Keeping up with Sustainability : A Qualitative Study of Business Models and Sustainable Product Design in Design companies

University essay from Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi; Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi

Abstract: There is an increasing awareness of the impact of sustainability in the world, and to encourage organizations to engage in sustainable behavior across their processes and consider the whole product lifecycle, The European Commission (European Commission, 2017) has created an action plan for this. There are many ways for companies to engage in sustainability, whether it is through the business model where they can add demands on, for example the suppliers, or if it is through choosing a material for their product that leaves less of a footprint for the future. It seems that by including sustainability in the business model and the product design, a company has a great opportunity to stay sustainable and profitable. The design is the first thing a customer encounters when it comes to a product, and therefore it is an important aspect to consider sustainability when creating one. This is an empirical study where we are investigating the relation between three main topics: sustainability, business models, and product design where we held semi-structured interviews with five design companies working with sustainability and further on used a thematic analysis to find patterns and to answer our two research questions “How are design companies integrating sustainability into their business model?” and “How are design companies integrating sustainable product design into their business model?”. The companies we interviewed were NC Nordic Care, Transformwood AB, reCreate Design Company, Design Nation, and Green Furniture Concept and when identifying how the design companies are incorporating sustainability into their business model, we will contribute to the design industry by finding out how they can be sustainable and where there is still room for improvement. The understanding that we gained throughout this study and the conclusions we made from answering our first research question “How are design companies integrating sustainability into their business model?” is that the design companies we have interviewed does not give high priority to the social and economic aspects of sustainability in their business model, and are focusing more on incorporating environmental sustainability. The companies are using other concepts than “business model” and are therefore not completely sure where they are integrating it. They are however using sustainability as a key driver for decision making, and the block value proposition capture the way they are designing products. The companies are using sustainability in their business model to extend the lifecycle of the products they are making. Answering our second research question “How are design companies integrating sustainable product design into their business model?” we have been able to understand that the design companies are capturing environmental sustainable product design in their business model by continuously working towards extending the lifecycle of a product. The design companies value proposition is where they are incorporating sustainable product design, and are also the block of the business model that they use to ensure a timeless design, making the product modular, recyclable through material selection, reusable, and are using tools to ensure a sustainable product. 

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