Petersen, Moritz

How Corporate Sustainability Affects Product Developers’ Approaches Toward Improving Product Sustainability

IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, (In press).

Copy reference link   DOI: 10.1109/TEM.2019.2914262

Abstract: Human factors, such as an individual's competences and attitudes, have a decisive impact on the results of product development processes, especially in companies with small product development teams. Sustainability considerations further amplify this impact as such a multifaceted issue results in an extra layer of product requirements and hard-to-make decisions on tradeoffs. This paper explores the interplay of corporate sustainability and the individual approaches product developers exhibit toward improving product sustainability. For this purpose, a grounded theory study in the German consumer goods industry is conducted. Thirty-two expert interviews with product development managers and extensive secondary data are collected and analyzed. It is found that the corporate sustainability approach heavily influences how developers comprehend sustainability and how they conceptualize it for their product portfolio. Explicitly, the products considered for sustainability improvements, their innovation level, and the use of design stereotypes to signal sustainability improvements emerge as key decision levers. The findings emphasize that the human factors in the context of product development, specifically concerning sustainability, warrant more academic attention. Also, it is demonstrated that companies need to be aware of the organizational environment which they are providing for their developers when pushing for product sustainability.

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