Design, sustainability and the supply chain: design underpinning sustainability.




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Common Ground Publishing.



Peer reviewed


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.



Design for Environment, Concept Design, Product Development, Supply Chain, Sustainability


Ford, P. and Radlovic, P. (2012) Design, sustainability and the supply chain: design underpinning sustainability. The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice, 8 (1), pp.233-246.


Research Institute