Intentional Sustainability – Designing it right from the start

Girls in STEM Mentor jan Choudhury

by | 30 May, 2019 | Untapped Thinking

So much of the sustainability conversation is influenced by our rear view mirror, as we attempt to fix problems that have been created over time. And while this is important, what if we could design sustainability into our propositions right from the beginning? What should a product or service with sustainability at its core look like across different sectors? And how would it be different vs. today?At Untapped we see a clear trend across extensive sectors that sustainability has moved from being a ‘nice to have’ to a clear ‘must have’ in any product or service. Last April Molshee Vaid walked us through significant sustainability aspects within the fashion industry that are starting to become a reality. Vogue Business endorses this point of view in George Arnett’s sustainability report this week ‘Luxury fashion and fragrance companies used sustainability-related terms in their 2018 annual corporate reports six times as often as they did 12 years ago, reflecting the importance of the issue to their customers’.

In the FMCG world, Paul Polman writes for the World Economic Forum stating It is impossible to outsource corporate responsibility – businesses must take the lead in moving to a sustainable future. There is a growing army of specific examples that are designed with a sustainable mind-set from the start such as Dettol’s biodegradable wipes, Belluci’s fully traceable olive oil, Revive Eco’s circular coffee waste replacing palm oil, and the Starbucks and McDonalds collaboration envisioned to bring us the first compostable cup by next year.

The tech industry is also intentionally bringing sustainability to the core of certain products and services. Silicon Canals summarise 10 visionary sustainable start-ups from the Netherlands that are driving innovation for a greener planet in 2019, e.g. Fairphone who make the world’s first fairly designed and sourced smartphone, Greenhome who is working to free homes from the use of fossil fuels, and Quicargo who link trucks with spare capacity to any business that needs transportation.

So where to go for some inspiration? We love podcasts such as The Good Foodies, The Guardian Sustainable Business Series, and edie. If you’d rather read your way to great ideas try ‘The Battle To Do Good’ (Bob Langert), ‘The Future Of Fashion’ (Tyler Little), or ‘A Finer Future’ (Lovins, Wallis, Wijkman & Fullerton).

And at Untapped, here is how we are approaching intentional sustainable design with our clients:

  1. Human Needs – what is the need for sustainability that is specific to my category or sector? We are using a suite of projective and subliminal research tools to uncover unarticulated human needs to guide product and service design as many people find it difficult to imagine a truly sustainable alternative.
  2. Technical Possibilities – what does a sustainable product or service model in my sector look like? We are working with our clients and their suppliers to get specific about product or service specifications in order to design in the right attributes from the start.
  3. Future Trends – what does my business need to sustainably invent beyond today’s world? We work with future trend and semiotic experts to identify key trajectories of change and run online communities amongst cutting edge respondents to help inform your future ideation pipeline.

Do get in touch if you would like to discuss intentional sustainability for your business.

Untapping Human Needs, Technical Possibilities & Future Trends.

Brilliant Ideas, Faster.

Deirdre Walters

Deirdre Walters Deirdre is fascinated by the diversity of Untapped clients, and enjoys working with them to reduce innovation uncertainty, translating complex consumer and technology insights into actionable business recommendations.

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