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How to Design Sustainable Products

Use the following eight strategies to design products and services that are more environmentally and socially responsible.

Insights from a Systematic Review of the Research

Developing new products – or improving existing ones – is hard. The following eight strategies can help companies design products and services that are more environmentally and socially responsible.

You can view these strategies as a linear, life cycle process, beginning with new product design and ending with product disposal.

Alternatively, you can pick the individual strategy or strategies that best apply to your company or product depending on your specific phase(s) of development.

This graphic is based on Brezet and Hemel’s (1997) Sustainable Design Strategies as adapted by Colby (2011). For more detailed information about sustainable product design, see Innovating for Sustainability: A Systematic Review.

Brezet, H. & Hemel, C.V. 1997. Ecodesign: a promising approach to sustainable production and consumption. Paris: United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), Industry and Environment.

Colby, C.C. 2011. The relationship between product design and business models in the context of sustainability. Masters thesis. University of Montreal.

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  • Lauren Turner

    Lauren completed a Bachelor of Health Sciences and a Master’s in Environment and Sustainability at Western University. She interned with the Network for Business Sustainability as part of the MES program, and continued to edit and contribute content to the network in the years following. She later completed a Master’s in Insurance and Risk Management from the MIB School of Management in Italy, where she focused on environmental risk mitigation strategies in the face of changing market sentiments towards low carbon. Lauren has worked primarily in the non-profit and higher-ed sectors in Toronto and London over the past decade. Her work has revolved around corporate social responsibility in mining and minerals governance, stakeholder engagement, project and program management, and writing/editing for corporate audiences. Her writing has focused on the intersection of sustainability and finance, access to capital, investor risk, consumer behaviour, and sustainable marketing. She is interested in conversations around how industry can hedge against risk and benefit financially from improving the sustainability of their operations.

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