Research - Adding Sustainability to the NPD Toolbox

Fall 2015 - 2017

ROR Stage: gathering and analyzing data

Value proposition

Over the past three years, two ROR groups have examined how sustainability can be factored into R&D. Focusing on the planet (environment) portion of the triple P (people, planet and profits, P3), the first ROR proposed a sustainability maturity model that allowed companies to visualize where they were in the sustainability hierarchy. The model included a questionnaire to help identify key attributes of sustainability while letting companies rank themselves and compare their results to other companies. A second ROR, Sustainability Driven Innovation (SDI), examined sustainability driven innovation as a methodology for companies to use sustainability as a way to drive innovation. Literature and detailed questionnaires and interviews were used to develop a flow chart to help companies identify and evaluate potential opportunities, link them to business objectives/strategy and identify related innovation capabilities needed. At the conclusion of the SDI ROR, clinics were run to help and to advise companies, with an interest in sustainability, to move forward. These clinics revealed it was difficult for companies, even with the flow chart, to move forward without more prescriptive advice. Some companies felt that sustainability driven innovation didn’t apply to them because of the nature of their business. SDI is in fact a radical innovation method that many companies appeared unwilling or unable to undertake.

In order to understand and overcome the difficulty that many companies had in visualizing how they would use SDI, it is the aim of this third ROR to help overcome the gap between a high level view on the importance of sustainability to a “how to do it” with examples of businesses originally in different phases of the maturity model. The group believes that the type of industry/business can largely affect the ease with which companies can move along the maturity model. For example, a company with very low margins would likely have much more difficulty moving along the sustainability curve compared to a high margin specialty chemical company. Therefore criteria will need to be established to define the business type. Then tools would be developed to operationalize sustainability into the NPD and R&D process (incrementally rather than radically) based on the business type. Sustainability will be used to look at new ways to bring (market needed) products to commercialization via tools that offer step by step recommendations depending on the type of business involved. The disruptive changes occurring in R&D today, such as significant changes in business models and the search for different ways of bringing products to market more quickly (e.g. “Lean Start Ups”, spin offs etc..), may offer a new way to consider sustainability as a tool to enhance change.


The team will initially segment companies into their business nature (low margin, value added, chemical, petroleum etc.) then use the literature to help identify examples of success and failure and why. This would be followed by select interviews with companies in different business cases and in different phases of the sustainability model to identify what worked, what didn’t, and ultimately to propose tools for best practices and check lists to help companies move forward by doing business differently than in the past.


Determine the key best practices for adding sustainability to the NPD tool box.
Develop and share these tools and present the results at the Member Summit and as an article in RTM.


Debbie Kalish (Ingersoll Rand)
John Taylor (Schneider Electric)

Core Team
Sue Burek (Newell Brands)
Rich Chapas (IRI Emeritus)
Amy Costello (Armstrong Flooring)

Subject Matter Expert
Larry Schwartz (IP Business Tech Solutions)