The question is no longer why the sustainability agenda holds strategic relevance or what action must be taken in order to achieve it - but rather how to do so.
In order to achieve ambitious sustainability targets, businesses must move from an extractive approach to support generative and inclusive design. Sustainable business models deliver value propositions that create and leverage environmental and societal surplus, often carrying accumulative secondary value.
Innovation teams must embed good stewardship as a fundamental practice into product and service design to discover new avenues to create business value while being good for the environment and society. The responsible management of such processes embraces human-centered design to validate needs, avoid unnecessary production, and promote conscious consumption. Good stewardship explores various design methodologies and different materials to meet consumer expectations while controlling cost, using fewer resources and complying with environmental regulations.
This is essential because product design ultimately impacts the entire product lifestyle. An estimated 80% of a product’s total environmental impact is determined during the design phase. In most instances, there is no going back to make a product more durable or modular to extend its life, or make its components less harmful to people or the environment.
To evolve and transition to more sustainable, regenerative product and service alternatives, innovation teams must embed good stewardship upfront by emulating the following five design principles:
To find out more about the importance and implementation of these design principles, download our sustainability toolkit here.
Committing to good stewardship is the easy part. And in fact, commitments to net zero have doubled in less than a year. Currently, 61% of countries (124) and 21% of the world’s 2,000 largest public companies (417) have set net zero targets for the next 10 to 40 years. This is according to an assessment from The Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and Oxford Net Zero, which looks at the progress made since the Paris Agreement in 2015 that set the ambitious yet imperative goal of reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally by 2050.
It is delivering on these commitments that is the challenging part. Achieving net zero and embedding good stewardship principles throughout an organization—from sourcing to design to distribution—is a journey. And, as such, it requires a detailed and deliberate roadmap.
Nestlé is one such company that has followed up its pledge with a clear and actionable plan to reach net zero by 2050. Looking at its whole value chain and product lifecycle, Nestlé has determined the carbon footprint of its products as a benchmark, invited participation from all stakeholders, and laid out a set of key actions going forward. These include:
Source: Nestlé (2021)
Evidence of a clear plan such as this is essential as corporations and their sustainability commitments are increasingly scrutinized by investors, consumers, employees, and all other stakeholders. These commitments must be backed by proper governance, accountability, and action. Fail to do so, and an organization risks much more than being accused of greenwashing.
What’s clear is that good stewardship doesn’t just happen. It must be central to an organization’s purpose, part of the culture, and inherent in the design of product and service lifecycles.
Bringing this sustainable design to life requires strategic planning, internal consensus, and a clear outline of the steps, resources, and capabilities needed for product development in order to deliver on short- and long-term goals.
This is where a product roadmap comes in. Roadmaps can serve as a single source of truth and actionable planning tool for ensuring the vision, direction, priorities, and progress related to product design and development are fully aligned. Moreover, roadmaps can be shared within and between business units, raising transparency and clarity while managing expectations at all levels.
A strategic roadmap should comprise:
Building these elements into a digital roadmap enables organizations to identify synergies and time inconsistencies within strategic planning. This agile innovation ecosystem will help organizations make better, informed decisions that support their own goals as well as a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future.
Click here for a roadmap refresher: All You Need to Know About Roadmapping in Innovation
ITONICS Roadmap is an agile and collaborative online software tool for strategic planning of products, markets, technologies, and resources. Users can create customized views for different target groups or specific use cases using additional dynamic filter options. In this way, the gaps and synergies in product development can be identified quickly and accurately across an organization.