Research - Adding Sustainability to the NPD Toolbox

Fall 2015 - 2017

Completed October 2017


Integrating Sustainability into New Product Development - RTM Journal, March - April 2018

Member Summit 2017 Final Report Out

Integrating Sustainability Into NPD (Tools)

Value proposition

Over the past several 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 was 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 believed 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 needed to be established to define the business type. Then tools developed to operationalize sustainability into the NPD and R&D process (incrementally rather than radically) based on the business type. Sustainability was 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 initially segmented companies into their business nature (low margin, value added, chemical, petroleum etc.) then used the literature to help identify examples of success and failure and why. This was 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.


Co-Chairs Debbie Kalish (Ingersoll Rand) John Taylor (Schneider Electric)

Core Team Sue Burek (Newell Brands) Amy Costello (Armstrong Flooring)

Subject Matter Expert Larry Schwartz (IP Business Tech Solutions)