integrating Sustainable Design

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Abstract

Over the last decade, we have witnessed increasing recognition of the importance of products and product systems as a target for both corporate environmental strategy and government environmental policy. This has led to the development of a number of concepts and tools that enable organizations to evaluate and improve the environmental performance of product systems. Concepts and tools that explicitly focus on products include: design for environment, life cycle assessment, sustainable design, green procurement, and life cycle engineering.

The purpose of this paper is to explore the challenges of implementing one of the leading conceptual approaches for evaluating and improving product systems, namely sustainable design A complex, and often confusing set of factors influence the evolution and integration of sustainable design and design for environment (DfE) in organizations. Responding to these factors requires an understanding and sensitivity to the organization’s internal culture, existing systems, initiatives, its market and stakeholders (to name a few). Unfortunately there are few guidelines or frameworks for understanding these factors and designing/implementing successful sustainable design and DfE programs. The goal of this paper is to discuss several different approaches that have been used by organizations to develop and implement these programs.

The paper will elaborate upon how and why sustainable design and DfE have evolved within these companies. The experiences of two private companies and one public sector organization will be captured through a combination of primary and secondary research methods using published materials. The findings indicate that there are several common challenges faced by companies integrating sustainable design or design for environment (DfE) into their activities. A key challenge faced by each of these organizations is managing the internal complexities (change management, motivating staff, planning etc.) associated with implementing such initiatives. In addition, the findings suggest these challenges can be better understood and overcome by using a framework that can be adopted and customized to the organization. The paper will propose a framework and discuss it in the context of the case examples. Its utilization within a private or public sector organization will also be.

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