Implementing sustainability criteria in product innovations : a human process
Faculty of Applied Economics
Faculty of Design Sciences
Proceedings of the European Conference on Entrepreneurship and Innovation 2009, Antwerp, 10-11 September 2009
In the last decades, product innovations have become more important for companies to gain competitive advantages. Different studies indicate that successfully integrating new product development processes strongly supports a firms overall performance. In addition, worldwide growing attention for ecological and social issues drives companies to implement sustainability issues in their organisations, including new product development departments. Several companies have successfully incorporated and managed to consider sustainability as a driver for (product) innovation instead of seeing it as an extra burden, e.g. Philips, Nokia, Atlas Copco, etc. However, previous research and experiences in design firms have shown that the introduction of sustainability criteria in design, directed specifically to research and development departments of companies, does not always lead to successful recurrent implementation of these new criteria. Several authors examined critical success factors, revealing that a multitude of cross-disciplinary factors affect the course, progress and results of such implementation processes. The insights on these issues can be made more profound by considering knowledge on the field of organisational change and development. In a literature review, possible influencing factors on change processes have been gathered and interpreted in the case of sustainable design implementation. In addition, four propositions were formulated out of these critical success factors, combining the knowledge from the research fields of organisational change and development with the area of sustainable design. To check the validity of these propositions, a qualitative research was carried out focusing on firms that have experience with the first stages of the implementation process of sustainability criteria in design. It was also determined which factors distinguish such a sustainable design implementation process from a generic organisational change. Deeper insights in this topic might support companies to successfully implement sustainability criteria in their design process. Moreover, a better integration of sustainability in new product development may lead to novel insights and inventive drivers for product innovation within firms.