There is a well quoted statistic from the European Commission that over 80% of all product-related environmental impacts are determined during the design phase of a product.
As global leaders meet at COP27 and the drive toward a more sustainable, circular economy continues, it is increasingly important that business leaders, designers and product development teams consider sustainability in their decision making.
In the first of a series of articles, ExperienceLab will share how we think about sustainability in design. Over the course of three posts we will share a selection of frameworks and strategies that we use to drive sustainable business value and reduce negative impacts on planet and people.
Sustainability as the fourth dimension.
A central framework in any design phase is the Desirability, Feasibility and Viability (DVF) framework. Initially developed by IDEO, the DVF framework has help designers the world over to test the legitimacy of their ideas from three important perspectives.
- Desirability – what do customers want?
- Feasibility – what is technically and organisationally feasible?
- Viability – what is financially possible?
In recent years a fourth dimension has been added to this framework – sustainability. However, unlike the other three aspects, the questions you can ask to assess whether your design is sustainable are less precise.
That’s why at ExperienceLab we have combined the 6Rs checklist with the DVF framework. The Six Rs of Sustainability is an important checklist. The tool is increasingly being used by good designers to achieve sustainable design in new product innovations and to help minimise the environmental impact from an existing product portfolio.
The 6Rs included in the checklist are:
Is this product really needed? Can you rethink the product so it lasts longer? Can you redesign the product so it’s easier to recycle?
Can you refuse to design something that isn’t really need? Can you refuse to use materials that aren’t recyclable? If your design isn’t sustainable will people refuse to buy it?
Can you reduce the number of materials used? Can you reduce the energy need for manufacturing? Can you reduce the waste and packaging?
Can the product be reused, perhaps in a new way, to extend its life? Can parts be reused? Is it easy to dismantle for reuse?
Can you use recycled materials? Can you use materials that can be recycled after use? Can you design a product that is easy to recycle?
Can the product be repaired easily? Can it be repaired cheaply? Can parts be replaced, rather than the whole product becoming unusable?
So, the next time you find yourself in a product development meeting, strategic conversation or design workshop, ask yourself and your peers how can we be more sustainable? And use these 6Rs to make positive changes for your business, people and the planet.
You can also read our other blogs on service design: