The Sustainable Product Development project was an extension to the CAS:CADE Project and was part financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), available to support eligible SMEs in England’s Northwest Objective Two Fully Eligible Areas.

The Project was delivered jointly, with Sustainability NW (SNW); the collaboration between these two organisations with a proven track record in delivering regional business support brought about distinct and unique benefits. The project focused on the areas of corporate social responsibility (CSR) within product development and manufacturing processes resulting in tools for practical application.

A key part to the Project was the development of a tool that could be used within SMEs to measure the carbon footprint of a particular product. In turn this lead to identifying ways that energy could be saved, increasing productivity and raising awareness. The Project intended to recruit two full time MSc (by Research) students to provide direct Project delivery to the SMEs engaged in the long-term development of a meaningful tool.

As outlined by the Governments key priority area on Sustainable Production and Consumption, companies increasingly view sustainable product design as a strategic issue. This is partly a response to legislative drivers, but many also see it as a way of becoming more competitive in the manufacturing arena. By implementing sustainable design, companies will undoubtedly save themselves money. On the demand side, there is some evidence of consumers switching to more sustainable products and services, and corporate reputation and brand value are increasingly tied to the environmental and social performance of a company. Public sector procurement is also being directed towards sustainable goods and services, with the effect of stimulating markets and setting an example for business and the public (UK Government, Key Priority Area, Sustainable Consumption and Production).

The specific objectives were outlined as:

  • To enhance product design and develop environmental considerations for new ways of working within the manufacturing sector of England’s NW;
  • To foster amongst senior managers within SMEs a more responsible approach to business through enhanced understanding of the corporate social responsibility and sustainable development agendas;
  • To promote the use of energy in ways that are more sustainable and have less impact on natural resources;
  • Introduce, where appropriate the social benefits in the product development process undertaken with SMEs, thereby providing a more value-added, societal approach;
  • For selected products, undertake a carbon footprint study (in some cases as a ‘before and after’ tool) to analyse the impact on natural resources.

For more information about this Project, please contact Chris Lambert.