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Introducing Templates for Sustainable Product Development

A Case Study of Televisions at the Matsushita Electric Group


Address correspondence to:
Henrik Ny
Department of Mechanical Engineering
School of Technology
Blekinge Institute of Technology
SE-371 79 Karlskrona, Sweden


We have previously developed a method for sustainable product development (MSPD) based on backcasting from basic sustainability principles. The MSPD informs investigations of product-related social and ecological sustainability aspects throughout a concurrent engineering product development process. We here introduce “templates” for sustainable product development (TSPDs) as a complement. The idea is to help product development teams to arrive faster and more easily at an overview of the major sustainability challenges and opportunities of a product category in the early development phases. The idea is also to inform creative communication between top management, stakeholders, and product developers. We present this approach through an evaluation case study, in which the TSPDs were used for a sustainability assessment of televisions (TVs) at the Matsushita Electric Group. We study whether the TSPD approach has the ability to (1) help shift focus from gradual improvements of a selection of aspects in relation to past environmental performance of a product category to a focus on the remaining gap to a sustainable situation, (2) facilitate consensus among organizational levels about major sustainability challenges and potential solutions for a product category, and (3) facilitate continued dialogue with external sustainability experts, identifying improvements that are relevant for strategic sustainable development. Our findings indicate that the TSPD approach captures overall sustainability aspects of the life cycle of product categories and that it has the above abilities.