Over the weekend while searching for home office furniture I stumbled upon Herman Miller’s website. What I found interesting was that they had not only put 3D Models and CAD information (3DS and DWG files) but also enormous amount of product specific environmental information. For an example look here at the page for Mirra Chairs – On the right hand side you can see how recyclable that product is, Environmental Product Summary and Recycling Instructions, the LEED Calculator and various certifications including BIFMA level™, GREENGUARD and MBDC Cradle to Cradle. They also have an ecoScorecard calculator which lets the customer know how sustainable their products are. Apart from manufacturing location and environmental certifications, the scorecard also tells about the environmental characteristics of the product like pre-consumer recycled content, post-consumer content, and whether life-cycle assessment was completed. Herman Miller efforts to promote sustainability as won it many awards and the company is recognized as a leader in the ecodesign space.
Another company doing similar work is Apple. Apple reports environmental impact expansively and have “Product Environmental Reports” for all currently shipped and obsolete products wherein particulars of the products environmental performance as it relates to climate change, energy efficiency, material efficiency, and restricted substances are documented. Further examples would include AmazonGreen which is a cross-category program that includes a list of products that customers have selected as the best green products offered by Amazon.com and Nike’s “Considered Design” products.
It is not very frequently that one sees such comprehensive environmental reports about a company’s products. Sustainability is just not a fad – customers are progressively demanding more sustainable products on one hand and environmental regulations are getting stringent on the other. Business intellectuals like late C.K. Prahalad advised (in the article “Why Sustainability is now the Key Driver of Innovation”) that “Sustainability isn’t the burden on bottom lines that many executives believe it to be. In fact, becoming environment-friendly can lower your costs and increase your revenues. That’s why sustainability should be a touchstone for all innovation”. Even governmental agencies like U.S. EPA have programs like Design for the Environment to “help consumers, businesses, and institutional buyers identify cleaning and other products that perform well, are cost-effective, and are safer for the environment”.
Having worked with PTC’s former “Environmental Compliance Solution” a few years back I know a thing or two here. Traditional tools in this space cannot effectively handle the product analytics requirements of complex products both for functional requirements like Supplier Declaration Management, Material/Substance Management, Reporting, Instantaneous Compliance and Environmental Impact Analytics, Business Process and System Integration, Workflow and Notification Management or for non-functional requirements like Performance & Scalability, internationalization and localization, Usability etc.. Manufacturers need to embrace “design for environment” strategies and processes that facilitate them to more effectively and efficiently improve the environmental performance of their products is real, and they will need to identify a best in class and modern solution to help them meet that goal.