Design for sustainability is a DFX approach taken by manufacturers who want to develop a new product that is made with reduced environmental impact in mind. In the case of consumer products, for example, they may be manufactured with renewable energy and processes and using renewable (or lower ecological impact) materials.
What might be included in the Design For Sustainability approach?
Design for sustainability will focus on the following:
- Production materials will be chosen specifically because they’re more eco-friendly – this might include them being: recycled, non-toxic, sustainable, requiring lower water or energy to produce, etc. This is also relevant to product packaging which benefits from using renewable materials and/or materials that degrade quickly (e.g. paper and cardboard).
- Manufacturing processes will use less energy. Perhaps measures will be taken at the extraction site or in the factory to reduce energy use, and on top of that renewable energy may be used where possible.
- Products should also be more energy-efficient. Eco-savvy consumers will be delighted to purchase products that are more efficient, requiring less charging and energy to be created which may be from non-renewable sources.
- Products should be durable. More durable products not only have enhanced desirability for consumers as they know they’re ‘built to last,’ and this also gives them real-life value, too. Consumers are proven to be willing to pay more for products that they perceive to be durable, as is proven by Apple, Patagonia, Mercedes Benz, and Rolex, to name but a few brands. This feeds into Recommerce, too, as durable products can be re-sold to new owners in the future which cuts down on consumption, waste, and the need to produce ever-higher numbers of new products.
- Products should be recyclable. Products are designed to use materials and components that can be more easily recycled. This could be metals, glass, or common plastics. Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment recycling (WEEE) regulations certainly try to tackle this for consumer electronics by laying out certain materials and substances that should not be used in products, for example.
- Standard components should be used where possible. Fewer components from fewer sources make products easier to repair, therefore having longer lifespans which is more sustainable than them becoming waste sooner.
Benefits of sustainable manufacturing and product design
Aside from the environmental benefits, which are enormously important, businesses could find that manufacturing product more sustainably in the factory could lead to reduced costs and better efficiency as waste and costs are reduced.
Furthermore, sustainable products open up a new market, as consumers who will ignore ‘dirtier’ products will be attracted to yours and, perhaps, pay the premium needed.