Overwhelming evidence has convinced business leaders that products developed with environmental and social impacts in mind – from design, sourcing and manufacturing to delivery, use, and end of life – will improve business performance. Beyond risk mitigation, supply chain resilience, and innovation that sustainable product development fosters, brand image is increasingly impacted by how customers (and investors, partners, and suppliers) perceive your brand in terms of sustainable business practices.

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Integrating early-stage sustainability assessments ensures that sustainability criteria are an
organic part of analyzing what’s good for customers, tough on competitors, and most
manageable from a cost and risk perspective.

In survey after survey, sustainability-savvy CEOs affirm both the brand equity and financial performance benefits
of more sustainable operations and products. But executing on that at the product level can be daunting.
Strategic Harmony® can help.

Managing Sustainability Assessment at the Front End of Innovation

In most manufacturing companies, products account for the overwhelming majority of the company’s total environmental footprint – more than 90% in many cases. Are you doing enough to ensure that sustainability is systematically embedded in the front end of product development decisions?

Integrate. Product-level sustainability assessments too often occur as segregated activities, separate from core product and brand strategy decisions. That means they also often occur too late. After a development project is greenlighted, costs and risks are significantly greater than if sustainability had been preliminarily evaluated early on. Sustainability-related design opportunities are also more likely to have been missed. Both of these problems are addressed by the early-stage Sustainability Assessment integrated into the Strategic Harmony® model and supporting analytics software from Planview. This assessment is designed as a holistic part of portfolio decision-making, with environmental and related business impacts considered in conjunction with customer and competitor impacts, cost, and risk.

Accelerate. This integration also accelerates the sustainability discussion by providing a platform for preliminary evaluations before a development project is greenlighted. Rather than approving projects and then asking how the product, feature or service can be developed and delivered more sustainably, this approach ensures that sustainability criteria are factored in before a go/no-go decision. This not only reduces risk and saves money by averting expensive course corrections later in the development process, but also drives more sustainable product design from the beginning.

Simplify. The Strategic Harmony® Sustainability Assessment approach is designed to be readily understandable by non-technical managers. It is far simpler than the level of detail required for environmental compliance and reporting. While compliance is obviously critical, its complexity tends to remove sustainability from too many product development discussions. So we leave the lengthy and arcane checklists (like the hundreds of variables in carbon footprints) to the technical experts and specialized software applications, and stick to the more strategic and straightforward aspects of sustainability as best practices evolve. The focus in Strategic Harmony® sustainability assessments is on “informed likelihoods” rather than on reporting- and compliance-level data sets. We provide a set of widely accepted fundamental metrics covering natural resources impacts, climate and toxins impacts, and upstream and downstream behavioral impacts – that are very easily customized if you prefer to use your own, which we encourage based on your corporate sustainability goals and commitments.

Integrating, accelerating and simplifying product-level sustainability assessments are powerful product portfolio management opportunities to simultaneously strengthen your brand, your bottom line, and your company’s long-term viability. To learn more, view Steven Cristol’s presentation, “Making Sustainability Unavoidable in Product Development Decisions,” at the Sustainable Brands Conference on corporate sustainability, brand strategy and communications.