Jan Willem Dik (senior project manager BEACON) about new opportunities in green product development.
“Many companies want to do green business, but what does that mean? Do you have to invest extra? And do you have to choose between profit optimization or sustainability, or can the two go together?
“Actually, that is an outdated vision,” argues Jan Willem Dik. “There are more and more examples of sustainably producing companies that are economically very successful.
And there are two factors that are going to accelerate the move toward sustainable product development. There are going to be more European regulations to make smarter use of raw materials and energy. And social pressure is going to cause companies to handle their social responsibility differently. Many producers are already very aware of how much plastic surrounds their products. They are choosing new ways of packaging to show consumers that they have understood. That’s just business too. Because if they don’t do it, someone else is going to.”
“So this context offers new opportunities. In practice, we still see mostly actions in the areas of energy savings and the use of residual materials in production. But truly integrating sustainability into business operations and translating it within projects is something many companies struggle with. This is precisely where BEACON can play a role. We can help make those ambitions concrete and implement them within product development projects.”
“You can approach sustainability within product organizations from different angles.
First, you can look at it from a business model. The linear model goes like this: you buy raw materials and build a product, which you sell to a customer, who uses it until it breaks down and throws it away, after which the customer buys a new product. Recent business models increasingly rely on use rather than ownership. For example, the swap bike (a rental bike with a blue front wheel) is very hip among students. Uber and Spotify also base their business on this model, which is rapidly gaining ground. Be sure to read the book Products That Last about sustainable business models.”
“Second, you can look from the value proposition: now quality and profit optimization are often the most important criteria. But you can also ask: What is the value of a product in terms of sustainability? How can you maximize the residual value of a product at the end of its life? An interesting question here is how to measure that.”
“Third, you can look at the materials. How do you handle them? Are you using recycled materials, is there a new use for existing parts? The most recent model in this area is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s circular economy butterfly model.“
“In the right wing, you see the technological materials (such as aluminum, for example) that are used as raw materials for products. You can reuse those at the end of life at different value levels, such as repair, refurbish or recycle.”
“On the left, you see the natural raw materials; you can also recover them by making raw materials from them again. An important (new) task for developers is: to make a product maximally suitable for one of these circular loops. “
“In addition, sustainability can be a consideration when making a variety of choices within a project. Suppose you want to develop a sustainable bicycle. Do you then have the parts for it made in the Netherlands or China? Sustainability then becomes another priority.”
Back to overview
“At BEACON, we help companies turn their sustainability strategy into concrete project goals. We do this, for example, by giving sustainability a prominent role in a requirements program. But also by measuring the environmental impact of a product and comparing it to its predecessor or a competitor. This allows you to see: are we on track? For example, in terms of material use, production method, and location. We then report on this to stakeholders, so that a project result can be judged not only on quality, timing and business case, but also on its contribution to sustainability goals.”