Design, Sustainability and the Supply Chain: Design Underpinning Sustainability

By Peter Ford and Philippe Francois Marius Radlovic.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

From the point of view of sustainability, new product development has come to consider not just the resource utilisation, waste and recycling issue immediately around the product, but also dimensions of the supply chain antecedent to product use. This paper reviews a two-year research study, funded by the Government of the United Kingdom, into the role and influence of design, and of supply chain integration, in five very different NPD projects. These projects embraced three large and two small-to-medium sized enterprises within the UK’s East Midlands: enterprises included a large energy utility company, a supplier of construction products and a large adhesives manufacturer. In the majority of the five, the project proved to be the first time that the enterprise had undertaken a design exercise for which sustainability was a primary criterion. Each project therefore focussed on maximising sustainability and resource efficiency, and on the relationship of design to five distinct models of supply chain. These focuses did not mean, however, compromising other major design criteria–most typically, the criteria of cost effectiveness and user acceptance. By considering real-life, commercial projects, the paper tracks the intimate relationship between research methodologies, design for the environment, the appropriate timing and use of ‘eco’ tools, and supply chain management. It discusses how initial design conceptions of products had a major impact on final outcomes, with regard both to resource efficiency and, perhaps more importantly, to the effective coordination of a ‘sympathetic’ supply chain.

Keywords: Design for Environment, Concept Design, Product Development, Case Study, Supply Chain, Sustainability

The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.233-246. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.103MB).

Prof. Peter Ford

Professor of Design, School of Design, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

My work is being drawn more and more toward the ‘effective’ knowledge transfer of the latest Product design methods, techniques and thinking between the University and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) within Leicestershire and the East Midlands. This work has led to a number of key DMU initiatives. These include the DMU Regional Design Unit (Design Unit), Improving Business by Design (IBD), the Resource Efficient Design (RED) Initiative and the New Product Development Centre (NPDC). This work is starting to have a significant impact on Leicestershire’s design and manufacturing economy. The local design community has benefited from the direct investment of funding in design projects and to date IBD alone is set to increase annual business turnover of the region by over £1.3 million and in so doing, the creation/retention of over 20 jobs. These activities are helping establish De Montfort University as a key player in how to effectively undertake business engagements and knowledge transfer in the context of design.

Philippe Francois Marius Radlovic

Research Assistant and PhD Candidate, School of Design, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Research Assistant in Design for Environment, my work focus is on Environmental Supply Chains. I am also completing a PhD in “Design for Environment Collaboration” in the area of the paper proposal. My main research activities include investigating the use of Design for Environment principles in small to medium sized British companies and their supply chain. I am particularly interested in the interactions and relationship between customers, product development teams and suppliers when integrating environmental concerns in projects. I also work on European and national funded projects dealing with design and the retail industry where I train product design teams on Design for Environment and Supply Chain Collaboration Advantage. My background is in Product Design, with skill and knowledge in Environmental Management Systems and Life Cycle Management.