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Materials

& Design
Materials and Design 27 (2006) 11281133
www.elsevier.com/locate/matdes

Short communication

A sustainable product design model


George Howarth
a

a,1

, Mark Hadeld

b,*

Royal Academy of Engineering, Sustainable Development School of Design, Engineering and Computing, Bournemouth University, UK
Sustainable Product Engineering Research Centre, School and Design, Engineering and Computing, Bournemouth University, Poole
House, Talbot Campus, Fern Barrow, Poole BH12 5BB, UK

Received 18 October 2004; accepted 20 March 2005


Available online 25 May 2005

Abstract
There are major challenges for the designer to now include Sustainable Development aspects into his/her design; particularly
related to the social and wider economic impacts. The designer must, more than ever before, take into consideration the views
and concerns of all the interested parties stakeholders. There are many topics issues and concerns to consider and often they
can be conicting. The need is to examine the Sustainable Development risks and benets associated with any particular design so
improvements can be made. Both a concept model and a Bournemouth University practical model are described which allows this
risk/benet assessment to be made in a structured manner on a wide range of topics. The assessment can examine the product, the
company manufacturing the product and the manufacturing site. The major social, economic and environmental risks and benets is
tabulated or presented graphically for ease of evaluation in order to modify the design and so improve the Sustainable Development
aspects.
2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Environmental performance (E); Sustainable Development; Product design; Design model; Sustainable Development assessment

1. Introduction
It is generally understood that the product designer
has to be very focused on achieving the required technical performance and costs demanded by the client
and also takes a holistic approach to other aspects,
i.e., technical, aesthetic and ergonomic, but this does
not include all aspects, i.e., waste, end of life, ethics
etc. There is often little awareness and understanding
of the wider environmental, social and economic impacts of the design in other words, the Sustainable
Development aspects. It is vital that the designer de-

*
Corresponding author. Tel.: +44 01202 595983; fax: +44 01202
595314.
E-mail address: mhadeld@bournemouth.ac.uk (M. Hadeld).
1
Smith & Nephew Plc. (retired)

0261-3069/$ - see front matter 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.matdes.2005.03.016

nes the use and disposal of the nished product


and clearly chooses the raw materials which have
the least environmental damage, and then inuences
both the manufacturing and distribution systems to
minimize the environmental and social impacts. The
emphasis of the most recent environmental legislation,
related to disposal of cars and electronic waste, is the
requirement to reduce waste sent to landll by increased reuse and recycling of these products. However, what it is most disturbing is the lack of
concern of many young designers for these issues
it is seen as somebody elses responsibility [1]. One
of the challenging roles of the designer is to change
the behaviour of consumers for the benet of us all.
This change can be very minor selection of one
material, or major a reduction in energy usage
and waste generated etc., which can make the product
more sustainable.

G. Howarth, M. Hadeld / Materials and Design 27 (2006) 11281133

2. Sustainable Development and design


2.1. There are some major challenges facing us all

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 Financial inuences are wide ranging from individual/company tax to levies on products and imposition of taris like sugar in Europe and cotton in
USA [8].

Environment
 Impact of climate change, resulting in changing
weather patterns, increasing sea level and ooding
will mainly aect the agricultural industry, but will
also cause more disease and ill health in the poorer
countries. Production of steel, aluminium, glass and
paper require high electricity usage, generating CO2
and increasing global warming.
 Use of resources was one of the key concerns at the
recent Johannesburg Summit and the need to reduce
both consumption and production of products. One
way is to prevent and minimise waste arising in the
whole of the supply chain [2].
 Decline of biodiversity has been a result of both
human population increase and the growth and eciency of the agricultural industry. The impact has
been global and local for example, the elephant
population has decreased 10-fold in the last 50 years
[3] and it has been estimated some 21 species are lost
each day for ever [4].
Social
 Population growth has been predicted to double in
the next 50 years, but now experts are suggesting a
50% increase to 9 billion. Typical population growth
in the UK is 0.3%, compared with 70% growth over
the last two decades in China [5].
 Provision of fresh water and sanitation to over a third
of the worlds population has been identied as a key
programme following the Johannesburg Summit [2].
 Human rights were rst dened in the UN Declaration in 1948 with some 30 articles [6]. The most recent
concern has been the use of child labour to provide
cheap products for the developed countries.
 Exclusion from earning a living or being part of society aects many people locally and globally, for
example the homeless, religious persecution, ethical
cleansing etc.
Economic
 Poverty applies to over a third of the worlds population with these people living on less than $1 a day.
 North south divide is dramatic USA has $34,320
GDP per capita compared with Sierra Leone of $470
GDP per capita. In the poorer countries, life expectancy can be 35 years compared with 78 years in UK [7].
 Behaviour of International organisations is important as many have a greater turnover than the GDP
in a number of developing countries.

2.2. Designer and Sustainable Development needs


The designer rst needs an awareness and understanding of complex and wide ranging issues when applied to a new product. Equally important is to be
aware of the views and concerns of the people involved with the product. These are the interested parties or stakeholders and for the designer, Fig. 1
illustrates a typical range. It is a very daunting task
to try to bring to the design concept all these very
complex and often conicting issues and concerns,
plus trying to understand the views of particular
stakeholders and nally to change customer behaviour. One way is to identify the risks and benets/
opportunities.
2.3. Risks and benets
Overseeing risk management within an organisation
is one of the key responsibilities of the Directors of
the organisation. This is far more important in to-days
climate when companies are no longer trusted by the
general public, investors etc., as a result of scandals
for example in Enron. There is now a demand to show
me your company is behaving in a responsible manner
in the whole range of its activities including design,
use of materials, product performance, safety etc. The
potential risks can be related to the product, company
operations or management.
The product could contain hazardous materials
which cause harm when disposed into landll at the
end of the products life. The basic raw materials could
be supplied using child labour to keep costs low. It may
even be dicult to reuse or recycle the product or its
components when the product becomes waste. It is to
be expected that the manufacturing operations are ecient, but incidents will still occur accidents, spillages,
res, explosions, near misses, complaints from neighbours and customers etc. Manufacturing often have legally set consent conditions in which to operate which if
exceeded will result in nes or closure of the plant and
equipment by the regulators. Changes in design, such
as additional energy requirements or raw material modications, can result in non-compliance to these consent
conditions. If the professional designer is unaware of the
latest legal requirements, for example UK Packaging
Essential Requirements Regulations or EU Waste
Electronic and Electrical Equipment Directive then
non-compliance may occur when new products are
introduced.

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G. Howarth, M. Hadeld / Materials and Design 27 (2006) 11281133

CLIENT

ENERGY & WATER SUPPLIER

CUSTOMER

USERS

PLANNING OFFICER

MANUFACTURERS

COMMUNITY
PRODUCT
DESIGNER

LOCAL COUNCIL
EMPLOYERS

WASTE
CONTRACTORS
TRADE ASSOCIATIONS

PROFESSIONAL
INSTITUTIONS

MATERIAL
SUPPLIER

ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

Fig. 1. Typical range stakeholders.

Benets or opportunities will provide added value to


an organisation in the following ways

holder views and specic issues. Their design should


then be more sustainable.

 Conrm compliance to legislation and regulator


requirements.
 Identify potential risks to an organisation and introduce appropriate controls to minimize the impact.
 Reduce costs.
 Increase the level of sales or maintain sales.
 Improve the image and reputation of the company
with its stakeholders.

3.1. Background

There are also benets and opportunities which could


apply to the individual a better quality of life, job
opportunities, job security, improved safety/security,
contribution to local community life and culture.
Many risks and benets can be identied and it is
essential in arriving at any decision regarding the design
of a product to also examine how the company that
manufactures the product behaves, plus the environmental performance of the actual manufacturing site.
A dramatic example is in the clothing/sports industry
where the concern is the use of child labour, sweatshop
conditions etc. NIKE have introduced various supplier
evaluation programmes to improve performance in
safety, health, attitude, people, environment etc. Their
factories are also independently audited. The result has
meant supplier contracts have changed because of poor
performance to the company standards [9]. Some companies promote their green products yet do not have
a company environmental policy or report.

The model must rst provide the following basic


background information
1. More detail/advice on the Sustainable Development
aspects.
2. Details of a range of dierent stakeholder views and
concerns.
The Sustainable Development aspects of any product
will not only be a reection of the design, but also the
company that manufacturers the product and the
particular manufacturing site. The Sustainable Product
Development Assessment will therefore need to include
(i) The specic product and in particular the impacts
in the life cycle from raw materials, manufacture,
distribution, use, to nal disposal at the end of
its life.
(ii) Company information including Annual Report,
Corporate Social Responsibility CSR, Environmental, Ethical and Sustainable Development
Reports.
(iii) Site selection will depend on any local impact on
the community, local heritage, local wildlife and
the actual operation of the site.

3.2. Assessment
3. Sustainable product development model concept
This is an attempt to provide a tool for designers in
order to present the Sustainable Development issues related to their product in a more manageable form, which
will allow them to identify the importance of stake-

The actual assessment of the product, company and


site needs to dene the following
(i) A generic list of issues/concerns topics.
(ii) Ability to add additional specic issues/concerns.

G. Howarth, M. Hadeld / Materials and Design 27 (2006) 11281133

(iii) More detail on these issues to check and revise the


level of understanding.
(iv) Level of importance of these topics/issues.
(v) The sustainable development aspects environmental or social or economic or a combination?
(vi) Are these impacts high, medium or low?
(vii) Are the impacts a risk or a benet?

3.3. Analysis
Will need the ability to analyse the above assessment
in various ways, but the key to any decision is based on
the balance between risks and benets. The key risks
and benets need to be identied, tabulated or graphed
so it is possible to compare the environmental, social
and economic impacts separately or together as Sustainable Development. This can be completed for the product, company or site or all three together. Finally,
having seen these tables and graphs there must be the
ability to go back into the assessment and change the detail on the score, impact aspect and level of importance
etc.

4. Bournemouth University model


The model is available on the Bournemouth University website [10] and has been used in the Sustainable
Product Design Masters course for Engineering Design
students. It does follow the above structure in giving
background information, assessment worksheets and
analysis tables and graphs.
4.1. Background
This is in eect the home page of the site which
links the student to the sources of information on Sustainable Development and Stakeholders plus more detail on issues/concerns (topics) to include when
assessing a product, company or the manufacturing
site. The Sustainable Development guidance includes
the three basic concepts evaluate environmental, social and economic impacts at the same time; any evaluation must be holistic by considering each element
of the life cycle from raw materials, manufacture, distribution, use and nal disposal and the nally the
views of the interested parties or stakeholders must
be taken into consideration. Background information
is provided on a number of typical stakeholders
CEO, Union ocial, Local Councillor, Resident,
Environmental Activist. The designer can then take
into consideration the views of the stakeholders and
so modify the design. This information is generic
and so can be applied to any product, company or
site. There are also external links for the student to

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explore a specic topic in far more detail if necessary.


A typical link would be the UK Environment Agency
site (see Table 1).
4.2. Worksheets
There are three worksheets one each for product,
company and site. The structure for each worksheet is
the same a list of topics (issues and concerns) with
ability to add topics at any time. Each topic needs
to be given score (010), dened if the impact is related to the social, environmental or economic or
combination of these aspects with a rating of high,
medium or low on each impact, then nally indicating
if it is a risk or benet. There are some 109 topics
identied in these work sheets; but students can also
add any other topics they feel important. It is not necessary to complete all three worksheets. Students are
encouraged to add comments as to the reason for
selecting a particular score, aspect etc. at the time of
assessment (see Fig. 2).
4.3. Analysis
The basic objective of this analysis is to rst identify
and prioritise the key risks and benets from the many
issues and concerns (topics) assessed. The analysis of
the worksheets is automatic and will provide both a
set of tables with the top 10 risks and benets in each
sustainable development aspect (social, environmental
and economic) and a range of graphs. In the analysis
it is important to be able to identify the particular topic and whether it is from the product, company or
site assessment worksheet. In order to assist the student further in the analysis of these top risks and benets, various graphs (see Fig. 2) can be produced
highlighting the risks or benets in social, environmental or economic aspects plus a combined risks and benets graph for each aspect (see Fig. 3). The same topic
can appear several times if it has a high social, environmental and economic impact. The comments made
at the original assessment using the worksheets are a
good reference as to the thinking or reasoning behind
the decision. At any stage it is possible, if the results
are not acceptable, to change the original data in the
worksheets.
4.4. Application of model
This model has been used successfully by the engineering students to assess a motor car of their choice
and the company that manufactures the product, plus
the associated manufacturing facility. The specic details on the chosen car, company and site were usually
obtained from the companys own website. This assessment was as a designer, but it is possible to repeat the

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G. Howarth, M. Hadeld / Materials and Design 27 (2006) 11281133

Table 1
Product, company and site worksheet example
Topics

Score

Element

Comments

Social
Risk or
benet? *
Raw materials
Hazardous
5
Source
6
Benet
Use of child labour
3
Risk
Costs
8
Transportation
6
Non-renewable
0
Energy used
10
Emissions
8
Discharges
6
Nuisances
6
Risk
Health and safety
7
Other
Other
Raw material risks total score
raw material benets total
Design *
Material selection
10
Material amounts
10
Disassembly
7
Costs
10
Energy usage
7
Waste generated
6
Reuse
8
Recycling
6
Life cycle assess.
5
Other
Other
Other
Design risks total score
Design benets total score

Benet

Risk
Benet
Benet

Economic

Environmental

High, medium
or low? *

Risk or
benet? *

High,
medium
or low? *

High
Low

Benet

Medium

Risk

High

High

Benet

High

Risk
Benet

Medium
Medium

6.75
6.00

High, medium
or low? *

Risk

Medium

Risk

Medium

Benet
Risk
Risk
Risk
Benet

Medium
High
High
Medium
High

11.00
16.50

Benet

High

Benet
Risk

Low
Medium

Low

Low
Low
Low

1.50
5.25

Risk or
benet? *

Few chemicals in product


Local community
Little from 3rd world
Valuable raw materials
Local
None used
Site energy not major
Paint shop high levels
Strict consent condition
Close to local community
Few dangerous site jobs

22.50
12.00
Benet
Benet
Benet

High
High
High

Benet
Risk
Benet
Benet
Benet

Medium
Medium
Medium
Medium
Medium

3.50
12.50

Fig. 2. Social risks and benets.

3.00
40.00

Metals and plastic


Amounts need to be low
Legal requirement
Must satisfy costs
Fuel and user performance
Reuse and recycle essential
More reuse
More recycling
Materials and use key

G. Howarth, M. Hadeld / Materials and Design 27 (2006) 11281133

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Fig. 3. Combined model to demonstrate sustainable development risks.

exercise as a dierent stakeholder and evaluate any necessary changes to the design brief.

5. Concluding remarks
A model has been generated to assess the Sustainable
Development aspects of a product by not only evaluating the specic product but also the manufacturing company and its own manufacturing site. It provides
generic topics to consider in each element product,
company or site plus easy access to further information
on these topics. The analysis is via Excel spread sheets in
which the impact of each topic is scored, the impact
linked to the three elements of sustainable development
social, environmental or economic and the level of
impact allocated as high, medium or low impact, and nally dened as a benet or risk. The analysis of the
risks and benets is via a table or set of graphs. It has
been used successfully using the motor car as the
product.

References
[1] Hadeld, M, Howarth, G. Sustainable development training and
educational challenges for business and universities. In: International conference: engineering education in sustainable design.
Delft, The Netherlands; 2425 October 2002. p. 17482, ISBN
90 -5638-099-0.
[2] Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development. 4th
September 2002 UN Department of Economic and Social
Aairs Division for Sustainable Development.
[3] World Resources Institute. EarthScan Trends Data Set, Sept
2004. Available from: <www.wri.org>.
[4] The Reporter Spring. 2004. Brother, Can You Spare a Species,
Jerey K. McKee.
[5] China Population Information and Research Centre. August
2004. Available from: <www.cpirc.org.cn/en/eindex.htm>.
[6] Universal Declaration of Human Rights. United Nations General
Assembly resolution 217 A(III) of 10 December 1948.
[7] United Nations Human Development Report, 2003.
[8] Market Access for Developing Countries. Exports Sta of
International Monetary Fund and World Bank, April 2001.
[9] NIKE Website www.nike.com/nikebiz Responsibilities Factories and Workers, August 2004.
[10] Bournemouth University SPD Website http://spd.bournemouth.
ac.uk.