The concept of Sustainability and Sustainable Design are a growing part of today's product design discourses and gaining importance within the policy context worldwide.
But, why is it important?
The quest for a comfortable life has led humankind to create a society based on convenience. However, environmental and social problems such as climate change, ecosystem destruction, energy crises, water scarcity, food and materials shortages have surfaced. In today’s world as these issues continue to pose challenges that individuals and manufacturers will need to recognize and adapt to, if they are to survive and prosper in the future. At present opportunities for technological and product-service innovation is carving out space in the market. But the question is: how do we shape those opportunities to support the development and commercialization of more sustainable solutions. We now need to design and implement new systems to bring low carbon, resource efficient technologies, products and services that are also economically viable as well as socially inclusive to the mainstream market.
The United Nations Environment Programme Medium-Term Strategy 2010-2013 adopted by the Global Ministerial Environment Forum in February 2008, underlines that current economic growth and development patterns cannot be sustained without a significant shift in global production and consumption trends. Decoupling economic growth from negative environmental and social impacts will require producers to rethink design, production and marketing paradigms. Consumers will need to consider real environmental and social concerns along a product’s life cycle – in addition to price, convenience and quality, in their purchasing decisions. While these drastic changes face formidable challenges, there are encouraging developments contributing to an expanding knowledge base in the product development field. There is now a strong feeling that the discussion has now moved from sustainable ‘product’ innovation to sustainable ‘product-system-service’ innovation and how to make it happen both at a design and policy level .
So, why is it necessary?
Because Sustainable Design is becoming integral to companies’ intent and government policies!
Most people that work with product innovation, both product designers and business managers, are in the dominant paradigm that puts short-term profit forward as the primary goal. However, these people are also quickly awakening to the need to more directly include both environmental and social issues in their daily decisions . This is happening for many reasons: customer demand, an expanding regulatory environment, global resource constraints, and perceived opportunities for cost savings to name just a few .
The 3 key elements of sustainability – social, environmental, and economic – are also referred to as people, planet, and profit, and are the fundamental components of product innovation.