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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Alexandra Pearson

The State of Sustainability in New Product Development: A critical review of current practice and organisational conditions that facilitate the integration of sustainable design into new product development

Alexandra Pearson

The State of Sustainability in New Product Development: A critical review of current practice and organisational conditions that facilitate the integration of sustainable design into new product development

 

This dissertation determines the state of sustainability in new product development (NPD). Eighty percent of a product’s design is fixed during early development which in turn cements the positive and negative sustainability impacts of the product over its lifetime (Baumann, et al., 2002; Lofthouse, et al., 1999). This places product developers in a unique position between production and consumption from which they can maximise the sustainable value embedded and minimise the negative lifecycle impacts of a product.

In this research a multiple case study approach has been employed, involving three global manufacturers of energy-using products; Dyson, Cummins Generator Technologies and Siemens VAI, to explore the state of sustainability in NPD, and identify drivers and barriers to embedding sustainable product and systems development (SPSD) rationale into existing NPD processes.

The data collection, analysis and discussion reveal that although product design and manufacturing companies have high level commitments to sustainability in their values, vision and mission, they have yet to operationalise sustainability beyond the consideration of ecodesign in the context of NPD. Five drivers which are promoting the incorporation of SPSD into NPD have been identified as:

  • Customer pressure regarding total cost of ownership
  • Cost reduction opportunities for the manufacturer
  • Legislation
  • Employee awareness
  • Sustainability commitments in values, vision and mission

 

Manufacturers are struggling with the intangibility of the social aspects of SPSD which along with the following organisational barriers is limiting the incorporation of SPSD into NPD;

  • Product value chain complexity
  • Lack of communication of linkages between high level sustainability statements and operational level actions
  • Varying geographic locations