Products and Design
Study Identifies How Companies Generate Business Value from Product Sustainability

Companies that have gained widespread business benefits from product sustainability share specific business practices, according to a new research report by sustainability consulting firm Pure Strategies.

The Path to Product Sustainability is based on quantitative surveys of 100 global consumer product companies involved in product sustainability and qualitative interviews with heads, directors, and managers of sustainability at leading companies such as The Coca-Cola Company, Timberland, Seagate, RB and Henkel.

“This report provides valuable insight for companies looking to understand, build or enhance product sustainability programs,” said Pete He, Senior Research Fellow, Sustainability at Henkel. “Pure Strategies was able to distill down and link the key factors in a successful sustainability journey.”

According to the report, product sustainability goals are the most common best practice among “performing” companies that claim to have achieved widespread financial and organizational benefits from their programs. Fully 97 percent of these companies reported the existence of goals that guide programs to deliver on internal and external benefits.

Sustainability product assessments inform decisions for 90 percent of performing companies, compared to 61 percent of companies lower down the sustainability path. Supplier engagement, customer scorecards, and chemicals/materials of concern assessments were cited as the tools and approaches that deliver the most value.

Performing companies also recognize the importance of integrating sustainability into product development, the report states, as notably more performing companies will be further strengthening their sustainability focus during product development. This is a driving differentiator in product sustainability program performance, according to Pure Strategies.

“While it takes substantial organizational commitment to integrate sustainability into the core business effectively, there is a clear payback,” Pure Strategies’ managing director and cofounder Tim Greiner said. “By learning from these leaders, our study points to a product sustainability path that can propel a company from preparing — to progressing — to performing at the highest level of product sustainability.”

Other findings from the report include:

  • Corporate strategy, followed by CEO vision, was the most-cited internal driver behind product sustainability programs. Retailer programs were the most-cited external drivers.

  • No single company surveyed is expecting a decrease in funding in the next year for its product sustainability program.

  • The product development process is expected to see a notable increase in sustainability focus over the next two years — in particular during the early phases of concept and bench top/pilot scale development.

  • Supplier engagement ranked as the most valuable product sustainability assessment approach.

  • Reduced manufacturing cost was the leading business benefit from product sustainability — ahead of brand enhancement and risk reduction.

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